Worsley Cup Guest Reporter – Paul Hargreaves

I’ll let you into a secret, as an indolent part-time scribbler, a stint as Lowerhouse C.C’s guest reporter can be a bit of a chore. But for once that’s definitely not the case today.

This is one of the biggest games ever in our locality and I feel humbled to put a few inferior and inadequate words to proceedings.I don’t think it at all fanciful to think today’s attendance might be the largest to watch a ‘league’ cricket match anywhere in the world in 2018.

Walking down David Wren Way I pay homage to the man himself, who played such an important role in making a day like this possible for a Club that had made no impact on the honours boards for countless years. How Dave would have relished today and he wouldn’t have been shy in displaying his vehement partisanship.

A part of Wren’s legacy is the expertise at promoting games and this as been evident in the lead up even if this particular game didn’t need the ‘hard sell.’

I was musing on how this is a game that will even divide families; my own brother here today supporting Burnley indeed!Not sure which of us is the black sheep! Some ex-players played spells at each team. I reckon Trevor Jones, Ian Whitehead and John Bushell will be in the Burnley camp whilst ‘Rusty’ Fairclough and probably Mick Swift will be for the ‘House. Not sure about Graham Bushell who was a fine player for Lowerhouse in 1982 when an impossible dream almost came true.

Another muse was on which other local games were on the same level as today’s contest. Although only a Worsley Cup first round game, the Lowerhouse-Burnley contest of 1959 as assumed legendary status. O’Neill Gordon Smith scored a record 306 not out for Burnley who won by the record margin of 376 runs. Alas ‘Collie’ as he was universally known perished 3 months later in a tragic car crash.

The best remembered game for ‘House fans is obviously our only other home final when our first ever trophy was won and Chris Bleazard and Charlie Cottam came through in the ‘clutch’ to beat favourites Haslingden. It would take something truly special today to outdo that! On the other side of town maybe the most famous game at Turf Moor was the Worsley Cup final of 1964. The home side were running away with the league because of Charlie Griffiths’s brutal bowling but were denied  the ‘double’ in front of a bumper crowd by plucky underdogs Rishton. For once the big West Indian was tamed and ex-Burnley F.C. player Jackie Chew counted his many bruises attained that afternoon as badges of honour.

In front of an already packed crowd news of the toss was eagerly awaited. Often, and as strange as it may seem that random bounce of the coin can be, even after six plus hours of action, the most crucial occurrence of the day. The news was through Burnley had won the toss and would bat first on a wicket with quite a bit of grass on it. that might suit the seamers best especially early.

Now with the game only 10 minutes away it’s the final team talks as the skipper’s try to inspire a crucial extra 10 per cent out of their respective teams. Wouldn’t know what Ben’s exact style is as that stays in the confines. Maybe he’s like Henry the Fifth imploring his outnumbered English army at Agincourt? Or Churchill inspiring an over-matched Britain in the early pre-U.S. intervention years of the Second World War? For all I know he could even do the Fergie hair dryer? If the latter, Shelly might be on hand to help! She’d be doubtless better at it.  Personally if it was me I’d rely on the simple words of Horatio Nelson before Trafalgar. I think his exact words were “Lowerhouse confides that every man will do his duty.”

Whatever it’s now time for the action to begin.  With the weather playing it’s part Ben Heap must have felt great pride in leading his team out. There was a great intensity to Lowerhouse’s play and they would get early rewards for it. Chris Holt can be a match winner but he rashly charged pro’ Cosgrove and was bowled. His opening partner Bedford soon followed . 16-2.

Teenager Shah and pro’ Zakir set out to repair the damage and the former didn’t seem overawed by the occasion. Even so he was caught at the wicket at 40 and ‘House’s tight bowling limited the visitors to 58-3 at the half way point(25 overs) Marshall went at 69 bringing ex-first class man David Brown to the crease. Brown plays infrequently these days and the rust showed. After Brown had lobbed a catch to mid-on, the dangerous McCluskie soon took the same route to the pavilion and Burnley were floundering at 88-6.

The 100 came up in the 36th over but Burnley’s problems would soon snowball. Pro’ Zakir had been patience personified but he tried to hit Paddy Martin into the Leeds-Liverpool and only reached the safe hands of Finch. He made 43 and with Burton unnecessarily run out Burnley’s goose was all but cooked at 109-8. Everything had gone ‘House’s way but with a mixture of good luck and daring Burnley showed fight. A combination  of Pickup, Lawson(23) and the bete noire of the home crowd, namely Cole Hayman saw the recovery go to 169-9 when the 50 overs were bowled. Lowerhouse had bowled and fielded excellently with just a few late lapses. Hussein and Hawke, the latter bravely soldiering on with an  injury were my pick of a good all round effort.

There was no doubt where the momentum lay irrespective of whether the visitors had achieved a par score. This was quickly seen when skipper and talisman Heap was l.b.w. to the very first bowl of the ‘House reply.Joe Martin was also a victim of McCluskie and after a hard fought first 10 overs it was 28-2. Finch hit a big 6 hit into the adjoining park but was the first of 3 wickets for the ever divisive Hayman, Much was hoped for Haasbroek but it was  one of the few times this season he seemed out of touch and when the umpire’s suddenly viagra inspired finger saw the demise of Paddy Martin, Lowerhouse were in the mire at a lowly 54-5.  Cosgrove needed an ally and cometh the hour cometh the amateur ‘Man of the Match’ in ex-skipper Charlie Cottam. They put on 64 the highest partnership of the match before Cosgrove(54) was caught on the boundary and the match became in the balance once more. Chris Bleazard entered the arena with an air of somebody who’s been in this situation before. Now in his 52nd year Chris has seen every situation before! The 2 heroes of 2004 took the total to 142 just 28 short of their target when Charlie(43) became a victim to spinner Holt. I was expecting these runs having to be eked out but Joe Hawke, not always the surest of starters, got the game over quickly, like a man who was ready for his first well earned drink of the night. Lowerhouse had triumphed by 3 wickets. The inevitable pitch invasion followed and Lowerhouse fans could get their breathing back to normal and wait for the presentation of the Worsley Cup. It was only the ‘House’s third win in the Cup’s 93 years but we can claim a 75% strike rate in finals.

Lowerhouse have for so many years been the poor relation of the town’s two main teams so a little blood letting at Burnley’s expense was understandable.

My own rant based on being downtrodden by the Turfites for so much of my time as a Lowerhouse lifer is based on a famous Norweigan. Not Ibsen , Grieg or Amundsen but sports commentator Bjorge Lillelien . It’s dedicated to those from Burnley who’ve plagued me over the years. “Collie Smith; Charlie Griffiths; Roland Harrison; Peter Brown; Michael Brown; David Brown; Allcock and Brown; Gary Robertson for 1 crucial game in 1982; Bharrat Tripathi and the ever present Sir Kenneth Shapcott, your boys took a hell of a beating!”

To sum up fantastic crowd, great hard fought game and Nelson would indeed be proud that the Lowerhouse boys really did do their duty.     This as been Paul Hargreaves guest reporter for the Lowerhouse C.C. website. Good night to you all.