Of the hundreds of letters I have written to the Burnley Express on sport and politics a prime favourite of mine is the one I wrote in August 2004 on Chris Bleazard and Lowerhouse following the historic Worsley Cup win that secured the club’s first trophy. The Express gave it exceptional prominence, with a banner headline and a photo of Chris being borne shoulder-high by his team mates.
Now Chris has turned 50 and following his recent master-class against Clitheroe I hope this repetition of a tribute to him on his finest hour will make good reading on the club’s website.
FITTING END TO A REAL FAIRYTALE
The thing about fairytales is that once in a blue moon they come true. The latest rare example is surely the story of Chris Bleazard and Lowerhouse Cricket Club.
Winning the club’s first major trophy after 142 years of unavailing effort, comprehensively outplaying Haslingden in the process, is in itself good cause for euphoric celebration and is just reward for the outstanding teamwork on and off the field that is currently in evidence at the West End.
But the magic ingredient, the bit that will ensure this triumphant episode is committed permanently to the folk memory of local cricket lovers, came right at the end when the winning hit streaked from the bat of the man who is perhaps the finest playing servant Lowehouse has ever had. For superbly good measure, and to prove that fact can sometimes outdo romantic fiction, that historic boundary sealed Bleazard’s own undefeated century.
My thoughts go back to the 1990 season when Chris set a new amateur batting record for the club. His aggregate of 857 was not a real measure of his excellence in that year, because the runs came as he batted with typical unselfishness to prop up a struggling side. That was around the time I was reporting Lowehouse games for the Express and, though I enjoyed trying, I felt inadequate to the task of conveying just how rich was his vein of form. It would have taken an Arlott or a Cardus to do full justice to the grace and power of his stoke play and his domination over the unfortunate opposing bowlers.
Since then his loyalty to the Lowerhouse cause has been an inspiration within the club and a cause of wonderment to some outsiders. He could, as others more ego-ridden have done, have flitted from club to club in search of easy glory. He could also have earned decent money as a professional in other leagues. Instead he has been true to his own character and values by carrying on with what he enjoys most – playing cricket with his mates at the club where he grew up.
At 37, still marvellously fit and the best fielder in the side, he looks good for another 10 years as a major force in the game. How fitting it was that Charlie Cottam’s dismissal in the cup final, after a splendid knock, should see Chris joined at the wicket for the final act by his 16-year old nephew, Ben Heap, who earlier in the day had been the pick of the Lowehouse bowlers. Ben is a highly promising all-rounder and could with any luck progress beyond league cricket. Whatever level he reaches he will never have a better role model than his uncle.
Harry Brooks, Bouldsworth Road, Burnley