From Uncle RA Cross to nephew RJ Cross today. Breaking into the first team at the age of 14 in 1997, Bobby Cross has gone on to become the club’s all time leading run scorer with over 17,500 runs to his name. He captained the side for 10 seasons between 2004-13 and lifted two league titles, a T20 trophy and four Wood Cups as skipper. A loyal servant to the club on and off the field Bobby takes time to look back on his own memories of his time at Crimble:
Do you remember your debut?
I do, it was at home against Stand at the end of the 97 season, I was 14 year old and went out to bat against Mike Warden, the first ball I faced hit my glove just before it would have hit me on the head and went to fine leg for a single. As I ran past Warden he mentioned that this wasn’t kids cricket!
Favourite game for the club?
So many to pick from, but on a personal note the 2013 Wood Cup final I think. We had a very young side and we were playing the best side in the league in Walsden. It was special to get to play another final on Crimble and whilst it was disappointing that the game was rain affected and had to go over nights to the Wednesday it was so satisfying to get that win. Being able to walk off the field to the lads and know that we could collect the trophy was definitely one of the best moments as a Heywood player. What a knock by Andy Dawson!
Favourite away ground?
I would have to say Middleton, great ground and wicket over the years and I managed to get some runs on there. We also won a Wood Cup final there. I was always really fond of Ashton, the effort they put into staging the 2005 Wood Cup final was superb and even better they then had a picture of me with the trophy on the clubhouse wall for a few years!
Best Pro you played with and against?
I have been so lucky to play with so many great players and people, and aside from Bangladesh I think I have played with Pros from every recognised Test playing country which shows what a great experience league cricket has been over the years.
Bruce Hara helped me a lot at the start of my career, on and off the field… but the most influential on my cricket was Craig Sugden, he was a brilliant player but he also taught me so much about how to bat, to build a score, not to panic and how to control the pace of an innings. The most talented was Sherwin, he played a different game to the rest of us and it was a pleasure to watch, especially from the other end.
The best I have played against in league cricket is so hard to pick, Perren, Peiris, Mujtaba in his prime, but the most difficult to captain against was definitely Wayne Madsen, he was the best I have seen at manipulating the ball and using angles, wherever you set a field he could pick different gaps, really talented and a great guy as well.
What about amateurs?
For Heywood, in league cricket terms Will Purser was the best seam bowler I played with and Chris Kaye the best spinner. Chris doesn’t get the credit he deserves at times, but he never ever let me down in ten years of captaincy, and his record is just incredible. Contrary to those that give Chris stick his record on the smaller grounds was actually better than on big grounds.
I also can’t underestimate the effect that the faith that Andy Greenwood and David Fare showed in me by putting me into senior cricket at such a young age had.
The best batter I played with was Royce Blight, I’ve never seen an overseas adapt so quickly to our conditions and he was a very unselfish player, happy to do whatever was needed to get us over the line in a game. Best player of short, quick bowling I have seen at our level, I remember him getting a big score on a quick deck at Radcliffe against Cheetham and McLean and they both bowled sharp.
I have always judged players not just on ability but how they play in big matches and Royce, Will and Chris all won us big matches when it really mattered and did it consistently which is how you win leagues and cups.
I was lucky to be selected in the CLL league side when I was pretty young and I got to play alongside some seriously good players. I think the side I broke into around 2000/01 had players like Pete Wilcock, Chris Dearden, John Punchard, Mark Hooson, Brendan Miskella, Dave Norris, Lee Wolstenholme, Steve Oddy, Stuart Moore, Jon Henderson, Simon North, John Macauley then Matt Dawson with the gloves, it was great for me to play alongside those players and then to come up against them in league cricket became even more fun. To be asked to captain the side for several years was a real honour and I had some great fun with playing alongside the next generation with some really good players and people from many different clubs.
Best memory on the field?
Every Wood Cup win was amazing. I was always really proud to have had the privilege of being at the crease for the winning runs in all three of the finals when we batted second. Being in the middle when you win, as skipper, and your team running on to celebrate with you is just about the best you can get in amateur sport.
The winning moment in the 2003 Wood Cup final was special being the first silverware; Rob Slawson was brilliant that day. Winning the 2005 final at Ashton was very personal for me being the first one as skipper and watching Tom Hardman hit the famous winning runs from the other end in 2006 was pure adrenaline. The 2013 final I mentioned above was emotionally draining over three days and it was a great game to win and to share with Chris Kaye who bowled an incredible spell in that game.
Watching Ste Wallwork and Chris walk off the field having sealed the win that meant we had clinched the 2006 league title was a great feeling. Winning the league is sometimes not filled with the same adrenaline as a cup victory but it was the first league title for 22 years. I remember that Mike Arnold had never won one before that and to share more than a few beers with him and the rest of the team that night was a great feeling, particularly to do it with players that had been through the tough times at the club a few years before.
A standout memory was when we beat Unsworth in the Wood Cup semi in 2004. It was my first year as skipper and we posted about 130/140 which was way below par, and at 20-0 they were looking comfortable, then our sub-pro Steve Kirby got into gear and bowled the fastest spell I have seen in league cricket. He took 7-18 and we bowled them out for around 50. I genuinely think that of all the things Steve achieved in his career that would still go down as one of his proudest moments; Heywood means so much to him and his success meant he never got to play for the club in his prime.
Seeing Kate get a chance to play for us and then prove herself was a really proud moment for me, her 8for was such a great thing to have been on the field for. Sadly that put her 5 wickets past my tally over my 20+ years of senior cricket…
Best off field memory?
The dressing room after we won in 2003 was amazing, on the balcony at Walsden, Chris Kaye’s black toe nail finally fell off and ended up on a slice of pizza that skipper Mike Arnold unknowingly ate. Similarly watching Sherwin lead the singing and dancing at Middleton in 2006 was a great moment after Tom Hardman had hit the winning runs in such a tense finish.
Getting back to the club after any of the cup wins and walking in to a standing ovation from the best supporters in league cricket, ridiculous collections meaning you couldn’t pay for a drink, sharing moments with your friends that you had gone through so much with over the year to let yourself go and enjoy those moments is why we all play team sport.
Once I understood the nature of a club, a collective group of people, both players and supporters, all with different reasons for giving up their time to be there but all linked by a common passion that plays an important part of their lives, then to share special moments of success with those people becomes a very powerful thing and those moments remain with you.
The aftermath of all the league and cup wins, ending up in Heywood again on the Monday, any time we went on tour to Worcester, the CricketForce day in 2012, cricket giving me the chance to spend two years in Perth at the brilliant Midland Guildford CC with Royce. Cricket and sport in general opens so many doors in life.
The best memory away from actual playing was probably when Aussie overseas Craig Glancy came up to visit me at Newcastle University at the start of the 2003 season. We went out on the Friday night and, somewhat worse for wear, decided on the Saturday that it would be a great idea to visit Edinburgh. So we jumped in Purse’s car and up the A1M. We saw a sign saying “Scottish border 5 miles” and I casually asked Will if he had his passport. He confirmed he did, and we then looked in the back to see a nervous, somewhat pale looking Craig.
“Didn’t know I would need the passport, I haven’t brought it” he said, his usually confident aussie drawl failing him somewhat, and we feigned dismay and discussed turning back. Then we suggested that if Craig was up for it, we could put him in the boot and try and smuggle him in. After some debate he decided he would go for it, despite the threat of deportation that we had told him would be the penalty if he was caught.
So we loaded him in the boot with all Will’s cricket gear and covered him up, drove on to the “Welcome to Scotland” sign and stopped, held a mock conversation with the imaginary armed border guards, “just sightseeing, Edinburgh, the boot Sir, no nothing in there…” and then drove on and let an exhilarated Craig out a couple of miles further on. We had to repeat the whole charade with an even worse hangover the following day as we returned south.
Craig lived on the story for about 3 months until someone in a bar told him there was no such thing as passport control on the border and he realised we had been winding him up. Typical of Craig he took it in brilliant spirits and he remains a great friend.
I can’t wait until we can all get back to Crimble to enjoy it in our own ways, playing, watching, socialising and all making plenty more memories.
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