Games to Remember – Versus Todmorden 1992
Our last ‘game to remember’ feature concerned the first game of the 1992 Lancashire League season in which the ‘House had East Lancs in deep trouble before letting them off the hook. Two things mentioned in that article were the need to find a Lowerhouse win in the next featured game and the wonderful match that was the First round Worsley Cup tie that year. It was played versus Todmorden at Centre Vale. Therefore I can kill two birds with one stone by taking a look back at that exciting game.
After the loss at East Lancs, Lowerhouse had mixed results leading up to the Cup match. They also lost at Enfield where they were undone by Gary Barker’s talented batting but followed up with a couple of good wins. Chris Bleazard’s fifty was crucial against Church and James Capstick’s 5-15, his best ever for the ‘House, helped defeat Rawtenstall. Lowerhouse then lost at Bacup where Gary Moorhouse got a fifty but it was insufficient to stop Roger Harper(88) leading the Lanehead side to a win. The day before the Cup game, Lowerhouse maybe surprised themselves, when chasing over 200 at Nelson. Bleazard was to the fore again with 79 not out. Lowerhouse’s first six games had seen a split of 3 wins and 3 losses but there was a good atmosphere at the Club, much of it down to the youthful enthusiasm of pro’ Cameron Williamson. I remember that great Lowerhouse official and supporter Ken Smalley telling me about Williamson’s keenness. “He’s even volunteered to paint the tea-room next week.” I would have loved to have seen, at a safe distance, Ken handing a paintbrush to Kirti Azad, Manoj Prahbaker or especially Corrie Jordaan!
So to match day when it was quite sunny and the pitch looked dry and firm. It came as little surprise when Lowerhouse decided to bat when winning the coin toss. The consensus was that a score close to or over 200 was needed for it to be considered par. So in the circumstances 171 all out was underwhelming. It had started promisingly with a 54 from Williamson. He was 1 of 5 victims to the left arm spin of Tod’s Ibrar Ali. He was an excellent bowler and a bit of a cult hero at Centre Vale. In the days when Todmorden brought any kind of a following to Lowerhouse, Ali’s fan club set up in front of the groundsman’s hut, and did a special chant when he took a wicket. The ‘House sunk from 71-1 to 124-6. Particularly galling were the 2 run-outs, of Blez and Phil Astin with the score at 93. Nick Hope got a priceless 32 but it was the home side who were the happier at tea.
Lowerhouse made a dream start in the field when opener Bailey was run-out before the first runs were on the board. Todmorden recovered well though with pro’ Clint Yorke threatening to dominate. He was the brother of the Villa and Man Utd player Dwight. He made a fine 68 with 10 fours before becoming one of Jez Hope’s five victims. Jez’s switch in his game to being primarily a bowler was paying great dividends for the ‘House. It shows how cricketers who work on the perceived weaker part of their game can sometimes surprise themselves.Anybody telling Jez in the 1980’s that he would end up second all-time as a Lowerhouse bowler would have had to have drunk more beer than the man himself. A great example was Kevin Pietersen who had started as a very average off-spinner but didn’t do badly when giving batting a whirl.. After Yorke’s departure Todmorden were struggling on 106-5 but a 41 run sixth wicket partnership saw the game seemingly edge their way. Wicketkeeper David Whitehead was proving a real obstacle to Lowerhouse’s chances. Lowerhouse fought back with pro’ Williamson chipping in with 2 quick wickets and it was 158-8 when Ali came to the batting crease. He hit a ball in the air to Capstick at long-off. It was a catch he really should have taken but he didn’t sulk when dropping it and threw the ball in quickly. Meantime Ali decided to dash for a second run. The only problem was the rotund spinner didn’t really do ‘dash’ and some really exciting slow motion action ensued. Capstick’s throw was to the far end and was running out of steam but so too was Ali. Veteran ‘keeper Brian Higgin was just able to destroy the wickets before a floundering Ali got home. The fourth run-out of the day meant the home side wanted 13 for the last wicket. They inched ever closer getting 11 of them before Jez Hope induced a thin edge to Higgin off Stuart Parker sending Lowerhouse fans into delirium. Whitehead’s brave 42 not out was for nothing.
The draw for the Cup’s second round took place mid-week and Lowerhouse got the kindest path to the semis with a home game versus Colne. That Club had lost all their first 6 League games and were probably only in the second round courtesy of a bye. 1992 was the League’s Centenary year and Colne would put up a good candidate for worst ever season. They ended up winning just 1 of 26 games and were tailed off at the bottom. And yet, alas, on the first Saturday in June they beat Lowerhouse by 14 runs on a dark day in the Club’s history. I think that aftermath took the gloss off the great win at Todmorden and that was unfortunate because it was deservedly a game to remember.