Dec 082011

I have posted this reply to the Heywood CC Pro XI in case you haven’t looked at the comments.

It’s from Mark Wright and it’s brilliant. A glimpse into a world of league cricket that has now largely passed. It has made me chuckle so I hope you enjoy

When I looked at the list I thought it would be difficult to choose players from different eras, or those that I had rarely or never seen play – but then I had a bright idea to choose from only those I had played with for any length of time in the same team. Then I realised that the number of pros I had played with regularly was 12 so my team was more or less picked for me by default – I just had to choose a twelfth man.

Not therefore a considered choice weighing up the players’ abilities, but it gave me an interesting team nonetheless and kept me amused for an hour or so. These days I am easily pleased.
The team is not one that would ever take the field as a greatest ever HCC side, but I can say that I shared my career with all these top men who would have made up a formidable team……………………………………

Nolan Hall 1978 ( plus amateur years.)
What a great and funny man to be around with good all round cricketing skills. I remember him for introducing me to the Aussie game “Twos’ up” and having the longest, flattest and fastest fielding arm I’d ever seen. A very funny Australian with some great Pommie banter never too far away. Beer and fags were an integral part of Nolan’s persona and he was loved for his approachable and typically Aussie laid back approach. I remember him working in John Rhodes’ Timber yard, huddled round the heater and doing as little as possible, cursing when a customer came in. Typical outback Aussie from the one horse town that is Kalgoorlie and Nolan liked the use of the F word and used it regularly. Think Crocodile Dundee with cricket whites, but more laid back. Bowled hand grenades a la the great Bob O’Keefe and was an accomplished batsman. Pressed into the pros slot in 1978 and never let anyone down. Grew a stupid beard and married an English girl. My favourite Aussie of all time, along with Mark Scott

Geoff Lawson 1979
My first full year as an established first teamer and I was in awe of this quick Aussie bowler. Very approachable off the field but a mean machine on it. Long run up and very quick. Genuinely feared for my dad when I played against him for the one and only time at Castleton Moor. My dad was 51 and Geoff Lawson 21 and looking to knock everyone’s’ block off ( yes – most batsmen still played without a helmet ). Geoff was knocking on the door of the Australian side and soon made it into the great Aussie sides of the early eighties. Still keeps in touch with his close friends at Heywood CC which says much about the calibre of the man.

Bob Cooke 1980 , 1981 ,1982, 1983
Plays the game as if it’s just a prelude to the main event of the day, chasing women and drinking. My favourite all time poser who was no mean cricketer. Always smiling in the field and I lost count of how many umpires he conned into giving dodgy LBW’s with his arched back and cheeky appeals. I liked the way he made an entrance into any room like he was some sort of demi god. Once you got to know him you just let him hold court and had to laugh with him. Teller of such wondrous tales about his days at Essex and the goings on in Bob Cooke land – Gritty batsman who really knew how to compile an innings, and the best and funniest captain I played under ( sorry Shag )

Steve Wundke 1984, 1985, 1986
Bob Cooke’s partner in crime for much of his time at Heywood. My favourite professional ever who was never short of making mischief of some sort. Scorer of the best 100 for Heywood I’ve ever seen against Littleboro. Superb left armer who tried something different all the time. Great natural ability and never short of enthusiasm and something to say. One of Heywood’s best ever sides in 1984 and Steve was an integral influence in the success we had. Only time I saw him downbeat for a few moments was when he was run out at Royton and Royton Wilf berated him all the way back to the pavilion with cries of ‘ He shudda run”. All the players my age wanted to be like Wundke. – apart from the silly giggle and the pink shirts.

Curtly Ambrose 1987
What a bowler – unplayable at times and he developed very quickly into one of the all time greats. Hated the cold weather and wanted to go home after one game. I remember him a few games later sat in a corner; arms folded shaking his head when we were delayed by rain and sleet at Crompton. ( a sobering vision ). We were all pleased the weather picked up that season and Curtly worked out how to bowl in English conditions – 115 wickets with rising snifters and fast yorkers. Loved the “Slazenger” ball but loved Kentucky fried Chicken more and would leave his cricket bag outside KFC whilst going inside to order “3 pieces – no wings” Rarely smiled unless he was taking wickets or eating KFC and kept himself to himself. Can’t say I ever had a meaningful chat with him, but that was normal for nearly everybody unless it was a fellow West Indian. Curtly preferred the reggae music on his ever present earphones. Colin Wroe seemed to tap into his West Indian psyche and had bizarre conversations with sentences ending in ‘man’. Also very funny to see Colin’s attempt at doing high fives on the field. Not easy when Curtly was 6 foot 7 and Colin 2 foot 6. Curtly was never seen at the bar after the game but you had to admire the mans ability to make the ball talk –

Jenson Joseph 1988
Jenson liked to put the fear of God up opposition batsmen by bouncing them – all very well but nobody told him it was not a good idea to do it against his team mates in the nets as well. Jenson was responsible for more bruises than any bowler I’d ever seen. Explosive bowler and batsmen and underrated. Typically West Indian in approach to attacking play. Would have enjoyed his company more if I could have understood a single word that he said.

John Abrahams 1989, 1990
I don’t think there is a nicer man in the game of Cricket. John helped me in my first two years as first team captain and he never once openly criticised me – ( maybe he was just too nice to tell me ). Gave me my best single piece of cricketing advice as a captain which was “there will always be others that disagree with you, but it doesn’t mean that they are right “ – He had a nice way of making you feel you were doing the right thing. Flowing batsmen and cheeky little slow bowler. We had a good side when John was pro, and they were happy days

Phil Alley 1991
Firebrand of a bowler who took some handling in my last year as captain. Tall as a tree who could bowl really quick left arm. Aggressive bowler who occasionally had bouts of red mist when he bowled. Phil hated it when his room mate, the overseas Aussie bowler Scott Bannerman – was taking more wickets than him. Very funny.
Phil was an affable and likable man when he didn’t have the ball in his hand.

Andy Flower 1992 1993 ( plus amateur 1991 )
Andy lived with me for 6 months when he first came over from Zimbabwe in 1991. He had better remember me in his autobiography now that he’s famous after all those ready meals we ate together. I remember him hanging his jeans out of his bedroom window to dry in our new house, which we only moved into two days earlier in Pilsworth. The missus was not pleased. Regularly beat him at pool in the Roach Bank pub and I remember him collapsing in front of the Tele after another heavy day digging holes for Farefence – which not surprisingly he hated. What a fantastic left handed batsmen he turned out to be and I’ll never forget his 7 -13 spell at Stand with his dibbly dobblers. Met him last season and he doesn’t seem to have changed a bit. Top man.

Alan Badenhorst 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
Never short of confidence, Bardy. I remember him telling Chris Dearden where he was going to hit his ball before every delivery ( mostly correct ). I also remember his body charge into Steven O’Shaunessy. – Very funny. Always declaring war on opponents and threatening to beat someone or other into a pulp, but was then usually found sharing a pint and telling Afrikaan jokes with them afterwards. His best years were the early ones when he thought he could take on the world, usually delivered, and he was great to have on your side. Later years he just thought he could take on the world. Gregarious, and a great club man who always spent his money over the bar with one eye on the ladies.

Bruce Hara 1999, 2000
Another good guy from Australia who became one of the most popular professionals we ever had. Unassuming and humble off the field, he had a steely determination on it Brilliantly correct batsmen and I could see the penny dropping with many of the youngsters who watched him play. Not a bad bowler either – You just couldn’t help liking this guy.

Johann Louw 2001
Rangy and powerful all rounder who came over from South Africa and soon proved himself to be a monstrous hitter and quite sharp with the ball. I remember well his astonishing innings ( 134 ) at Norden when he continually hit the bowling out of the ground – I know this is not difficult on this Mickey Mouse village green – but Johann was continually hitting it to what seemed like the Horse and Farrier back yard. – Johann declared that “I’m seeing it like a football, and hitting it like a rocket”. Nuff said

And then the tricky bit – choosing the first X1 and the twelfth man with the batting and bowling line up.

I can just see Bardey’s face now…….

Captain – Bob Cooke
Wicketkeeper – Andy Flower
Batting Order
1. Andy Flower
2. Bruce Hara
3. Bob Cooke
4. Steve Wundke
5. John Abrahams
6. Jenson Joseph
7. Johann Louw
8. Nolan Hall
9. Geoff Lawson
10. Phil Alley
11. Curtly Ambrose
And carrying out the drinks……………assuming you could get him out of the bar
12. Alan Badenhorst

And the likely bowling options
Pace attack – Curtley Ambrose ,Geoff Lawson, Phil Alley, Jenson Joseph
Quick enough – Johann Louw, Bruce Hara,
Slow / Spin – Bob Cooke, John Abrahams , Nolan Hall
Not forgetting Steve Wundke who could bowl anything he wanted and get wickets.

Would give the Patio XI a run for their money anyway…………

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  7 Responses to “Mark Wright’s Pro XI – A Glimpse At A Lost Era”

  1. Mark – what a great article – brought back a lot of memories for me – and your comments on Robert Michael Oliver Cooke particularly apposite – played against 6 of these pros ( managed to just show up in the CLL late enough to miss Ambrose ) and with RMOC and Wundke at Stockport.
    Putting Alan B on the subs bench – brave call …. and PS I remember that 134 – I had him dropped in the teens……turned very ugly for me after that – he hit a big ball !!

  2. Great stuff Wrighty. I think you missed your calling.

    Paul, I don’t think being dropped by someone in a beer garden technically counts?

  3. Good job Paul that you avoided Curtly Ambrose, the mind bogles at the thought you playing your usual ‘in my half it slog it’ game. Not many were in your half, i suppose that you could have got inside the line and pulled him over mid wicket, but then again….
    Mark, cant see RMO being to happy about batting behind Andy Flower, wouldnt do his street cred much good, anyway he would consider himself to be a much better player!
    That game at Littleborough when Bardy was batting against Chris Dearden, Bardy hit another ball in the air and Chris shouted ‘catch’ Bardys response was ‘ hey fatso got someone in the car park have you’ as it sailed over the pavilion.

  4. What a great read that was and as a player I love to hear and share these old priceless anicdotes and memories of days gone by.
    I didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing those moments and often look back and wonder what on earth I was thinking by putting myself through a long self imposed exile from the game in that ‘golden’ era (I’ll never know if I would have been good enough to play consistently at that level – possibly not – but you have to be in it to win it as they say!).
    A message there to all – play as much as you can and enjoy!

  5. Hi Mark. What a superb read.
    Only had the pleasure of playing with Andy Flower and John Abrahams.
    Brought. Back a lot of happy memories I can tell you.
    Thanks for that.

  6. Beer Garden….my @rse…………….beat him in the flight ;-) or maybe he was laughing too much.
    Shag yes……….. Curtley might have been a step too far for my approach – would have liked to have had the experience though..I think….but only on a very low slow one at NCC – at Stockport doesn’t bear thinking about.
    Top article.

  7. Hi Mark , I had the pleasure of facing Curtly when I played for Radcliffe and remember JimCoates giving him the charge without success,also remember that aussie Phil Alley putting his fist through the door at our newly renovated pavilion !!!

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