Blez Week – Day 3 – Interview Part 3
Here’s more questions & answers from the man himself!
- Up to 2004 you probably had very few good memories of the Worsley Cup. Lowerhouse had suffered humiliating defeats against an abject Colne team in 1992 and a comprehensive defeat versus Church in the 2002 semi-final. Did you have a here we go again feeling when Enfield put up a 300 plus score in the 2004 semi? Tell us about the brilliant run chase that day?
I can’t really remember 1992, but 2002 really stung for a number of reasons some of which will remain in the dressing room or veranda. There was very little we could do about first innings their pro batted extremely well. But we only had 5 bowlers and I bowled 9 overs reasonably well but in my tenth Higgs hit me four times over the stand and into daisy diary and took a single of the last. The mind-set of the batting effort was to try and keep up with run rate right from the start and it proved a disaster, if Gav hadn’t scored 60 we would have lost by 250. So when the same thing happened in 2004 we were determined not to be out of the game after 20 overs, even if we were behind on run rate. It proved the right way to tackle the enormous score. The middle overs 20-35 of the game were the turning point but we had no choice, myself and Charlie just tried to launch into their fourth, fifth and sixth bowlers and it came off. Then when we were out Tiffer, Joe and Ben saw us scrape home. It was a fantastic achievement to overcome such a massive total to reach the final. There was a brilliant atmosphere at the ground at the end of the game (a marked contrast to earlier when Alviro was racking up the runs) and we were even more delighted to have a chance to host the final.
- The Worsley Cup final of 2004 is a cherished memory for anybody remotely connected to Lowerhouse Cricket Club. You more than anybody were at the centre of that historical occasion as the team claimed its first silverware. What are your memories of the day and I’m sure you’ll give credit to Charlie Cottam’s role in the victory? If you had the power to re-live one day in your cricket life, would this be the one?
There weren’t many times as a Lowerhouse player that you allowed yourself to dream about how a home cup final would map out, but if you did, it couldn’t have gone any better than how the day’s events actually happened. Apart from some of the gazebos blowing into Lowerhouse Lane in the morning, a couple of partnerships that threatened to push the Hassy total beyond 250 and the loss of three relatively early wickets the day was spectacular.
Charlie’s innings just allowed my own to develop without taking many risks, he attacked every bad ball, ran singles & twos hard and played their pro particularly well. It was just a perfect day, a real reward for the hard work of all the unsung heroes of that day and those who had gone before. The celebrations during that evening were also brilliant and we put a big dent in the fantastic collections that we both received.
To hit the winning runs, bring up my hundred and be there with Ben was the dream come true but it meant just as much to actually win a trophy, eliminate the “never won anything” tag and know that we had made some positive history for the club. It also meant that Jez could finally take some weight of his shattered ankles and retire at the end of the season with the trophy that he so richly deserved.
- After winning its first silverware Lowerhouse didn’t have long to wait for its second trophy when the League title was secured in 2005. There were many great games that special season and I have an abiding memory of you using your goalkeeping skills on the Horsfield boundary to help win an excellent match against Colne. What are your own highlights of that campaign?
The main memory of 2005 is the game that clinched the Championship, we went with a realistic expectation of beating Rawtenstall but not to win the league. But as Ramsbottom appeared to be struggling at Nelson the intensity started to increase and it was with enormous pride and glorious relief that we eventually took the title. It was just a great pity that Macca had gone home due to injury and was unable to join in the riotous celebrations that went long into the night.
The run of victories in the last third of the season was brilliant and there were many close games. The game previous to winning the title against Burnley was a particular favourite. We lost 4 quick wickets chasing just less than 200 and Trip came out to bat with me and spooned a relatively easy chance to square leg but was dropped. Trip then got a rapid 50 and I got 80 but we were both out with 30 runs still needed and once again we scraped home with just 1 wicket left.
We played with a lot of sub pros that year but in the middle period Macca was irresistible with bat and more importantly ball, he had such a fantastic cricket brain and used this to demolish team’s lower orders.
Also particularly memorable was the game that started the run, the victory at Rammy, where Jonny Russell got 7 wickets and Macca saw us home with the bat. I think it was this game that demonstrated we had enough ability and when we really started to believe that we had a fantastic chance to win the league.
However, the overriding memory and the main reason we achieved the title victory for the first time that year was the fact that every single player contributed, at least once, in a truly significant way to win a game when it was needed. Joe at Rishton, Trip at Enfield, Tiff at Colne, Finch all season, the list is too long to mention everybody, but you get the idea!!!
- In 2008 Lowerhouse signed the promising Tasmanian Brendan Drew as pro’ and with Hasan Khan and Will Driver added to the usual suspects, I thought this was potentially Lowerhouse’s best ever team. The team never fully recovered from a horrid start. Were you also surprised and disappointed that things didn’t work out that season?
The team in 2008 was on paper a very good side but even a talented side cannot necessarily gel quickly as a team. Finchy was captain at the start of the year but job pressure and the effect of the captaincy soon became detrimental to his all-round performance. Also the rumpus at Burnley in the worsley cup didn’t help matters. Given another year together we might have made a very strong challenge but Will went to pro and Hassan was finishing his degree course.
- If 2008 was a disappointment you must have been elated and pleasantly surprised in 2011 when Lowerhouse won its second League title?
After the disappointing 2010 season myself and Charlie talked about the best way to nurture the talented youngsters Stan’s junior coaching system had started to introduce to the first team. We decided the hardest places to develop batsmen was in lower middle order and that he and I should use our experience to bat in those positions and give Joe, Paddy, Jonny W, Matt W and Fergus opportunities in the prime batting spots, with Finchy, Ben and the pro at the top of the order. At the outset we genuinely thought it would be a season for experience and finding out about the strengths and weaknesses of these young players. Francois had come with reports of excellent economy rates and as a capable batsmen from SA but we didn’t know how good a player he would turn out to be. He was just the sort of character the youngsters needed and he consistently took the wickets of the opposition’s pro and best batsmen, plus scoring vital runs. It was probably the best achievement for a Lowerhouse side because we performed way above our fledgling ability and expectation. The Championship winning game at Tod was a great example of how the games went that season; we scraped to a par score of 130 on a wet and sticky surface and Francois and Finchy simply bowled magnificently to win by nearly 50 runs.
- Lowerhouse’s best ever season was on its 150th birthday when the ‘double’ was achieved. What are your memories of that marvellous season?
We obviously had high expectations in 2012 (Hawkey had returned from two years as a pro as a straight swap for the retiring Jonny Russell) however, to complete the double was truly unbelievable. The cup run to the final was relatively straight forward with the side assuming commanding positions very early on in each match. The final against Church would prove to be a much closer game, they had a talented side with some experienced players and talented youngsters, with an exceptional pro. Ben’s innings was fantastic and gave him the belief in his ability to become an outstanding batsmen and fulfil his early promise (he was only 16 in 2004). We probably should have pushed to more than 200 but the wicket was damp, so it was a more than competitive score. We squeezed them all through their innings but with Anwar Jnr still in on 70 they had a chance but when Finch winkled him out we had finally done enough to win. I think we were in great position in the league all year but the weather was poor and we got the rough end of some abandoned fixtures in terms of the quality opponents for us and our rivals. The defeat at Burnley brought Accrington back in with a chance with three games to go and the last game against Rammy was a very nervous affair. Jonny batted brilliantly in reply to their total however we needed Joe and Paddy to eventually sneak the bonus points required to win the league and then the game itself. It was a fantastic last day finish to the clubs 150th year celebrations and of course the clubs most successful of all time.