LOWERHOUSE PROFESSIONALS – The best bowling seasons in our history
By Paul Hargreaves
There’s a saying nowadays that cricket’s a batters’ game. There’s probably a great deal of truth to that but it wasn’t always the case. There was a time when, unencumbered by overs quotas, most of the sport’s heroes were bowlers. This article will look at the dozen times in Lowerhouse history a team player(all pros’) took 90 or more wickets in a season. I think we can safely say that unless the 15 over maximum change, then these records will stand forever.
(1) Billy Cook. 130 wickets in 1921. This is easily a club record. The wickets came at an average of 7 and sixteen 5 wkt. hauls were attained. It shows the dearth of amateur talent around Cook, that such a season resulted in only a tenth placed finish. Cook was from a strong cricketing family. His brother Lawrence took over 800 first class wickets for Lancashire. Billy, himself, also played for his native county but preferred playing in league cricket which paid easily as much especially given the jingle of collection boxes. He was a fearsome fast bowler who played at Burnley, Enfield and Colne, as well as Lowerhouse. He took over 1,200 wickets at Burnley alone and helped them to a hat trick of Championships.
(2) Fred Webster. 112 wickets in 1927. The Accrington born Webster was pro’ between 1927 and 1929. He was the victim of the County side’s overall brilliant depth in the late-1920’s and he only played two first class games. He was a fine pace bowler but also handy with the bat. He met a tragic end. After losing his wife, he contracted pneumonia and died in 1931 aged just 34 leaving his young daughter an orphan. In those three years he averaged 95 wickets and over 550 runs per season. Lowerhouse’s best ever pro’? It’s difficult to compare different eras but Fred Webster is high on any shortlist.
(3) Manny Martindale. 106 wickets in 1947. Martindale played 10 Tests for West Indies in the 1930’s and pre-War was a superb pro’ at Burnley. He had 4 great seasons at ‘House although his 1950 season was a disappointing one as perhaps anno domini was catching up on him. He averaged over 500 runs per year to add to his primary talent. Manny’s two sons Colin and Fred were above average amateurs for Lowerhouse in the early ’50’s. The latter has the unique distinction of being an amateur scoring a 20th century Worsley Cup hundred for our club.
(4) Ben Gregory. 103 wickets in 1900. Gregory was a Nottinghamshire man who played a handful of games for his native county. Only the great, aforementioned Billy Cook, has taken more wickets as a ‘House pro’. His best season in 1900 was only good enough for the team to share bottom place in the league standings. He was a very one-dimensional player scoring only 74 runs in 26 games that particular season. Gregory died aged 87 in 1951.
(5) Corrie Jordaan. 100 wickets in 1997. Another pro’ lacking in the batting department, but this Joburg born slow bowler was undoubtedly one of the most skillful to play for the club. His wickets kept Lowerhouse in contention for league honours, right up to the last league game at Alexandra Meadows. Unfortunately, both Jordaan and the team had a poor day and ended a close fourth. In retrospect, much of the damage had been done in a mid-season game versus eventual champs Haslingden when ‘House failed to reach a mere 77 run target. He cut a divisive figure and there was a stark difference of opinion regarding his potential return in 1998. Sadly these differences didn’t heal overnight.
(Joint 6) Billy Cook. 94 wickets in 1922. Another good season by Cook although a drop off from his remarkable 1921 season. Lowerhouse had little depth and finished only 11th.
(Joint 6) Dick Tyldesley. 94 wickets in 1936. Not the type of pro’ that would be fashionable now, Tyldesley was a bowling specialist like Gregory and Jordaan. At least in signing him the club could be almost guaranteed a hatful of wickets. He had taken over 1,500 wickets for Lancashire with his quality off spin, and 198 in 2 league seasons over at Accrington. He played in 7 Tests for England and was just the second Lowerhouse player, after Walter Lees in 1912, to play for our national team. Tyldesley was only in his mid-forties when he died in the Bolton area in 1943.
(Joint 6) Tony Dodemaide. 94 wickets in 1986. The 22 year old Aussie fast medium bowler was a willing workhorse for the team in his only season at Lowerhouse. Without looking a natural he grafted to over 400 league runs. He later played for Australia in Tests and O.D.I’s. He would later renew friendships when returning to the league with East Lancs in 1992, even if his choice of club wasn’t universally popular! Dodemaide became a cricket lifer in coaching and admin. roles. (9) Ben Gregory. 93 wickets in 1901. Ben signed off for Lowerhouse after 4 years with another consistent season.
(Joint 10) Billy Cook. 92 wickets in 1920.
(Joint 10) Fred Webster. 92 wickets in 1929. The excellent Webster also got over 600 runs this year and dragged ‘House up to a fifth placed finish. It is a candidate for the best ever all- round season by a Lowerhouse pro’. Other strong candidates are: Webster himself in 1927; Manny Martindale in 1947; Kirti Azad in 1984 and Martin van Jaarsveld in 1999.
(12) Billy Tolson. 90 wickets in 1911. Tolson played for the club as a pro’ and amateur but this was easily his best year. After losing star amateur Tommy Shutt to Rishton(as their pro’) Tolson’s efforts meant the team remained competitive with a fifth placed finish. Billy was born in Yorkshire but after the First World War he emigrated to New Zealand.
FOOTNOTE. Lowerhouse amateurs.
Some Lancashire League amateurs have passed the 90-wicket mark but Lowerhouse’s club record is more modest. It is held by Tommy Shutt who took 76 wickets in Lowerhouse’s fine 1910 season. Shutt, though, bettered that total twice himself. In 1899, as one of the club’s two pros’, he out-bowled his fellow pro’ Ben Gregory in taking 81 victims, and in 1911 at Rishton, he got his personal best of 82. Shutt’s record has only been seriously threatened twice. In 1916 the Lancashire League played on until the war effort really demanded it’s curtailment. The quality of play was questionable with no pros’ and so many good amateurs missing due to military service. Many amateurs racked up an incredible number of wickets. At Lowerhouse veteran Billy Whittaker had taken 71 victims with 5 matches remaining when he too left to enlist. Had he beat Shutt’s record then the club would have had to decide whether to recognise it. At Accrington C.C. two amateurs got a remarkable 200 wickets (out of 214 taken by the club’s bowlers) between them in 1916 and Johnny Pollard’s 108 is their club record. On the other hand, John Bracewell’s total of 90 wickets for Burnley C.C. in 1916 was never recognised and the record has been held by, amongst others, Trevor Jones and, later Bharat Tripathi, with totals in the 70’s. I can’t believe I’m saying it but Burnley have probably, on balance, got it right and records from 1916 need to come with at least a large asterisk. The only other time Shutt’s record looked in danger was in the 1956 season when Jim Minhas took a post-Second World War high of 72 wickets. In the last fifty years a ‘House amateur has passed the 50 wickets in a season mark on 11 occasions. These were achieved by Jez Hope four times (1990, 1996, 1999 and 2000); Jonathan Finch twic e(2010 and 2011) and in single seasons by Alan Holden(1974), Trevor Jones(1976) , Jon Hartley(1980), Chris Benbow(2004) and Matt Walker(2015) Given the tightened overs restrictions Paddy Martin’s 49 wickets in 2016 deserves a creditable mention.