This week is BLEZ WEEK. Dedicated to the man himself on his 50th birthday and reaching the epic milestone that is 16,000 runs. We will have a feature length interview by Paul Hargreaves, a game to remember and testimonials from fans, players and ex professionals. We’ve also released BLEAZARD the publication which is available around the ground and online here.
For his consistently excellent play, loyalty and longevity, Chris Bleazard is the most influential and important Lowerhouse amateur of his generation. In truth only Tommy Shutt (1893-1925) is in the conversation with Chris for the title of best ever amateur for the Club. Seventeen years would be considered a long Lancashire League career but Blez has achieved that amount of service in two separate centuries (indeed millenniums). Today to celebrate Chris’s 50th birthday we have asked him about his long and distinguished career at Lowerhouse Cricket Club. We’ll be asking 5 questions a day with more goodies to follow throughout the week.
- You made your debut for Lowerhouse first team as a callow 16 year old way back in 1983. Tell us a little about your background in schools and junior cricket?
I attended St. Theodore’s school (with Hon. Secretary), we played little competitive cricket but we did get to the final of the Lancs schools U14 competition but lost to LRGS. This run got me noticed by the Lancashire U15 selectors and I played in the same team as Atherton, Speak and Hegg. I played in the junior cup winning side in 1981, with my dad also playing, and I scored a second team hundred at Nelson in the 82 season. I went on three BGS cricket tours (with Shane Higgins) to Somerset as a guest and scored two hundreds on the first tour and was selected in the LHCC first eleven on my return. I didn’t play for the U19’s Lancs sides due to a falling out with school who didn’t nominate me for selection. I played a couple of games as junior for Whalley, where my dad played as he and mum were born and lived in Billington, but we had always lived in Burnley since I was born, so I became a junior at Lowerhouse aged 11.
- You’ve now played in over 700 games for Lowerhouse but every journey starts with a single step. What do you remember of that first game at home to Todmorden on July 9th, 1983?
My first game against Todmorden was a typical debut for a youngster. Kirti Azad was the pro, I batted near the end of the innings, scored 9 and they didn’t achieve our score I caught a catch and ran someone out (I honestly haven’t looked at the scorecard so I may be wrong).
- You scored your first fifty versus Church in 1985 but because of your University commitments you weren’t available for a full season until 1990. How do you compare the cricket at college to Lancashire League and did you play against players who went on to become household names?
Cricket at Uni was a very important part of my life. I struggled being away from home in the first few months at Warwick, but soon as we started netting in the winter I quickly proved my abilities and was picked in an indoor six-a-side comp and became more confident in all aspects of university life, sporting, social and of course academic. In my second year I was selected to play for English Universities Roses in a festival competition. There were plenty of excellent minor counties cricketers in the team, some who played in the BUSA side, that played in the Benson & Hedges cup (with Atherton, Speak, Hussain), in particular Mike Smith who played a test against Australia. The cricket was a very good standard but it did demonstrate that as a captain I was rather limited. I was captain in my third year but I spent too much time putting other players’ needs first and not getting the best out of my own ability. I wanted to avoid this at all costs in the future.
- In that full season of 1990 you quickly established yourself as one of the elite Lancashire League batsmen. You passed Stephen Gee’s Club record scoring 857 runs. Did you almost surprise yourself with your form that season? What are your memories about passing Gee’s total at Rawtenstall in the last match and are you slightly surprised that Chris Bleazard or others have never surpassed that total?
I don’t think I surprised myself, but I had never thought about the record or even knew it really existed. The season followed a tried and tested formula for a high scoring year, a strong start that gives you the confidence that you are in good nick and then consistently making good scores with the odd big score. Towards the end it did become a bit of a millstone but it was great to get over the line in the last game. I think I mentioned in my review of that year that the likes of Vishal, Hassan, Finchy, Will, Ben and Jonny W have the ability to beat the record but so far circumstances have dictated that no one has don’t it yet……watch this space though.
- You showed there was no fluke in 1990 and followed it up with 788 runs from 3 fewer innings in 1991 scoring your first League century. There was a lot going on in that season with Manoj Probhaker and the exciting games involving sub-pros Robert Haynes and David Capel. Looking back what are your overriding memories of that interesting season?
Scoring the hundred was a real highlight that year but again we got hammered. I remember Manoj asking me how far Kirti would have hit a league legend spinner, so we should do the same. His driving!! (probably worse than my own) after he picked up Proc he drove through junction of Middlesex and Sycamore Avenue without stopping and on a return from Tod he drove through the lay-by just outside Portsmouth again without stopping again. The Haynes and Capel games were fantastic and great insights into how teams with dominant and confident pros can improve teams and inspire title challenges.