By Paul Hargreaves
After studying Lowerhouse’s Worsley Cup history I have put in order what I consider the best 20 performances by the team’s amateurs. I’m sure people will have different opinions and will have thoughts of a different order and possible omissions. I have tried to consider the era and the circumstances of the games.
For example, I have Charlie Cottam higher than others with more runs because of the importance of the game and Arthur Burrows fifty in 1937 above some 70 plus innings in a more batter friendly era.
- CHRIS BLEAZARD 101 not out Vs Haslingden 2004 Final. Chris’s service to the club is now almost 40 years and includes many great knocks for the team but given the importance of this match, this was surely his signature innings. He came in at 18-2 chasing 232. There was a weight of expectation on his shoulders in front of a bumper crowd but he was there at the end and Lowerhouse’s first trophy was finally won. Marvellous innings!
- CHARLIE COTTAM 82 Vs Haslingden 2004 Final. A great innings with an even better strike rate than Bleazard’s! It was Charlie that initially gave momentum and belief that the fight back was on. Despite a league century at Rishton in 2016 this was his finest hour.
- HAROLD PICKTHALL 8-27 Vs Todmorden 1922 Second Round Replay. The first game was tied on 122 but the locally born Pickthall excelled with the best ever figures in cup matches for the club and a first ever semi-final was reached. With Pickthall and Shutt backing up that great bowling pro’ Billy Cook there was no problem with the bowling attack unfortunately the batting in the early 1920’s was as bad as it ever was and held back the team’s prospects. Pickthall only played 2 years at Lowerhouse but was good enough to go on to play Minor Counties for Monmouthshire. No other ‘House amateur in history has even had a 7-for in the Worsley Cup.
- CHRIS BLEAZARD 107 Vs Enfield 2004 Semi-final. Another superlative innings by Bleazard featuring a 150 plus partnership with Cottam. It had looked hopeless but a mammoth target was duly chased down in the very last over setting up a great denouement to the 2004 cup run a month later. This was Blez’s first century at Liverpool Rd. at first team level.
- MATT WALKER 5-1 Vs Colne 2011 First round. Lowerhouse had a massive win as Colne chasing 200 plus succumbed for just 75. The main reason was a freakishly brilliant spell from all rounder Walker. His stat line says it all: 7-6-1-5.
- MATT HOPE 6-13 Vs Rawtenstall 1996 First round. Lowerhouse lost having bowled the home team out for just 103. Bad luck and no blame to Matt. His brother Jez also took 3 wickets meaning the brothers had 9 wickets between them.
- TREVOR JONES 5-12 Vs Ramsbottom 1976 First round. Another great bowling performance in a ‘House loss. No fault of Jones who took his wickets in less than 6 overs. Lowerhouse fell just 12 runs short of Rammy’s 142 first innings but if the in form Jones had been introduced into the attack earlier perhaps the target would have been quite a bit lower.
- FRED MARTINDALE 105 Vs Burnley 1957 First round. Another marvellous effort in a loss. Fred , the son of the very good ‘House pro’ Manny, and brother of Colin, made only one league fifty in over 100 games for the team, but made 105 in this high scoring match. It was the very first century in the Cup by a Lowerhouse amateur and only 2 others have reached the milestone since.
- FRANCOIS HAASBROEK 102 not out Vs Church 2018 Second round. The third and last to reach the century mark. After a steady start Frankie went to town on the Church bowling attack and he ended up with a strike rate of better than a run a ball. His runs were necessary as a spirited Church reply came up just 28 runs short.
- ALAN HOLDEN 5-19 Vs Rishton 1983 First round. An important constituent of Lowerhouse’s attack for nearly 2 decades, Holden is the only ‘House amateur in history to have three 5 wicket hauls in the Worsley Cup. This was his most impressive. ‘House made only 118 but with Holden getting 5 out of the first 6 in the order, Rishton made only 82 all out.
- MATT HOPE 6-41 Vs Colne 2007 Second round. Lowerhouse batted first and their 175 total looked very competitive. The Colne reply was completely dominated by their Aussie pro’ who scored 117 not out. The Colne amateurs did very little but still Matt’s fine effort was in vain. He joins Bleazard as the only multiple entrant to the top 20.
- BEN HEAP 77 Vs Church 2012 Final. The only ‘double’ winning season in club history and Ben’s knock ensured a tough chase for the home side. A tense game ensued and Finch bowling pro’ Saeed Anwar jnr. for 70 swung it Lowerhouse’s way. Ben will have enjoyed receiving the ‘Man of the Match’ trophy.
- BRIAN HIGGIN 92 Vs. East Lancs 1970 First round. Brian was a loyal and prolific player for the club scoring above 8,000 league runs. This match in 1970 saw his highest cup score getting his 92 out of 196. Lowerhouse pulled off what would have been considered a surprising win against the Blackburn team setting up a quarter final versus Burnley.
- RENNIE HOLDSWORTH 91 Vs. Nelson 1953 First round. Lowerhouse made a great effort in chasing 303, ending just 23 runs short of a remarkable win. Holdsworth top scored with 91. He was very capable of getting big scores and made 3 league centuries for the team.
- TOMMY SHUTT 5-18 Vs Burnley 1924 Second round. With a place in the semi-final at stake Lowerhouse made just 92 all out. Even in his 49th year that was no problem for club legend Shutt. He took his 5 wickets as the home side folded for just 44.
- TREVOR RILEY 6-46 Vs Church 1952 Second round. On debut Riley’s efforts helped bowl the visitors out for 121 and Lowerhouse went on to win by 3 wickets and reach their first cup semi-final in a quarter of a century.
- JON HARTLEY 50 Vs East Lancs 1980 Final. Higher scores haven’t made the top 20 but this was an excellent innings that gave respectability to the club’s first final appearance. Put simply after pro’ Amarnath went for 18 Lowerhouse weren’t going to win. This innings was also made against a high quality of opposition. East Lancs were the cream of the league in 1980. A team that covered all the bases and deserved ‘double’ winners.
- MARK WHELAN 82 not out Vs Burnley 1998 First round. Lowerhouse had gone 50 years without beating their cross town rivals and Whelan’s innings was the main reason that changed on this day. He was an excellent batsman who first made his mark with Enfield, but business commitments limited his availability.
- ARTHUR BURROWS 59 Vs Burnley 1937 First round. Burrows was the only ‘House player to get a Worsley Cup half century in the inter-war years. Lowerhouse had dominated Burnley in the early years of the competition and when 202 was posted that seemed likely to continue. Alas Burnley rallied and the monkey was tossed from their collective backs. Burrows scored over 3,000 runs for the club.
- ROGER BROMLEY 5-43 Vs Rishton 1981 First round. Lowerhouse faced the mighty Michael Holding and were duly despatched for 102. (Holding 7-32) The Lowerhouse bowling attack looked thin and it was a long accurate spell from Bromley that won the day. He was a skillful bowler with questionable stamina but on this day managed a 24 over spell just when his side needed it. One of his career highlights.
The cutting room floor is strewn with performances that didn’t make the list and there were several that came close. I went with the criteria of 50 plus in batting and 5 wickets plus in bowling minimum which disqualified a vastly important 43 from Charlie Cottam in the 2018 final. Nobody with 80 plus or 6 wickets failed to make the list. On the batting side several fairly recent scores around the 70 mark aren’t included. So apologies to Joe Martin, Blez, Joe Hawke, Nick Hope, Gavin Shields and Jon Finch. I downplayed their knocks a little because the relatively new 5 bowler rule favours batters. Also the new rules restricting bowlers in league matches means batters nowadays rarely face the potentially dominant opposition bowling pros of yesteryear. It just doesn’t make sense to sign that type of pro’ nowadays.
Also, apologies to Jonny Whitehead who’s brilliant 124 against Darwen in the 2020 President’s Cup isn’t included, although those runs seem to be technically, but wrongly in my opinion included in Worsley Cup records. I think , therefore, Walter Monk’s 64 against Burnley in 1961, Ken Tranter’s 59 in 1950 versus Todmorden and Stan Heaton’s 72 not out also at Todmorden in 1987, are maybe the nearest to the top 20 in batting.
On the bowling side only a few 5-fors have not made the list. Jez Hope’s 5-64 at Todmorden in 1992 just misses. If I had to find another bowling spot, though , it would be for either Alan Holden who would then have got 2 spots in the top 20 which only Chris Bleazard and Matt Hope have achieved or Paddy Martin who took 5-32 at Enfield in 2013.
I hope this piece has been of interest although I’m sure Lowerhouse fans and ex-players might have a very different idea of their own Top 20.