By Paul Hargreaves
I started watching Lowerhouse in 1969 basically because I liked watching and playing cricket and they were my local team. Looking at the Club’s generally poor performance in the ’70’s you’d think it was a depressing time to support the Club. Personally I didn’t really see it that way as so little was expected one could have a totally relaxed outlook to each game, and cherish each fairly rare victory.I have to confess that part of the enjoyment was the Schadenfreude of watching opposing fans who were distraught that they’d lost to the ‘Cinderella’ Club of the League.
By 1988 Lowerhouse were more competitive but the chances to win silverware in 1980 and 1982 had come and gone. In ’88 Lowerhouse were a solid mid-table team but they were distinct outsiders on their early June visit to Bentgate to play a Haslingden team full of talent and with star Aussie fast bowler Geoff Lawson as professional. They would indeed go on to win the 1988 League title but even Champs have to deal with a roadblock or two. It was like going back a decade with my view that there was nothing to lose and what a great feeling it would be if we could upset the odds!
The weather was set fair on the day but reports were that it would be a pitch to support the bowlers. Predictably Haslingden inserted us on winning the toss. Lawson, Barnes and Tracey were formidable even without help from the groundsman and so it proved as 7-2 became 43-5. The travelling support craved a hero and would get it in the guise of the mercurial Pankaj Tripathi. For a flamboyant player many of his best knocks were on difficult grafter’s wickets. The most famous was nearly 17 years later when he scored his only century for Lowerhouse. That day he scored 109 against Enfield and the other 21 batters only just beat him with 112. Tripathi was one of the most travelled League cricketers ever but had 3 spells with the ‘House.
This day Tripathi’s 54 was by far Lowerhouse’s top scorer with No. 9 batsman Brian Holmes’s 14 not out a remote second. It had been a difficult watch but Lowerhouse had finished on 119-9 off their 46 overs and had irked the Hassy fans by denying them the bowling bonus point. Fingers crossed I took no pleasure in that! I almost shared their suffering! Even with the recovery Haslingden were favourites at half-time not least because of a talented and deep batting line-up. Lowerhouse needed early inroads and got just that as Hassy slumped to 17-4. Bryan Knowles one of the most solid of League amateurs had gone cheaply, as had their Aussie pro’.
I had got excited at the prospect of surprise victories, only to be disappointed, too many times before. My caution seemed warranted when two very dependable batsmen, Mike Ingham and Steve Taylor took the score to 71 with an assured 50 partnership for the fifth wicket. Ingham went on to score over 17,000 Lancashire League runs, the highest by any player in the 125 years of the competition. The game turned when both players were out and the 50 more runs needed were plenty on this pitch. At first Haslingden recovered to 89-6 but skipper Holden and Lowerhouse pro’ Mansoor Elahi were in determined mood and not to be denied. Holden took 3 quick wickets to earn a decent collection (5-39) and he was a justly proud man as he led his team off. In truth he couldn’t have done it without Elahi’s brilliant 4-28 off 22 overs, 10 of which were maidens.
It had been a great, tense game and Lowerhouse fans were rightly elated. Surely I wasn’t the only one enjoying the looks of consternation on the faces of shocked Hassy fans as they trooped off. Not only a ‘game to remember’ but a night as well. The nearby Woolpack had Sunday night discos in those days and a nameless ‘House fan was celebrating so much he was ‘asked ‘ to leave licensed premises for the only time in his life. June 5th, 1988 had been quite a day!