The 1980 Martini Trophy Cup Final was a remarkable occurrence in the history of both Lowerhouse CC and the Lancashire League.
For a club that had been in the doldrums, reaching a cup final was some achievement.
It was the first time I think in history that the Worsley Cup was renamed. Somehow the internationally known drinks brand Martini had come on board as sponsor. At the time Martini was probably the best known non beer drink on the market and featured in glamorous television and magazine adverts as the drink of jet setters and Bond girls. Its catch phrase was “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” A slogan which also summed one or two of our players up.
The sponsorship was for 4 years and competition introduced a new format after this year of lunchtime (11.30?) starts and 48 overs.
The 1980 season was a 36 over competition and Lowerhouse were handed a bye in round 1.
Round 2 saw a comprehensive victory over Enfield who had the Indian test player Maden Lal as professional. Enfield were 141-5 and we knocked them off with 4 overs to go with only 4 wickets down .An interesting feature of the match was that our professional Mohinder “ Jimmy “ Amaranth (India) was not out on 49. Brian Higgin had scored 36 but a 30 stand from Mohinder “Jimmy” and myself (18*) won the game. I remember in the last over hitting several 4s of Maden Lal. Jimmy wasn’t pleased to be left 1 short of a half century and a collection. I apologised to him and simply told him that I needed the runs more than he needed the money.
It is rumoured that in the crowd that day was a young Chris Bleazard who Mohinder paid to avenge him whenever the opportunity arose. In 1993 we beat Church by 8 wickets with 10 overs to go. Chasing 174. Chris joined me at the crease with us 108-2. I finished on 83 not out and had visions of scoring what would have been my first (and only) Lancashire League ton. Blez finished on 35* and destroyed my chances of my ton by hitting 4 after 4 off the bowling – glancing out of the corner of his eye at me after each boundary. As he hit the 4 that meant I needed snookers to get to 100, I lip – read him whispering “that ones for Jimmy”. If he’d have said that he needed the runs more than me, it would of course have been a fib.
The semi-final saw us play Rishton. Rishton were 97 all out and we knocked them off. Jimmy was 53* and I was 11*. There was no denying him his 50 in a semi-final.
The run up to the final was one of excitement in the Lowerhouse half of the town and beyond. Many supporters of the underdog throughout the league wanted us to win.
The ground at Alexander Meadows was packed with coach loads of Lowerhouse fans setting up on the school side of the ground.
On the day, we faced a hugely talented East Lancs. Peter Swart was probably the best pro in the league over a number of years with East Lancs and Haslingden. 76 from the immensely talented youngster Kevin Hayes saw East Lancs innings end at 186-6. A biggish score in those days.
However, during the tea interval, the heavens opened and meant that our innings could not start. During the period of waiting a group of Blackburn Rovers football supporters came on to the ground and fights with Lowerhouse supporters broke out all over the ground. The gates were locked and the police arrived and cleared the ground.
We reconvened the following week and to our dismay, the outfield appeared as though it had not been cut.
We threatened not to commence our innings until the outfield was cut but the league executive threatened dire consequences so out, we went. With the exception of Jonny Hartley 50* we didn’t bat well. I had a stand of 47 with him before being out for 19 but we fell 50 short. At least our supporters won the fight the week before.
The game produced record receipts of £1665 which amounted to some 2,400 spectators over the 2 days. The record stood for many years. Our 2004 cup final with Haslingden produced another record of £4,951 (no record of admission prices if anyone can help. My guess would be £3). That record was again broken by our 2018 cup final with Burnley – £6,469.
From the photograph, most of the players have been covered previously. Mohinder Amaranth was an Indian cricket great from a family of cricketers – dad and brother being test players. Mohinder was man of the match in the 1983 Indian world cup triumph in both the semi-final and final. He had 4 years with us either side of 1979. As well as being a wonderful human being, Jimmy was an elegant batsman and could bowl on a sixpence.
Pankaj Tripathi is still local to the area and involved in cricket both here and in India as a coach. He was an aggressive stroke player, capable but underused bowler and probably the finest fielder of his time in the Lancashire League. His athleticism and skill in the field was unmatched. Pankaj went on to play for many clubs but returned to Lowerhouse to play with sons Vishal and Bharat in the 2005 campaign. The club won the league for the first time in its history that year and Trip will be well remembered for his 109 v Enfield. Coming in at 19-4 he and Joe Beneduce were the only 2 to reach double figures. Enfield were 63 all out and this was an important confidence inspiring win in that season.
David Keeley came late in cricket life to the club and after success in the Second Eleven David became a lower middle order thorn in the side of opponents. Cutting a self-made comical figure with a jester’s outlook opponents would be unaware of David’s knack of hitting 20-35 runs on a regular basis to boost the score and win the game. David was Accrington based and we think that’s where he is these days.
Brian Holmes was a well-known character in the town who enjoyed life and enjoyed a good laugh. As a cricketer he was a big hitting batsman who could destroy a bowling attack. We haven’t seen Brian for a while but we think he is still local.
The picture of Keith Fairclough has not been airbrushed.
We are indebted to Nigel Stockley and the Lancashire league website for research information in these articles