Lowerhouse have done a League double over Nelson this season as well as knocking them out of the 20–20 Competition at the semi-final stage. Such success against Nelson, though, as been uncommon in ‘House’s history. Most of the time we could do little other than tipping our caps to them and calling them daddy. I remember that great Lowerhouse fan , the late Alan Bradley, telling me how excited Lowerhouse fans were when catching their train back to Rosegrove, to bring the news that ‘House had held out for a draw against Ray Lindwall’s Nelson team in 1952. In Worsley Cup games between the sides Nelson hold a 19–1 advantage; Lowerhouse’s only win being in 1950 with pro’ Manny Martindale to the fore. Nelson always seemed to win with some ease on their visits to Liverpool Rd.
Curiously enough an improving Lowerhouse side in the 1990‘s put up some more than respectable performances at Seedhill. ‘House won there in the well-remembered match of 1991 with David Capel a star sub-pro’. They also won in 1997 when Nelson weren’t the only team to succumb to Corrie Jordaan’s bowling. Some clueless rival supporters claimed that Lowerhouse prepared wickets to suit Jordaan but only 37 of his 100 League wickets were taken at home! Lowerhouse almost won at Nelson in 1995 in what might be termed ‘Blez’s game’. He took a career best 5–31 with his under-used medium paced bowling and followed up with a fine 79, only for ‘House to fall 5 runs short of their 200-plus target. The scale of winning games at Nelson in the 90’s can be seen by how dominant the home team could be. In 1994 Nelson topped 300 with Joe Scuderi making 154, adding 192 with star amateur Paul Geraghty. In ’96 the pair put on 197 and another crushing victory ensued. When Lowerhouse visited Seedhill on 25th of July, 1999 they were going to the reigning Champs who were again favourites for the League. Roger Harper had succeeded Scuderi in ’98 and in that year plus 1999 they would only lose a combined 6 matches!
I remember that day for the stifling heat as I took a seat below the motorway. It was difficult to see anything other than a Nelson win but one always travels in hope and that would become appropriate as the match progressed. Lowerhouse batted first and pro’ Martin van Jaarsveld was soon at the crease after Frank Entwistle became a victim of the volatile Trevor Kegg. Martin would become a South African Test player and stalwart of County cricket. That day he dominated the innings but just missed a deserved century when he placed the ball in Marcus Phelan’s very safe hands for a superb 98. The ‘House’s amateurs didn’t back him up well but David Whalley got a priceless 25 as the away side finished on 182–8 off their 50 over allocation. At half-time I favoured Nelson, maybe giving Lowerhouse a 25 per cent chance.
Sometimes, though, even lack of faith is rewarded as Matt Hope put in one of the most heroic bowling performances by a Lowerhouse amateur. In the extreme heat he was able to defy tiredness and cramp to bowl all the way through the Nelson reply taking 6–86 off his 25 overs. I remember thinking he’s due a rest now only for him to keep handing his cap to the ump. Some will remember Matt at the end of his career bowling off a few paces but this day he bowled all 150 balls without shortening a 20 yard run-up. His victims were Duncan Spencer, Craig Walton, Paul Geraghty, Michael Bradley, Marcus Phelan and Trevor Kegg. Those players combined for over 30,000 Lancashire League runs! All that said van Jaarsveld’s dimissal of Harper after he’d just brought his 50 up turned the game. Lowerhouse were able to exert scoreboard pressure unlike say in the semi-final of the Cup this year at Rawtenstall. Jason Warwick(38) threatened for Nelson but was run-out. Lowerhouse were always just about winning and Nelson were all out in the last over 9 runs short of raining on the Matt Hope-Martin van Jaarsveld parade.
I think it must have been one of the most satisfying moments of Matt’s career as dripping with sweat he led the team off. Indeed he looked like somebody had thrown a bucket of water on him and I’d bet he wouldn’t have minded if somebody had. If I could have conjured up a pint of lager I’d have presented him with it, and I’m sure he could have made it disappear faster than any magician.
Nelson did indeed go on to retain their Lancashire League crown in 1999 but, if only for a day, Lowerhouse were Kings on that July Sunday.