1982: That 1982 season

By Paul Hargreaves         

Lowerhouse finally won the Lancashire League in 2005. This was a long 113 years after the league was first contested in 1892. In those intervening years the club had rarely even come close. Lowerhouse had a rare depth in their amateur ranks between 1906 and 1911 and achieved a joint second place in 1910. In 1997 Lowerhouse, although only fourth, were within 5 points of champions Haslingden and a last match win at East Lancs would have forced a play-off. If I remember rightly it was scheduled to be at Thorneyholme Rd. Accrington.  It was in 1982, though , that Lowerhouse came closest when they duelled Rawtenstall all season for the championship.

DUEL IN THE SUN (‘House versus Rocky 1982. The battle for the Lancashire League title)

GAME 1.           Late start and a rarity that there was only one scheduled game in April.  Evan Gray Lowerhouse’s new Kiwi pro’ introduced himself to the faithful with a hat trick as the team humbled Haslingden by 92 runs. Rocky, too, started strongly with a 63 run win against East Lancs. ‘House got the bowling bonus point; Rawtenstall didn’t.       ‘HOUSE 5 pts. ROCKY 4 pts.

GAME 2    Rawtenstall were a little lucky to come out best in a run rate decision versus Accrington. They were 8 runs short of their target with 9 out but were marginally up on the run rate. Meanwhile Lowerhouse, with Gray starring with 6 for 18, had a convincing 7 wicket win against Nelson.             ‘HOUSE 10  ROCKY 8.

GAME 3.  Lowerhouse’s encouraging start almost ended in a low scoring home game against Bacup. The visitors denied ‘House the bonus point when finishing on 101-9. Lowerhouse were on the verge of defeat at 80-9 when Dave Bartholomew and Keith ‘Rusty’ Fairclough saw the team home. Meanwhile Burnley did their neighbours a favour by edging out Rawtenstall. Rocky didn’t go gently into the night though. Burnley were 119-2 chasing just 158 but scrapped home with the last pair at the wicket.         ‘HOUSE 14  ROCKY 8.

GAME 4.   Strangely it was already time for reverse fixtures. Rawtenstall got a narrow 9 run win versus East Lancs as Lowerhouse went to Bentgate to play a Hassy team out for revenge. Haslingden batted well and set Lowerhouse a daunting 218 run challenge. ‘House put up a respectable effort but were 35 runs short.                ‘HOUSE 14  ROCKY 12.

GAME 5.   Another early reversed fixture saw Lowerhouse travel to Lane Head. Fairclough again showed his liking for the Bacup bowling with a top score of 35. In reply ‘House’s 163 first innings score looked vulnerable when the home team reached 96-1. Graham Bushell’s important 5 for 63 changed the course of the match and a narrow 5 run win was achieved. Meanwhile Rawtenstall gained revenge at Turf Moor where ace pro’ Franklin Stephenson took 7-27.                    ‘HOUSE 18  ROCKY 17.

GAME 6.  Rawtenstall entertained Nelson and thanks to John Beamont’s 5 wicket haul got the maximum 5 points. Lowerhouse got a 29 run win at Dill Hall Lane but the home team held out to prevent the bonus point.         ‘HOUSE 22  ROCKY 22

GAME 7.      A hard fought local derby at West End. Stan Heaton top scored with 67 but it was with great relief that Burnley’s last wicket fell with only 6 needed for victory. Rawtenstall were also involved in a derby against Haslingden. Stephenson made 84 not out to see them home.                   ‘HOUSE 27  ROCKY 26

GAME 8.        Rocky were beaten in a very close game at Centre Vale by 2 wickets. Lowerhouse made 130 all out against East Lancs. The Blackburn visitors looked in control at 55-1 when the not unwelcome rain came. ‘House would have been pleased to gain a point on the day for the ensuing no result.                       ‘HOUSE 28  ROCKY 26

GAME 9.     The day after was even more unsettled weatherwise and two more no results were recorded. ‘House were at Colne where only 16 overs were bowled on the day. Rawtenstall’s match versus Bacup fared only slightly better. Bacup 76-2 off 20 overs was all she wrote.                         ‘HOUSE 29     ROCKY 27

GAME 10.        The weather may have saved Rawtenstall in their game versus Rammy. The latter were 90-4 chasing Rocky’s 139 all out when the rains came. There were insufficient overs bowled for a run rate result. ‘House fared better. They batted first and put up a competitive score of 193-6, the feature being a 119 run partnership between pro’ Gray(59) and Graham Bushell(76) Lowerhouse would have most likely picked up all 5 points but opponents Rishton were 119-7 when a run rate ‘House win was declared.            ‘HOUSE 33      ROCKY 28

GAME 11.   Lowerhouse played Rishton again and gained a valuable 5 points. It wasn’t straightforward but chasing 142, Brian Holmes’s important 47 not out helped to a 3 wicket win.  Great news came in from the Valley as Rawtenstall chasing a similar target to ‘House had come up 44 runs short.          ‘HOUSE 38    ROCKY ON THE ROPES 28.

GAME 12    No duel in the sun this day, or even in the Lancashire rain, as Rawtenstall at Church and Lowerhouse at home to Accy were both washed out.                         ‘HOUSE 39   ROCKY 29

GAME 13.       Lowerhouse, like their rivals before them, found Todmorden’s Centre Vale ground an unlucky one. ‘House set Tod a modest 134 and despite Alan Holden’s 4-25, the home side won the day.  Meanwhile Rawtenstall were back on song. That great character, opener Brian Payne, was run out for 90, out of 192. Enfield’s last pair frustrated the Rocky bowlers but the Dill Hall Lane side were 21 runs short.                ‘HOUSE 39   ROCKY 33.

GAME 14. The bell rang for the start of the second half of the fight. Rocky showed they were up for it with a 26 run win at the Horsfield, Colne. Franklin Stephenson was at his brilliant best taking 9-60, including the home side’s ever dangerous pro’ Collis King for a duck.   Lowerhouse also showed their mettle with a convincing home win versus Accrington. Heaton and Astin were in the 40’s in a 174-8 final total. That proved plenty as skipper Alan Holden took 7-33 and the visitors were 80 all out.            ‘HOUSE 44  ROCKY 38.

GAME 15.   Lowerhouse looked to have a tricky test at Rammy and that seemed the case when they were left to chase a challenging 175. ‘House were able to get home with an invaluable 51 not out from David Keeley. He played over 100 League games but this was his only half century. It looked a magical season with even fringe players like Keeley, Fairclough, Bartholomew and Holmes playing important cameos when necessary to get the team over the line.  Rocky held serve and even gained a point as a John Swanney half century and pro’ Stephenson’s 8-67 saw off Church.                     ‘HOUSE 48    ROCKY 43.

GAME 16.   Rawtenstall had an easy win at Enfield with bowlers Brett Storey and Stephenson again, doing the damage. Lowerhouse had a rare off day against their kryptonite Todmorden. Chasing 145, ‘House went from 21-0 to 57 all out and the bowling bonus point gained was scant consolation.                              ‘HOUSE 49  ROCKY OFF THE ROPES 48.

GAME 17.  With a rampant Rawtenstall breathing down their necks it was a statement game for ‘House at Thorneyholme Rd. Pro’ Gray had an impressive day. He got a season high 86 with the bat out of 168. At 56-1 the home side were very much in the game but Gray’s 5-32 ended any threat. Lowerhouse won by 63 runs. Rawtenstall topped 200 with ex-St. Theodore’s product Steve Ashworth making an unbeaten century. Ashworth had a characteristic scampering running style between the wickets. Opponents Colne didn’t get close although Collis King made 77.            ‘HOUSE 54  ROCKY 53

GAME 18.         Rawtenstall were beaten at Rishton and ‘House fans toasted pro’ Kamal Singh who’s 90 got his team the win. Unfortunately Lowerhouse couldn’t take advantage. Church made 189 and despite solid contributions from their top 6 in the order, they finished on 187 as the overs ran out. No consolation bonus points for getting so close in the old days!  For the first and only time in the 1982 season, Lowerhouse and Rawtenstall had lost on the same afternoon.   As you were   ‘HOUSE 54 ROCKY 53

GAME 19.  Lowerhouse were back on track with an easy win at Alexandra Meadows. Astin and Gray put on 87 for the second wicket in a 151 total and the Blackburn team could only manage 68 in reply. When conditions were right Alan Holden was nearly unplayable and this was one such occasion as he finished with 6-18.  Todmorden were the visitors to the Worswick Memorial Ground hoping to achieve the same double as they had against Lowerhouse. It never materialised ,though , and Rawtenstall won by a routine 7 wickets.                                    ‘HOUSE 59 ROCKY 58

GAME 20.     Late rain meant that the games were settled on run rate. Rawtenstall winning by 8 wickets at Seedhill. A few miles away in Lowerhouse Stan Heaton’s 71 was half the total. It proved sufficient as Enfield finished on 99-8; the rain coming just before they coughed up a valuable bonus point.                               ‘HOUSE 63  ROCKY 62

GAME 21.           Under the vagaries of the fixtures, ‘House and Rocky had been like Elizabeth the first and Mary Queen of Scots; rivals from afar who knew about each other’s existence but who hadn’t ever met. Unlike those illustrious monarchs who never did meet, there was always going to be a day of reckoning for the main rivals of 1982. It was a tense, hard fought game with so much at stake. Rain reduced it to 27 overs and Rocky got a competitive 143-8. Glenn Barlow(50) and Payne(46) were their stand out performers. Lowerhouse looked good at 81-2 but the run outs of Astin and Gray, the latter contentious enough, turned the game. ‘House finished agonisingly close at 135 all out. For the first time in 1982 ‘House were below their rivals in the points table.                ‘HOUSE 63  ROCKY 67

GAME 22.   Lowerhouse were undaunted and had a clear cut win at Church. Gray’s 6-24 left the home side over a hundred short of the set target. The downside was the failure to turn 4 points into 5.    That seemed less of an issue when it came through that Kamal Singh had been a thorn in Rocky’s side yet again. If he’d have run for Mayor of Lowerhouse he’d have won in a landslide. He made 77 as Rishton shocked Rawtenstall with a 29 run victory.            ‘HOUSE 67  ROCKY 67.

GAME 23.   There was plenty of frustration in the Rawtenstall camp as they travelled down the A 681 to Lane Head. This resulted in Bacup being 69 all out. To be fair the home team didn’t give up entirely and six Rocky wickets were taken before the target was reached. A certain young K. Roscoe took 2 for 17 for Bacup that day. Not sure what became of him!  Lowerhouse also got the win beating Colne by 46 runs but failed to take the tenth and last wicket resulting in:                ‘HOUSE 71  ROCKY 72.

GAME 24.       It was now September and the destination of the title was on a knife edge. As Alex Ferguson would have said it was S.B.T. and Lowerhouse’s players weren’t accustomed to this kind of pressure. ‘House were unconvincing early at home to Nelson and Heaton’s 22 was top score in a 112 all out innings. Pro’ Gray earned his money yet again and his 5-32 performance saw Nelson fall 18 runs short.  In contrast Rocky had an armchair, feet up, light the cigars day at Accrington. Swanney and Ashworth put on 140 for the second wicket in a 227-7 total. Accrington were demolished and although Trevor Hatch made 31, his team were 67 all out.                 ‘HOUSE 76  ROCKY 77.

GAME 25.    Rawtenstall had hit great form at the right time and they cantered to a 7 wicket home win against near neighbours Hassy in the second part of the weekend’s double header. Chasing 141 Ashworth and Stephenson both made fifties. A small setback was their failure to get the bonus point.  Meanwhile ‘House were across town at Turf Moor. A win was vital with Rawtenstall due at Liverpool Rd. a week hence. At a minimum Lowerhouse had to make that a winner takes all game. It looked good at the interval as Burnley had been held to 113-8. Holden and Gray had shared the wickets equally. The reply was at 55-2 when ‘House collapsed at just the wrong time. Burnley pro’ Gary Robertson ,  reacting to some taunting in the crowd, was riled up enough to get 6-45 and Lowerhouse collapsed sufficiently to be a cavernous 25 runs short of keeping a realistic chance of being the 1982 Lancashire League champions. It had been a stunning turn of events and , for all the great stuff ‘House had done in the 1982 season, one hour’s madness looked likely to condemn them.                                                ‘HOUSE 76  ROCKY 81

GAME 26.   This match got probably more publicity and fanfare than it deserved. For Lowerhouse to get a 4 point win was one thing, but to get a 5 point win against a team unwilling to take chances was quite another, and Rawtenstall came with the knowledge that if they weren’t all out they were champs. Rocky won the toss and batted accordingly. After 34 eight ball overs they’d reached a heady, exhilarating(not)  50-6. I repeat 50 for 6 innings closed! Gray signed off with an excellent 5-20 doing all he could. Lowerhouse won in 16 overs to pick up silverware but it was the Holland Cup not the Lancashire League title.                          RUNNERS-UP ‘HOUSE 80  CHAMPIONS ROCKY 81.

CONCLUSIONS    I must admit I was a little depressed going into game 26, knowing we’d kind of blown it at Turf Moor the week before. The chances of forcing a play off, and then winning it, seemed very much against the odds. Overall, though, it was a special well remembered season. The novelty of a title race, a highlight for success starved players and supporters. For time served amateurs such as Holden, Higgin, Heaton, Astin and Bromley surely their best ever season at Lowerhouse.  There were more lamentations than recriminations. In the early part of the season lower order batters had had significant and timely success but they were exposed in the home game versus Church and especially the crucial away fixtures at Rocky and Burnley. One more better quality batter would have been handy. A personal lamentation was the loss two years previously of young all rounder Jon Hartley. He’d gone to the Ribblesdale League’s pro’ ranks after achieving the ‘amateur double’ in 1980. His presence in the 1982 team would surely have ensured our success. If there was a recrimination it concerned a constant theme all season that skipper Alan Holden under bowled his star bowler pro’ Evan Gray. The team only used 4 bowlers all season. Holden, himself, Roger Bromley, Graham Bushell and Gray. All had excellent seasons but the latter was the best bowler. Evan wasn’t really used as a starting pitcher but an ace to bring out of the bullpen. The evidence for the prosecution was that Gray bowled an amazing 1,066 less deliveries in the season than Franklin Stephenson, and yet, took his wickets at an average of two runs cheaper. Would the increasing of Evan’s workload have made that vital difference? Let history judge?

My chief recrimination concerned the game 26 denouement of the season match. I thought Rawtenstall’s approach of ‘throwing’ that match an anti-cricket move. Without expecting them to give up their pole position; surely on winning the toss they could have inserted ‘House. If they were all out the League was won. If not, then an assessment could be made whether ‘careful chase’ or ‘shutters up’ was the order of the day. As it happened such an exciting season deserved more than it’s complete and utter damp squib finale.       Rawtenstall’s tactics may have resulted in future bad karma. Since 1982 they have never again been Lancashire League champions. Even in 2007, when as the season developed, they were clearly the best team, atrocious weather prevented them from what seemed the inevitable catching of Saeed Anwar jnr.’s Rishton side. Meanwhile Lowerhouse have been at the Lancashire League summit four times. In 2005, 2011 , 2012 and 2014. So although ‘House narrowly lost the dust up of ’82, they have been on top in the ongoing battle.

FOOTNOTE.  Matches in 1982 consisted of 34 eight ball overs with no bowling restrictions for individual bowlers.  The scoring system in 1982 was different and simpler than now.  It was 4 points for a win. 2 points for a tie, 1 point for a no result. 1 point for bowling your opponent out.

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