By Paul Hargreaves
Lowerhouse shocked the Lancashire League community and probably themselves in 2011. The introduction to the senior team of the Club’s best ever crop of youngsters, the signing of a good and very keen young pro’, and some experienced old hands, of which we might count Hasan Khan of Manchester University, created a perfect storm. Lowerhouse went on to win the League by a clear 30 points from a strong Accrington side. This game was one of the stand out games of a special season for everybody connected to the Lowerhouse cause.
It was a warm, sunny day and there was as usual a good travelling support and even a decent number of fair weather Nelson fans. The wicket was rather dead and slow, not ideal for either batsmen or bowlers, suitable for patient grafting rather than flamboyance. It wasn’t a surprise that Nelson batted first when the toss went their way. They made a sure start led by Stuart Lemon. He and his brother Sean were South African born and valuable players for Nelson at this time, just as the Aussie Aspin brothers were at Church C.C. Both Lemon brothers would register centuries in their time at Nelson. Lowerhouse made the breakthrough at 48 when pro’ Francois Haasbroek got Neil Thompson for 16 caught by ex-skipper Joe Beneduce. He then followed up with the important scalp of his counterpart, Diwan, without any addition to the score. Diwan was caught behind by Joe Martin who had fitted in well after taking over the gloves from the excellent Jack McGregor. Lemon and David Crotty steadied things for the home side but importantly both were run out. The team had really bought into the importance of fielding instilled by the new pro’ and it would pay similar dividends throughout the season. The Lowerhouse bowling attack were keeping things tight but finding it hard to make any inroads towards bonus point territory. Dibb, Sean Lemon and skipper Lord all made decent contributions. Lord fell to Finch off the inning’s last ball. It was the only wicket all day taken by a ‘House amateur. Haasbroek (3-50) had been the best bowler and Nelson had finished on 175-6.
Given the slow nature of the wicket it was at least a par score and Nelson struck early after tea when Ben Heap went for 5. Joe Martin and Hasan Khan took the score to 43 before the former was caught behind for a good 24. It’s rather sad and bemusing to see the demise of Joe’s importance with the bat given his contributions in this era. Hopefully a renaissance isn’t out of the question. Hasan was joined by his professional and they put on the partnership of the game. It reached just 1 short of a century. Hasan was one of the classiest amateurs to ever grace the Club. He made 10 fifties from just 48 games averaging over 36. He did that without playing in a batter friendly summer! This day he made a painstaking 68 and he and Francois(42) took the score to 142-2. Barring a collapse of the epic proportions I too often witnessed in my youth Lowerhouse looked home and dry. That said both batters hadn’t got the run rate comfortably above the ask and even though they were ‘in’ they were having to work hard. It was a credit to Nelson this day that they didn’t give up and fielded brilliantly.
Lowerhouse lost 5 wickets between 142 and 157 including Jon Finch run out for 1. He rarely played at his usual high standard on return visits to Seedhill. The game seemed to be getting away from Lowerhouse but Paddy Martin’s 11 was like gold dust. The equation ultimately was to make 4 from Meade’s last over. Paddy was then out and young Jonny Whitehead came in at the unusual No. 10 spot. He turned a ball to square leg that 2 yards either side of Crotty were the winning runs but the catch was pouched.
The ‘House looked doomed as with 1 ball to go Jonny Russell needed 2 to force a tie and 3 to be the superhero. The odds weren’t good. Jonny played in more League games for Lowerhouse( 206) than he scored runs (171). Meade bowled and Jonny mis-timed the shot and it ran towards Lord at mid-wicket. If you looked at the situation in a detached manner rather than in the heat of the moment, Lord could just stand back, concede the single, put his cap on the ball and Nelson win by 1 wicket. The alternative was to rush in and perform a run out and get a 12 point victory. Lord, a very tall, slightly ungainly fielder chose plan B. In the excitement he missed the ball altogether and by the time he retrieved it Russell and Fergus Bailey had crossed for the second run and an epic tied game was the result. Bowlers love to be heroes with the bat and Jonny celebrated accordingly. It’s fair to say that Lowerhouse were happier with the tie than the home side and the contrast in body language of the inconsolable Lord and gleeful Russell was stark. Lowerhouse won 20 League games in 2011 but few were as important and memorable as this tied game in late July.
Without question a ‘game to remember’.