1966: A trip down Lowerhouse Lane

In 1966 the Road Safety Act paved the way for the introduction of the breathalyser. The Soviets put the first satellite on the moon’s surface when Luna 9 touched down in this year. The main memory .though, from 1966 was the only time the country that invented football, won the World Cup. Whether it was England’s best ever team is open to doubt but home advantage and the benefit of a close line call were crucial. Two cricketing Phils were born in’66, Tufnell and De Freitas. Stefan Edburg came into the world, as did footballers Tony Adams, Eric Cantona and David Platt. The latter played for Villa, Arsenal and Juventus and shouldn’t be confused with his namesake, the super brat on Corrie.  In ’66 we lost the fine golfer Tony Lema; writer Evelyn Waugh; Walt Disney; and old ‘stone face’ himself, Buster Keaton.

In the British pop charts Spencer Davis Group had 2 No 1 hits, as did more predictably, the Beatles. Some more old-fashioned songs reached the top such as ‘Distant Drums’ by Gentleman Jim Reeves and ‘Strangers in the Night’ by Frank Sinatra. Two songs with a real sixties feel that did well were the Kinks and’ Sunny Afternoon’ and ‘Pretty Flamengo’ by Manfred Mann.

In the Lancashire League of 1966 Roy Collins was in the first of three consecutive seasons at Lowerhouse and Johnny Wardle was in the fourth of six with Rishton C.C.  JOHNNY WARDLE was born in Ardsley. Yorkshire in 1923. He was a prickly, rather difficult man who certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly. Even his biographer said he didn’t have a chip on his shoulder, he had a bagful of them. He was also a fantastic bowler, who has never got the utmost respect his ability deserved. He was restricted in Test appearances because he and the Surrey player, Tony Lock, were competing for the same spot. Wardle played in 28 Tests, taking 102 wickets at just 20. He was a master bowler of both slow left-arm orthodox bowling or wrist-spin chinamen. Over 150 bowlers have taken 100 plus Test victims and only 6 have a better average than the doughty Yorkshireman. All those with better averages were from a more bowler friendly era, like Bobby Peel and S.F. Barnes. In first class cricket he took 1846 wickets at under 19, which is remarkable for a spinner. It was no wonder that a younger player and teammate, Brian Close, entitled a chapter in his autobiography, on Wardle ‘Johnny Wardle: Nothing short of a Genius.’ Wardle’s totals in Tests and first class would have gone on rising but he was summarily sacked by Yorkshire. He was particularly unhappy about the County’s insistence of having an amateur as skipper, even if he wasn’t deserving of a place in the team. When Ronnie Burnett, a 40 year-old amateur, was made captain, Wardle was scathing in criticising it. The Yorkshire committee decided that Wardle had to go.  Yorkshire and England’s loss turned out a gain for Minor County side Cambs and the Lancashire League, where  Nelson  were hot out of the blocks to sign him.(Although Nelson were successful, Wardle first saw action as a replacement for Alf Valentine at Rishton.) It probably wasn’t seen as a gain by those batsmen who had to face him! Johnny Wardle played 4 years at Nelson before joining Rishton in 1963. He died aged just 62 in 1985.

ROY COLLINS was born in Clayton, Manchester in 1934. A string of fine performances for the Lancashire Federation side brought him to the attention of Old Trafford. He was a steady rather than a prolific player. His middle order, attacking batting brought him 3436 runs in 120 matches. He scored 2 centuries. His off-spin took 159 wicket at 30. He left Lancashire in 1963 and made his living as a league pro and also turning out for Cheshire in Minor Counties cricket. He died aged 75 in 2009.    In 1966 Wardle scored 501 runs at 33 and, although well into his forties, led all Lancashire League bowlers with 110 wickets at just 8 runs. Roy Collins, not in the same class, scored 342 runs at 18 and took 45 wickets at 15. Rishton had a fine year with only East Lancs finishing higher. The ‘House finished joint eighth.  The head to heads between the two teams took place on 28 May and 31 July. In the first game Rishton scored 151-8 with the obdurate Wardle holding the innings together with 74 not out. Jim Minhas, playing as an amateur, and a big reason for the quite respectable League placing that season, took 6-57. (Collins 1-59) At 7 p.m. Lowerhouse were clinging on for the draw at 104-9. Wardle had 4 wickets including Collins for 13 and Minhas for 26.  In the reverse fixture, Rishton declared on 165-4 and ‘House fell to Wardle’s skills, as they were 86 all out.(Wardle 6-32) The late Barry Bromley, later associated with Burnley C.C., top scored with 32 of ‘House’s meagre total.

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