Monday, 17 October 2016

A memorable summer

posted by John Winn

The summer just passed is not the one referred to in the title of the posting but one far back in time and possibly before some of our readers were born but my memories of 1955 have been prompted by a book I have read recently, I Declare by Jack Cheetham, an account by the then South African skipper of his side's tour of England in that summer.

It is a summer remembered for fine weather, an exciting test series and on a personal level as the year when I left my little village school to move on to Darlington Grammar School. This important change in my life had the added bonus of two extra weeks holiday, the last of which was spent at Scarborough watching firstly Gentlemen v Players and to finish the week, TN Pearce's XI v South Africans, a game the tourists won by four wickets with one ball to spare, the winning hit being made on the stroke of time by Cheetham himself off the bowling of Johnny Wardle.

At the end of the match I was one of many who sought the autographs of the men from the Veld and in a small green book, still in my possession, are the signatures of six of the party who had the patience to sign after a tour that had begun when they had flown from Jan Smuts Airport Johannesburg on April 23rd and would finish with a drawn game at Carlisle on Saturday, September 10th the day after they had finished at North Marine Road, a little over 20 weeks since they had left South Africa. In that time they played 28 first class matches, including the five tests, nine of these matches being before the first test which, as was traditional at that time, was played at Trent Bridge.

Cheetham's book gives a very detailed account of his team's five months in England and Wales, they played Glamorgan at Swansea, and whilst he is no Neville Cardus he gives an insight into what was then a very different world and in which he avoids any controversy. One of the most surprising features of the tour to me was the number of receptions the tourists were expected to attend beginning in April with an appointment at South Africa House and ending at Scarborough Town Hall. The tour began in poor weather, a wet pitch at New Road contributing to a heavy defeat in the first match and the following week it was bitterly cold at Derby, plus ca change. The summer redeemed itself from July and for the first time all five tests were played to a definite conclusion: three in favour of England and two for South Africa, the first time they had achieved that feat in England. The tests were generally low scoring affairs with an average of just over 25 runs per wicket. In the decisive test at The Oval forty wickets fell for just 618 runs, 21 of them to spin.

Cheetham himself had a modest tour, a middle order batsman he averaged 24.00 in the three tests he played with a top score of 54. Injury kept him out of the third and fourth tests where under the captaincy of McGlew the South Africans had their two victories. Cheethams describes in the book how he was 'loathe to play' in the final test but was persuaded by McGlew and tour manager Ken Viljoen that he should . Back in South Africa his wife received many anonymous phone calls forcefully suggesting he should not return to the side. The beginnings of social media perhaps? The bespectacled* Paul Winslow, who had scored a century in the third test at Old Trafford, made way for his skipper.
*Percy Mansell, a fine slip fielder also wore glasses

The South Africans were let down by their batting but they had a strong hand of quicks and the off spin of Tayfield who took 143 wickets on the tour. Their strongest suit however was their fielding and I have a clear memory of them practising catching in front of the Scarborough pavilion, a pursuit we take for granted now but which was unusual, possibly unique, at that time.

Cheetham's book describes how after that final first class victory the band at Scarborough played Auld Lang Syne but does not record the names of the schoolboys who queued for his team's autographs. The signatures I have are those of Adcock, McGlew, Mansell, McLean, Smith and Goddard. For many years I believed that I was one of considerable number who wanted wicketkeeper batsman John Waite to sign and that he said he would oblige just twelve of us. I have many times recounted how I was 13th in line and that he took pity on me but as his signature is not in my book I must have imagined the incident.

In the concluding chapter of the book Cheetham gives an appraisal of each of the fifteen players under his captaincy and expresses his faith in the future of South African cricket. Wisden shared his confidence and in the last sentence of its account of the tour visit it predicts that (England) 'will find these talented Springboks even more formidable on their native Veld.' Wise words for two years later in South Africa they again conceded the first two tests to England but after a drawn third test fought back to share the series. When Cheetham left the field at The Oval on August 17th 1955, lbw Laker 9, it was his last appearance in test match cricket. He died in 1980, aged just 60. Two of his sons played first class cricket.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Cricket in October

Posted by Tony Hutton

The Arthington cricket festival took it's usual course with four weekends of friendly cricket to bring the curtain down on the cricket season. I was otherwise engaged for the first two weekends, but the weather was kind and I managed to see the last four games during the first two weekends of October.

Next man in waits his turn

Saturday 1st October and Arthington took on the Hawks a long established Wharfedale wandering side. A nice mixture of youth and experience, with leading light as ever David 'Ted' Lester scoring a hard hitting fifty. The Hawks were reinforced by the addition of the Priestley family from Pudsey St Lawrence, Ian a veteran performer who played one game for Yorkshire some years ago together with his two young sons. Number one son made a fine 31, but the youngest member was a bit put out to be dismissed cheaply.
                                            The Hawks line up

The Hawks final total of 189 all out looked a decent score, particularly when opening bowler Wilkinson took 4-4 in his early spell. Arthington were soon reduced to  51-6 when the rains, which had threatened earlier, finally arrived and the game was called off as a draw. This was the only game of the festival not to reach a positive result and reinforced the feeling of many regulars that October weather can be excellent.

Regular spectators Harold Todd and Reg Parker

The following day saw the visit of Doghouse, again a very well established Sunday wandering side from Teeside. At one time they had a wonderful fixture list of games all over North Yorkshire and the North East on some of the most beautiful grounds around. Sadly in recent years the number of fixtures has decreased rapidly due to the problems of raising a team on Sundays. Unfortunately we learned that this might indeed be their last match ever, the end of a great tradition.

Cricket in the October sunshine

For years they fielded many strong players from the North Yorkshire and South Durham League and the opening pair reflected that with David Cross from Norton and Ben Usher from Bishop Auckland soon piling up the runs. Usher made 49 and Cross went on to make a fine 72, but after that the scoring rate declined somewhat and even so a total of 223-9 looked like a winning score.

80 year old Dennis Nash still taking wickets

Unfortunately the Doghouse bowling did not match the early batting and Arthington cruised to an excellent victory by six wickets, making 224-4, thanks mainly to a century by youngster James Lord from the Crossbank Methodists side in the lower reaches of the Bradford cricket league.

That end of season feeling

On the final weekend, Saturday 8th October saw a rather one sided game against Cambridge Methodists, who were bowled out very quickly for only 82. Vince Greaves-Newell took 3-7, Dougie Jones 3-15 on his 21st birthday and veteran Geoff Barker finished them off with two wickets. Arthington raced to victory with Richard Spry scoring 60 not out and Joe Nash (son of Dennis) 21 not out.

Steve Bindman batting for Cambridge Methodists

The end of the game was enlivened by a longish over from the one and only Steven Bindman, whose first two deliveries were so slow he could have retrieved them before they reached the batsman. However he then found his length and Mr Spry treated several balls with great respect before hitting one through mid wicket for four to win the game.
Arthington secretary Martin Binks enjoys the win

Sunday 9th October and the last match of the season ended in anti-climax, as it often does. Visitors St Georges Church, who play their home games in the grounds of nearby
Harewood House, made a useful total of 193-4 in their forty overs. Star performer was a young man from Zimbabwe, via school in Botswana, and now studying at Leeds University. He had the unpronounceable name of Stephen Parirenyatna (if I have spelt it correctly), but he could certainly bat and made an excellent 71 in partnership with another veteran Andrew Stoddard who ended not out on 59.

Andrew Stoddard (left) marches off undefeated

Apparently Mr Stoddard yesterday completed his one thousand runs in all forms of cricket this season, although he strongly denied that this included some scored on the beach at Scarborough. The two batsmen had put on around 120 for the fifth wicket after an early collapse but sadly Arthington never really approached the run rate required for victory. Opener Greaves-Newell made 40, but the only other batsman to make runs was last week's hero James Lord with anothe fine 50. Wickets fell at regular intervals and the game petered out just after six o'clock in the evening in the gathering gloom. Final score 156-8 so St Georges won by 37 runs. The players and umpires shook hands and said their farewells. The small band of spectators who had stayed in the cold to see the last rites made their way home and no doubt all will be making plans for next season before too long.

Dennis Nash put out to graze

Friday, 14 October 2016

More feathers to fly

posted by John Winn

In my last posting, Wednesday 5th October, I expressed my great disappointment over the punishment handed out to Durham by the ECB for their financial woes. Durham's response has cheered me a little with news of promising young players signing new contracts and an encouraging uptake of memberships for next season despite the loss of first division status. And there is even a little solace in that we will see some new faces in championship action at The Riverside, it is some years for example since the likes of Leicestershire and Glamorgan came to play first class cricket.

Yesterday however the story took another twist with an article in The Times by Elizabeth Ammon under the headline 'Kent may sue after missing promotion' in which she quotes from a letter 'seen by The Times' in which it is alleged that Durham were told in May that they would be relegated at the end of the season. My first thought, expressed in a tweet to my friend Alan Pinkney, was that this meant Durham's last match against Hampshire, the result of which sent the south coast team down, was a sham. Alan replied that of course it went much further than this for if Durham knew in May then the whole season from that point was a sham, that the excitement and tension generated in the last couple of rounds of matches when anyone of four clubs appeared to be in danger of relegation  with Notts was just a balloon that could be pricked at any moment if this were to be leaked. To quote Ms Ammon ' .....calling into question the integrity of the whole championship season'.

Later in the morning Durham issued a very brief statement stating 'that they were not told in May that the club would be relegated at the end of the season.' So who do we believe? While Durham suffered something of a slump in the second half of the season anybody who saw their performance on the fourth afternoon of their match with Surrey when, having looked likely losers at tea they fought back to win by 21 runs, a result which at the time seemed to have secured first division cricket for the twelfth season in a row at The Riverside, would not believe they were watching a team who knew it was all a waste of time. Would Mark Wood, by his own admission only 60% fit, have played in that match under such circumstances? And if the Durham dressing room had known for five months that they were part of a charade designed to dupe the paying public into thinking they were watching an honest game would there not have been rumours to that effect leaked to the members, several of whom are blood relatives of the players?

If we can discount the suggestion that the players knew their time was up then it does I suppose leave open the possibility that the DCCC hierarchy had been told of their fate in May but that such a devastating blow had been kept secret from coach Jon Lewis, skipper Paul Collingwood, Durham's backroom staff and least likely of all, Our Hartlepool Correspondent., come on!

Back to Kent, who are on the warpath for they have threatened legal action against the ECB if the latter are not prepared to go to independent arbitration over the decision to reprieve Hants from relegation and deny Kent, who finished second in Division Two, promotion. I know who I am rooting for.

Arthington last Sunday when tea was taken at three during the last match of the season.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

End of season blues

Posted by Tony Hutton

So soon after the euphoria created by the Middlesex v Yorkshire game to decide the championship came the decision to relegate Durham, with considerable other penalties as well, which John Winn and many others have expressed their outrage. I share these views and feel that the ECB have shot themselves in the foot with several recent decisions which do the county game no good at all.

It is a sad time anyway with only two games remaining this coming weekend at Arthington, which will really be the end of season. I am hoping to do a comprehensive blog covering all the games of the Arthington festival, which last Sunday saw what is likely to be the last match played by the Teeside based wandering club Doghouse. They have entertained us right royally for many years and not that long ago had a full fixture list of Sunday matches throughout North Yorkshire and the North East on some of the loveliest grounds around. Sadly in today's environment they struggle to raise a side for more than a handful of games, a problem not confined to Sunday cricket.

Anyway as today is national poetry day, I feel moved to try and write something more cheerful on a rare venture into this alternative genre.


The cricket season's over
and we never got to Dover.
We went to many places,
all with familiar faces.
Of course to Scarborough fair,
a place beyond compare.

We ended up at Lord's,
surrounded by the hoards,
but that ending cannot beat
the Minor Counties treat.

We had been to Tattenhall,
to Whitchurch and Colwall,
Kendal and Sedbergh School,
enough to make you drool.
We enjoyed the peace and quiet
and a very healthy diet!

Now a plug for two cricket books to enjoy during the months ahead. Firstly I was fortunate enough to attend the Northern Cricket Society meeting at Headingley last Tuesday when author Martin Howe talked about his recent book on former Yorkshire and England captain Norman Yardley. To assist him he brought along the twin sons of Yardley and all three of them contributed to an excellent evening, particularly for those of us who remember the 1940s and 1950s. The book is published by ACS (The Association of Cricket Statisticians).

The second volume is the sort of book I would like to write myself  'Sweet Shires' by Dave Morton published by SilverWood Books of Bristol. It is a paperback story of his cricket watching all over the country and is full of excellent colour photographs - I just wish mine were of the same high standard. Dave was born in Yorkshire and seems to have overcome the handicap of spending most of his life in Lancashire very well. A wonderful book ideal for people who collect cricket grounds.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

'unjust, unprecedented and alien to cricket's code of fair play'

posted by John Winn

'Build it and they will come' unless it is against an inexperienced Sri Lankan side in May and just eight days after a test at Headingley and the genius who came up with the piece of scheduling knew nothing of meterology, geography and the depths of people's pockets.A  condition attached to the granting of first class status to Durham 25 years ago was that they should construct a ground fit for international cricket and in 2003 Riverside became England's first new test venue for 101 years when Zimbabwe were the visitors. Wisden drew attention to modest crowds on the first and second days but linked that to the quality of the opposition and since then England have paid five further tests at the ground, although they had to wait until 2013 before Australia dropped in, only one of which has been played in the school holidays.

Set this against the ECB's bidding system, since dropped, which encouraged counties to overreach themselves, an increasing number of grounds competing to host tests and the difficulty of establishing a tradition of attendance when only six tests are played in a fourteen year period, mostly against the less attractive opposition in a town where only one north bound train stops between 10:03 and 14:03, fewer than was the case in 2003.

That was the hand Durham were dealt in 1992 and perhaps they have not played it well but the woes arising from the staging of tests and other internationals have brought my native county to its knees culminating in this week's devastating news that they will start next season in Division Two, when despite  playing the recent season without an overseas player they finished 45 points above Hampshire who are thus reprieved, and furthermore Durham will start next year on minus 48. A clear message from the ECB here that Durham are not fit to be in the top flight and will not be so for some time to come. Of course I have an axe to grind here, I was born a couple of miles north of the River Tees and have been a Durham member since 1992, but I do not know of any of the major cricket writers, the title of my posting is from the Daily Telegraph's Scyld Berry, who do not think Durham's punishement harsh in the extreme. Points deduction for next season or simple relegation, either of these I could just about take but both? No sir.

One understands there is no right of appeal and nobody from the ECB will be required to justify the butchery of the hopes of county which in its short existence has produced several England test players and whose policy of  dependence on mainly home produced players has won three championships in the last nine years. A sad week for Durham and for domestic cricket.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Autumn Leaves

posted by john Winn

After my trip to Lord's last week I spent most of the next three days within eyeshot or earshot of the tv/radio commentaries on the thrilling finish to the county championship that Tony has described so well in the posting he made on Tuesday. A birthday celebration took my wife and I away from home on Friday afternoon but thanks to DAB radio we were able to listen to commentary on the closing overs, and what an excellent service TMS provided, as we drove towards Upper Teesdale. The end when it came, came of course in the most dramatic fashion with Ro-Jo's hat trick and with it the element of controversy that provided so much oxygen for conversation over the following days.

I find myself very much in agreement with Tony's last paragraph. Nobody likes joke bowling but I remember Gale and Lyth chucking up some rubbish at Scarborough a few years ago the outcome of which was a thrilling victory for Yorkshire over Gloucestershire, and what was the alternative, that Middlesex should bat the afternoon out to a tame draw thereby confirming the prejudices of the competitions opponents? Better surely that a crowd of over 10000 should have thrilling entertainment, some of whom no doubt are infrequent attenders at championship matches. Of course one feels sympathy for Somerset but that is tempered by the wicket they prepared for the game with Durham in August when forty wickets fell in two days and 17 minutes for an average innings score of 172 and only one batsman scored 50.

Sour grapes you say from a man born in the Land of The Prince Bishops and may be so but the same grouse could be made by Warwickshire for their match at Taunton a month later didn't make the fourth day and the average innings score was  a shade over 145 and this time just  two batsmen reached the half century. 

Just two weekends left for pcws to enjoy Arthington. A reminder that The Hawks visit tomorrow and that on Sunday Doghouse will come to Wharfedale, let's hope for the sunshine of last Sunday as 'the days dwindle down to a precious few.'

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Controversial end to the county championship

Posted by Tony Hutton

First of all apologies for the delay in reporting the rather complex and controversial end to the county championship season. Family comes first and with my two grandsons celebrating their eighth and thirteenth birthdays respectively on the 16th and 24th September I was involved in two trips to Paris, with three and a half days at Lord's in the middle.

Despite all the pre-match conspiracy theories which robbed Yorkshire of Root and Bairstow due to ECB rulings (surely not Andrew Strauss alone), Rashid at his own request, for which he was pilloried by many including Michael Vaughan without knowing the full facts, and finally Jake Lehmann, recalled by South Australia, Yorkshire fielded a team fully capable of winning the match.I had seen the last two season's games between these teams at Lord's and was determined not to miss the third, something rather special always seems to happen.

John Winn has described the events of day one when we met briefly behind the pavilion, hardly recognising him wearing a tie! Gubbins was without doubt the Middlesex hero of the day, but little mention was made of the number of times he played and missed, particularly against the admirable Sidebottom. It reminded me of a century scored by former Middlesex man Ben Hutton at Scarborough some years ago when he never looked really in. Perhaps something to do with them both being pupils at Radley School (along with a certain Mr Strauss). The early finish due to bad light, which was hardly any different than when the match started, and the fact that floodlights are not allowed for county championship matches at Lord's added to the conspiracy theories.

Yorkshire must have been relieved when Bresnan had Gubbins caught at slip by Lyth early on day two but Franklin the captain, a very useful man coming in at number seven, held firm and his innings of 48 was a valuable contribution. Brooks finished off the tail and Yorkshire were probably happy with a score of 270 against them.

Things soon took another direction when Toby Roland-Jones no less (you don't get many Tobys in the north of England) ripped the early Yorkshire batting to shreds. All the more painful when you consider that both he and Gubbins were students at Leeds University and polished their considerable abilities with Leeds/Bradford MCCU at my home ground of Weetwood. Having picked only four specialist batsman, three of them in Lees, Ballance and Gale, all went for nought. 32-3 in no time, with only Lyth looking at all confident. When he went for 43, bowled by Finn, it was 53-4 and the many Yorkshire supporters on the ground in despair.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. That man being Tim Bresnan whose batting has really blossomed in recent seasons, his huge partnership with Bairstow at Durham last season being particularly admirable. He played carefully without taking risks and helped by Hodd, the wicketkeeper, who just missed a century at Scarborough recently, the two of them put on 116 runs before Hodd was lbw to Roland-Jones. Azeem Rafiq stayed with Bresnan until the close of day two when Yorkshire were 235-6, with Bresnan looking impregnable on 72 not out.

Bresnan celebrates his century

Day three began with Yorkshire needing to get to 350 to overtake Somerset's bonus points and to have any chance left of winning the championship. This seemed a very tall order when Rafiq was bowled by Murtagh for a fine 65 and soon followed by Patterson and Brooks. So 334-9 when last man Sidebottom joined Bresnan. The runs came in singles until bad light followed by rain took the players off for an hour with only one run of Yorkshire's target still required. Even the Almighty seemed to be conspiring against them.

On the resumption the vital run was scored by the veteran Sidebottom with a boundary to great relief among the Yorkshire players and supporters. The win was still possible. When Sidebottom was finally out for 20, Yorkshire had made an amazing score of 390, a lead of 120, and Bresnan 142 not out had played the innings of a lifetime and received a well deserved standing ovation from the large crowd.

The excitement was not over as the Middlesex second innings began with Robson out for nought, caught at slip by Lees of Sidebottom (his first wicket of the match) and then Nick Compton bowled by Brooks for one. Middlesex 2-2 and Yorkshire looked to be in sight of the championship. However, Gubbins yet again and Malan buckled down and safely saw Middlesex to the close on 81-2. Most onlookers could not envisage a Middlesex victory from this position and an early break through by Yorkshire tomorrow should bring them the title. The only alternative seemed to be a drawn game in which case Somerset would be champions.

On day four in perfect sunny conditions for the final day of this enthralling game Gubbins, batting with greater authority than in the first innings, and Malan batted throughout the morning session before Gubbins was surprisingly out for 93 caught and bowled by Rafiq. Malan went on to his century and Yorkshire looked to be running out of steam and ideas. At this point in the early afternoon I had to take my leave to catch my train back to Paris.

Time for me to leave!


I was unaware of the final stages of the game, the joke bowling, the declaration by Middlesex, Yorkshire's run chase and Roland-Jones hat-trick to finish the game and give Middlesex the title, until my train emerged from the Channel Tunnel and I received the final news, speeding across northern France, with a headline on my phone - Sidebottom bowled by Roland-Jones, Middlesex champions!

The subsequent debate started with e-mails from many of my cricket watching friends decrying the events of the fourth afternoon, fears for the future of county cricket, the loss of the spirit of cricket, Somerset were robbed and so on. For once the letters page of the Yorkshire Post had everyone in agreement that this was not a good thing and should not be allowed, almost the end of cricket as we know and love it.

My own reaction was slightly more mellow. While condemning the joke bowling, the situation was unique, the teams at Lord's had to achieve a result otherwise a draw would have handed the championship to Somerset. Sympathies to them, the perennial runners up who had beaten Yorkshire so soundly at Headingley last week. The two captains had really no option. A result was achieved and Middlesex, who have been the outstanding county side of the season, particularly their victories over Yorkshire at Scarborough and Somerset at Taunton, are worthy champions. Congratulations to them and to both teams for the three and a half days that I saw which will live with me for a long time.