Our take on 1991 – Jez Hope & Stan Heaton

Paul Hargreaves writes fantastic articles for the club, in particular the 1991 season.

As a player this was a strange season and felt, to me as a bit of a transition period. Alan Holden, Pankaj Tripathi, Roger Brom, Rusty, Tom Sullivan and more had all finished or were finishing. Trip captained the side the previous year and Paul is right in how well Delroy did, given the circumstances. At the start of that season he came with the title of the ‘new West Indies opener’ to take over from Greenidge and Haynes. He left knowing more about how to drink Guinness in the Miners with Brian Holmes. Very quiet but a great bat and a lovely fellow.

Dave Whalley was a good left arm spin bowler but it was around this time he got the ‘yips’, and struggled to let go of the ball. It wasn’t great to see at the time but now the memories of him bowling it to square leg or over the stumpers head makes me smile as I’m sure it does Dave. He got some stick from his peers and took it in good spirits, often giving it back 4 fold. I do feel we lost a complete player without Dave bowling.

I’m sure he would agree but Trip wanted to carry on from 1990 into 1991 as captain, especially with the signing of fellow Indian, Manoj Probhaker. I’m still no wiser as to why he did not but… I was asked to skipper the side which was a great honour and one I enjoyed thoroughly. Harry Brooks was heavily involved in the club and team at this time and if my memory serves me right had the title of ‘Cricket Co-ordinator.’ Harry gave a lot of time and effort and certainly moved the club forward with his positive thinking and enthusiasm with regard Pro’s and how he felt the cricket side of the club should be ran. The amateur development did not develop as it has in recent years, not sure the cause for this, lack of commitment, no older experienced players around or someone like Stan driving the junior sections! Anyway we trained hard before the season and had the usual indoor nets (during which all the batters tried to bowl bouncers every ball and the bowlers tried to knock the back wall down!).

The week building up to the start of the season was cold and the morning of the East Lancs game soon came around. 21st April 1991. We (the amateurs) met at the club around noon and travelled together to Alexander Meadows. This was a new idea as previous seasons people would travel from home and arrange their own lifts, crickey there are tons of stories of players being late or not being picked up, but that’s maybe for another article, the then ‘rug rats’ might want to tell us what happened when they travelled with Shez! It was around this period that Stan would continually complain about the early meets, on one occasion being heard to say, ‘If we meet any ******* earlier we might as well come the night before.’

So to the build-up of the game, Harry was bringing our new pro straight to the ground. Picture the scene, we’ve warmed up, in temp of about 11 degrees, we’re back in the dressing room, with last minute ‘pep talks’ and getting our kit on. I did wonder who would pro! With 12 minutes to the start of the game Probhaker walks in with Harry and was introduced to his new team mates. He was freezing and did not smile once. I’m not even sure whose hand he shook or if he spoke to anyone but got his whites on and onto the field he walked. He clearly did not want to bowl in this weather and fielded with his hands up his sleeves. When he did bowl he trundled in from 10 yards wearing 4 jumpers. He got Pearson early on and at number 4 in came Paul Reiffel, third ball Reiffel drove Probhaker through the covers and told him to go and ‘fag it’.  Probhaker bowled more overs but I’m not sure we as a club (for that season) ever got over that first game.

Again, Paul is right in what he says about his bowling, Probhaker could swing the ball both ways, bowl leg cutters at will and no one ever picked his slower ball. The problem was that the conditions did not suit him too often and maybe the ball didn’t ever get old enough to enable it to reverse swing, more about that later.

Enfield at home for the second game and we beat them! With Higgy steering us home with 3 balls to spare. Probhaker trapped Trip LBW at his ‘new’ club and I can remember Stan getting a good 50 against a very hostile Lynden Joseph. Not sure how many balls Probhaker faced from Joseph in his 34!

Time does fade the memory but I can’t remember there being many sunny good cricketing days. When we had a good net and ‘under foot’ was okay, Probhaker would bowl fantastic balls at practice. When it was coming out right he would be approachable and try and show us how he bowled the leg cutter or slower ball and I’m sure some of us learnt from him during these occasions.

Harry was passionate about improving the ethics of the amateurs, he would push me to insist that everyone attended all the nets, Tuesdays and Thursdays. We tried to instil this but was difficult during this period. We weren’t winning many games, didn’t have an experienced settled side and it was almost impossible to get all the players there all the time. As pro, it was spelt out to Manoj that he must attend the nets unless he was excused due to weather. He lived in a big rented house on Rosehill Road and Gary Moorhouse would knock on his door and tell him the nets were off after i’d rang Gary on his land line. Not sure if we had a number for Manoj but we couldn’t get a message to him through ‘Twitter!’

One Tuesday evening it was drizzling but we had a good win at the weekend and the pitch was ok to practice on. Manoj wasn’t happy about being told he had to come and bowl, bat and field for 2 hours. He bowled an over or two, went for a few catches and then I looked around for him to get his pads on and bat. We couldn’t find him anywhere until someone established he was horizontal under the covers on the square keeping dry!

14th July 1991, we were at home to Bacup who were at the start of their formidable spell of good pro’s and winning trophy’s. We batted first and to me it was no different to any other game. Nothing was said out of the ordinary by Probhaker during the first innings. We only got 102 they knocked them of easy with Roger Harper only getting 8. Manoj took 4 for 37 off 19 overs and again nothing out of the ordinary for us. Bacup were being managed by the late Alick Ormerod. Alick was a fantastic man and a cricket nut. He was the dad of Dave, the record breaking Accrington amateur and had been an umpire for a number of years. Just like everyone else I got on well with Alick, enjoying a pint and his company after the game. After this match Alick came to our dressing room door and had a cricket ball in his hand. He said something similar to ‘What’s this all about Jez’ offering me the ball. I looked at it and one side was almost scratched to smithereens. I honestly had not noticed it during the game and explained this to Alick but was unsure what else to say. In hindsight I should have got Manoj out to look at it but Alick left our dressing room saying he would have to report it to the league, which I fully understood. I thought nothing more after telling Wrenners and Harry about it and thinking we would get told off by the leagues. I was at work the following week when I received a message for me to call a number in Manchester. I called this number and was told that it was a reporter from the Daily Mail and that they were doing an article about ball tampering and this had been brought to their attention. I said something like ‘Whal (Dave Whalley) stop messing around as I was sure it was a prank. Turns out it wasn’t and I was quoted saying something extremely controversial like, ‘it’s nothing to do with me’. I have looked on line for the article but can’t find it, but am sure it was a full article around ball tampering alleging Probhaker and others were constantly doing it and was moving towards the bigger story of match fixing. Why that game? I’m not sure, could it have been that it was Harper he was trying to impress him, I don’t know. I spoke to Manoj about this incident and he said ‘it’s nothing to do with me’ so if it wasn’t him and it wasn’t me it must have been Ryan Hesketh!
Paul talks about the Nelson away and the East Lancs at home games.

They were both great games for us to play in and sparked the season into life, obviously 3 months too late. To see the crowd so animated was fantastic as players. My own story from this is about David Capel. He turned up and straight away was so friendly and almost humbled to be playing. He was very impressed with the ground (we were away!) and the player’s attitude. He asked more questions about our players before the game started than anyone else that year!! I lost the toss and ‘Carrots’ (Paul Garaghty) decided to bat first. I’ve played cricket against and with Carrots since we were around 13 and for many years played in the same football team at Belvedere, it’s always good to catch up with him. He was looking forward to playing against Capel and is someone any side would target as getting out early.

It was a nice warm day and Capel said to me as he took the new ball that he would like to bowl 3 spells. I was a bit gutted as I thought he could be left at one end to bowl 23 overs and leave the other 23 to us. But hay hum let’s see how it goes. They got off to a decent start and Capel bowled quick and accurate. We got their openers in close succession and Scuderi and Carrots came in, Scud was wearing a helmet but Carrots wasn’t. Capel had obviously seen that me and Blez were good mates with him and asked me why he wasn’t wearing a helmet? I said he was a good player and he didn’t usually wear one. I think Capel thought Carrots was being a smart a@?e but I said he was a good lad, Capel did say tell him to have a re-think. I told Carrots and he said he would be fine. Carrots didn’t get near the first 3 balls as they were aimed between his eyes and managed, at the last minute to get out of the way. Carrots then called for his helmet. Carrots went on to get a good 40 odd and Capel did bowl 3 spells with great variety and lightening pace when he bowled his quicker ball.

We went into bat and Capel’s attitude was one of this will be easy! He had obviously not played with the curse of ‘Jools De Criq!!!!!’ (Another one of Stan’s theories) I asked him where he wanted to bat and he said let the amateurs bat and he will go in if needed. We lost our openers early and Whall joined Blez, I looked at Capel and he started putting his pads on and started to explain that we needed to take the game to them and not defend waiting to get out. This is obviously a ploy in County cricket but who did he mean to play this role for us? Low and behold Whal got out and Capel went in and smacked it everywhere. He got out late on but even we couldn’t lose this. Phil Astin joined Blez to see us home with 20 overs to spare. Paul is correct that Capel left us his collection, can’t remember how much it was but I don’t think there was any left at the end of the night!

Anyway onwards and upwards as they say.

I asked Stan to read over this to ensure we didn’t get sued and he contributed the below:

‘It reads great, Jez. Does it end after Capel?

Probhaker was a misery. I think we got off to a bad start when Proc christened him Kylie as in Kylie Minoj / Minogue.

Dave Whalley had been Lancs League u19/21/23 bowler of the year in the previous season.

I remember one particular game at Todmorden where we saw Probhaker at his best. He got a ton and at least a 5fer.

David Capel was a revelation. He did a county style warm up which really got us enthused. After the game he spent an hour in the changing rooms talking cricket and was last to leave the Nelson bar having donated his collection. I think he had agreed to play as it was on his way from Northants to his in laws in Leeds. He had only just come out of the England team and I remember thinking he would just collect his money and swan around. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was fantastic from the warm up and through to leaving. He bowled his socks off too as well as getting 80, I think. What a player.

Reference arriving earlier, I think my quote was I’m going to pitch a tent and stay overnight. 

Bearing in mind this is only 25 years ago, it feels like the dark ages compared to today. I don’t think we were any more backward than most other clubs though, but we had a great team spirit and had a great time.’

Stan what a character!

As always, if you’ve got a story to tell, email adam@lowerhousecc.com