My favourite season..

As a so called Lowerhouse ‘lifer’ people sometimes ask me what my favourite season was watching the club? I feel so blessed that in these latter years especially, there are quite a few to choose from. Worsley Cup run in 1980 and a near-miss in the league in 1982 with great, obviously the double winning season in 2012, as the club celebrated its 150th birthday, was very special.

The two best seasons for me are 2005 and 2011. Very little was expected. I remember reading the season previews from all the Lancashire League captains on the website and not a single one mentioned Lowerhouse as a possible winner of silverware. A perfect storm of emerging keen youngsters and experienced veterans led to a magnificent season and the clubs second League title success.

For all that I would nominate the clubs first title success in 2005 as my favourite season. It started in the euphoria of the 2004 Worsley Cup win. After that all Lowerhouse fans could breathe more easily as we stood still and allowed the monkeys to be pulled from our collective backs. In 2004 Lowerhouse had climbed K2, could we possibly go on and climb Everest in 2005?

The great thing about 2005 was the number of fantastic matches and it wasn’t always the obvious actors who were cast as the hero. In 2004 the two famous partnerships between Chris Bleazard and Charlie Cottam were the dominant theme but in 2005 the cast list was much longer.

I have therefore selected 3 memorable games from the 2005 season, all played on away grounds, to look back on.

The first was at Rishton. It was a game a contender for the league had to win especially as rivals Ramsbottom ere setting  a hot pace. Batting first Lowerhouse we’re in trouble at 81-5. Professional McDonald was in danger of running out of partners as Finch, Vishal Tripathi, Benbow, Bleazard and Pankaj Tripathi were all out. Skipper Joe Beneduce emerged and I expected him to play a dour, supporting role to get the innings on an even keel. Not a bit of it!

He played an incredibly positive innings scoring his maiden Lancashire League half century. He made 61 out of the 106 run partnership with McDonald. Most Lowerhouse fans will have the abiding memory of him hitting Peter Sleep over the Rishton clubhouse. I suspect he had to overcome some of Sleeps cutting and colourful remarks. These were usually more Merv Hughes than Oscar Wilde! They often toast with Bene at the Miners Social Club, Plumbe Street, Burnley but that night it was a toast to Bene from the grateful Lowerhouse fans. McDonald made 89 not out and Lowerhouse won by 112 runs. It would have looked so comfortable in the newspaper but there had been a very uncomfortable period in that match for the Lowerhouse travelling support.

In a duel with another team for a title, the head to head clashes are vital. Early in 2005 Lowerhouse had achieved a reasonably convincing 48 run win over Ramsbottom at Liverpool Road. The reverse fixture would become a treasured memory for opening bowler Jonny Russell. His 7-36 was a man of the match effort as the home team were dismissed for 75. He’d also the please of clean howling the first 4 of those victims.

Our respect for Ramsbottoms fine Indian professional Murali Khartik was such, that nothing was taken for granted at half time. As it happened a calm, reassuring innings by Andrew McDonald led to a 6 wicket win. The amateurs always struggled against Khartik. Blezs first 5 runs that day were from 40 balls. I was glad that day that Andrew didn’t go early and that at least allowed my fingernails to grow.

One of the closest and best games of the 2005 season occurred at Colne. Lowerhouse batted first and battle lines were soon drawn between our batters and Colnes talented Guyanese professional Nagamootoo. He was a comparative leg spinner with very much a fast bowlers attacking mentality. Bleazards 60 was top score but Benbow and Beneduce got important cameos in the 30s. Lowerhouse finished on 193-7 with all 7 victims down to Nagamootoo.

At 114-5 Lowerhouse held the advantage but whilst the Colne pro was at the crease they knew the game wasn’t in the scorebooks yet. Nagamootoo counter attacked brilliantly making 57 off just 41 balls. He had 8 fours and 2 six hits. The Lowerhouse fielders were making desperate diving stops just to stay in the game. Chris Bleazard made two sliding tackle like stops to prevent boundaries on the Keighley Road side of the ground. I remember the outfield as being incredibly fast that day in 2005. Just as it looked as the deluge would cost House the game; the tide turned and Chris Benbow got that last 3 wickets, including the Colne pro, to end up with 4-41. The last wicket went down with Colne wanting 6 from 9 balls.

That was the kind of season it was in 2005 when the never say die attitude was infectious and even normally pessimistic. Lowerhouse fans felt confident that one way or another things would work out for the best. In the totally unscripted world of sport, you can’t say that very often.