Lowerhouse Heroes (The amateur centurions)
By Paul Hargreaves
As a very strange cricket season concluded at ‘bonny’ Colne, a few Lowerhouse ultras were considering if any of us had foreseen Matt Hope, after a 12 year hiatus, playing for the first team again. Also a girl (Liberty Heap) making her debut. Another topic was how many ‘House amateurs had scored League centuries down the years.
This piece details the history of our heroes who have reached that milestone for Lowerhouse.
The first Lowerhouse centurion was a sub-pro’ in the Lancashire League’s first season of existence in 1892. This was John Goodband from Northumberland, who scored 101 not out on debut at Seedhill, Nelson. He scored 128 runs in 2 games but a year later, as a full time pro’ only 146 runs in 24 matches!
The honour of being our first amateur centurion goes to Richard Holden in 1896. On August 1st he scored 110 not out in a drawn game versus Bacup. Holden was a club captain and mainstay of his side’s infant years in the Lancashire League. He was the only 19th century player to get three figures which isn’t surprising in a bowler dominant era.
The new century saw stalwart Joe Cook get 118 versus East Lancs in 1901 in a home draw. Cook retired in 1916 with a then record 4711 runs but this was his only century. In 1903 pro’ Ernie Vost was the first to get two hundreds in a season.
Our next century was from Club legend Tommy Shutt. Shutt got a record 173 not out in a big win at Bentgate, Haslingden in 1905. Shutt took 1000 wickets for Lowerhouse but was also a dangerous hitter. His innings would stand as an unthreatened record until 2017. Shutt scored 5 other League hundreds. Two were in 1904 in his only season at Burnley and one when pro’ at Rishton in 1911. His other two for ‘House were 102 not out in a drawn game at Enfield in 1909 and 113 not out at home to East Lancs in 1910. In the latter match he also took 6-23 and achieved the best all round amateur performance in team history. This fact was acknowledged by club President and benefactor Harry Brooks and some geeky fan got the prize of a bottle of Moet and Chandon for uncovering the info.
The only other pre-First World War centurion was the very good all rounder William Whittaker. He was a hero on both the cricket field and the battlefield and was tragically killed in France in 1918. In 1906 Whittaker got 100 not out at the Horsfield, Colne and in 1911, 122 out of 247 in a decisive win at Dill Hall Lane , Enfield.
This 1911 innings was the last amateur century for 26 long years. In 1921 only one single 50 was scored (by G.B.Capstick) and in 1924 it got worse for Lowerhouse amateurs when no player passed 50! In 1933, though , pro’ Edwin St Hill equalled Vost in making 2 hundreds.
The drought was broken in 1937 when the redoubtable all rounder Ernie Smith scored 106 not out in a home win against Accrington. It would be the only inter-war century and fittingly went to a Hall of Famer in batting and bowling.
In the 1940’s Herbert Lawson became the club’s most prolific batsman scoring nearly six and a half thousand runs before departing to Padiham of the Ribblesdale League. Lawson was a very good batter but he was able to make hay in the War years with no pros in opposing teams. In 1940 he was left stranded on 99 not out at Colne but put things right later in the season with 104 not out in a home victory over Rishton.
I can remember older fans such as Tom Howarth and the late Alan Bradley praising the batting skills of Rennie Holdsworth, who scored 3 centuries for the club. The first was 113 not out at Thorneyholme Rd. Accrington and he scored 100 not out less than a year later on the same turf. In 1954 he got his highest score of 114 at Acre Bottom, Ramsbottom to help ‘House to a decisive win.
In 1955 that fine batsman Walter Monk had his best season scoring nearly 600 runs of which 114 were gained in a narrow home loss to Rawtenstall. He became the first Lowerhouse amateur to reach the century mark in a losing cause. Monk obviously enjoyed his playing days at the club and it was a poignant moment to see his ashes scattered near the site of the old pavilion.
Khan Mohammed was ‘House pro’ in 1953 and ’54 and his brother Maxie Mahmood came over with him and he made his home in the area. He still lives here and can often be seen taking the good fight to those wretched bookies. Mahmood was probably the team’s best batter for a decade and he scored 123 at Enfield in 1962, some of them in partnership with the great Basil Butcher.
There followed the longest ever drought of centurions and it would be 29 years before Lowerhouse’s greatest amateur batsman, Chris Bleazard, got the first of seven League centuries in the 1991 season, scoring 101 not out in a loss at Haslingden. Lowerhouse hadn’t been devoid of high scoring players but Brian Higgin , Stan Heaton and Philip Astin, with over 21000 League runs between them, couldn’t crack the hundred mark. Higgin got within one of the magic number and Astin was just two away. One man in that era who could was Kirti Azad. In his middle year of his 3 as professional, he was the first to get 3 hundreds in a season. Azad also bowled well that year and his all round efforts in ’84 were up with any other ‘House pro’ in history.
Blez went on to score 6 more League centuries. His second was in 1996 at Colne in another away defeat, where a fine 110 not out was in vain. At last in 2003 Bleazard’s 106 not out at Accrington led to an easy victory. In 2004 Chris proved a thorn in the side of Haslingden in the Worsley Cup final but he also scored another hundred (106not out) to help defeat them in a league match at Bentgate. In 2006 Blez got 105 at Rishton and in 2009, 119 at Rawtenstall. At last in 2013 he got his first home hundred getting exactly 100 versus Enfield.
John Bushell only got 518 runs for Lowerhouse but 127 (not out) of them came in a 1997 match at the Worswick Memorial Ground, Rawtenstall. It was a strange innings of two halves. The first turgid, and then the second half exhilarating as he displayed a vast array of shots. Rarely can there have been such a contrast. Lowerhouse went on to win the game. In 1999 pro’ Martin van Jaarsveld scored 4 hundreds and set a new batting record. Although he fell short of van Jaarsveld’s overall total, fellow Protea Jacques Rudolph proved another superb batting pro’ in scoring 6 centuries in the 2002 season.
Another memorable moment following Lowerhouse’s fortunes happened on a roasting hot July afternoon in 2003. Bacup, chasing a fourth successive league title scored 250. The ‘House chased it down with the young recruit from Nelson, Jonathan Finch scoring 104. Finchy’s effort was the first home hundred by a Lowerhouse amateur in 48 years! Four years later Finch scored 123 versus Rawtenstall sharing a brilliant record breaking 259 opening partnership with pro’ Ryan Harris. Jonathan also scored 123 at home to Colne in 2010. Coincidentally 123 was his score versus Burnley when it rained just after the interval. The rest in history. The game was replayed and the runs were scrubbed and it’s still a sad fact that no Lowerhouse amateur has got a hundred against the ‘old enemy’.
Lowerhouse won their first league crown in 2005 and were helped by a father and son who both got their only ‘House century in that special season. Pankaj Tripathi had several spells at the club over a quarter of a century. He eventually achieved his hundred in a match against Enfield. Coming in at 19-4 he got 109 out of a final winning total of 180. His eldest son Vishal scored 103 not out in a home game with Rishton. He later became one of the very few ‘House amateurs to play First Class cricket. In 2016, after 20 years of trying Charlie Cottam got a deserved century at Rishton. Cottam scored 113 but it was bittersweet because home pro’ Von Berg (98 not out) helped Rishton chase down the target.
After 112 years Tommy Shutt’s seemingly unbeatable 173 was eclipsed by Ben Heap when he scored a 175 maiden hundred against new boys Great Harwood. It was a brilliant innings with eighteen 4’s and six 6’s. The only cloud was that most thought Heap was banged to rights caught behind for a duck! Ben has gone on to make two more hundreds both away from home. The first was a 2018 innings of 144 at Milnrow which contained nine 6 hits, and later in the season, 109 not out at Rawtenstall. Francois Haasbroek scored 2 centuries as ‘House pro’ and in 2018 added 2 more in his now amateur role. He made 118 at Colne and 113 not out at home to Rishton.
Joe Martin has had a chequered career as a batsman. He played a part in the top 3 in the order in a league winning campaign but as also often batted as low as number 11. On a rare promotion to opener he scored 106 at Crompton in 2018. It seemed to be redemption for the popular ‘keeper but he’s reverted to being an afterthought in the team’s batting plans.
Given his natural ability, it was only a matter of time before Jonny Whitehead entered the exlclusive Lowerhouse centurions club. It happened on the last Sunday of May, 2021 versus Rochdale. Jonny dominated his sides innings making 110 of a 210 total. His brilliant knock led to a 72 run victory.
In conclusion, 19 Lowerhouse amateur heroes have scored a total of 35 hundreds. Twenty have come on away grounds but only fifteen at Liverpool Rd. The gap of 48 years between 1955 and 2003 without a home hundred is amazing. There were two long gaps without century makers, 26 years from 1911 to 1937 and , perhaps more surprisingly 29 years between 1962 and 1991. Also strange, no Lowerhouse amateur had scored 2 League centuries in a single season until 2018, when Heap and Haasbroek both achieved the feat in the very same season. Lastly in another quirk no Lowerhouse amateur has scored a hundred versus ‘old’ Lancashire League clubs Burnley, Church, Nelson or Todmorden.
The Amateur Centurions:
- Richard Holden (1) 1896 110 not out v Bacup home
- Joe Cook (1) 1901 118 v East Lancs home
- Tommy Shutt (3) 1905 173 not out v Haslingden away 1909 102 not out v Enfield away 1910 113 not out v East Lancs home
- William Whittaker (2) 1906 100 not out v Colne away 1911 122 v Enfield away
- Ernie Smith (1) 1937 106 not out v Accrington home
- Herbert Lawson (1) 1940 104 not out v Rishton home
- Rennie Holdsworth (3) 1948 113 not out v Accrington away 1949 100 not out v Accrington away 1954 114 not out v Ramsbottom away
- Walter Monk (1) 1955 114 v Rawtenstall home
- Maxie Mahmood (1) 1962 123 not out v Enfield away
- Chris Bleazard (7) 1991 101 not out v Haslingden away 1996 110 not out v Colne away 2003 106 not out v Accrington away 2004 106 not out v Haslingden away 2006 105 v Rishton away 2009 119 v Rawtenstall away 2013 100 v Enfield home
- John Bushell (1) 1997 127 not out v Rawtenstall away
- Jonathan Finch (3) 2003 104 v Bacup home 2007 123 v Rawtenstall home 2010 123 v Colne away
- Pankaj Tripathi (1) 2005 109 v Enfield home
- Vishal Tripathi (1) 2005 103 not out v Rishton home
- Charlie Cottam (1) 2016 113 v Rishton away
- Ben Heap (3) 2017 175 v Great Harwood home 2018 144 v Milnrow away 2018 109 not out v Rawtenstall away
- Francois Haasbroek (2 as amateur) 2018 118 v Colne away 2018 113 not out v Rishton home
- Joe Martin (1) 2018 106 v Crompton away
- Jonny Whitehead (1) 2021 – 110 v Rochdale home