SOME of the best known names in cricket history are on an illustrious list of professionals who have played for Heywood.
The list of the paid men who have lit up Crimble with their batting brilliance features the likes of New Zealand Test captain John Reid, future England coach Andy Flower (Zimbabwe), West Indian Test opener Sherwin Campbell and Derbyshire and England all-rounder George Pope.
But it is an Englishman who never reached first-class level who is well clear at the top of Heywood’s all-time professional run-scorers from an aggregate point of view.
Colin Lever was virtually unheard of, apart from being the brother of England paceman Peter, before the build-up to the 1968 season when Heywood had engaged Jamaican Dennis Marriott to be their new paid man.
But, just eight weeks before the first game, fate played a hand.
Marriott was unfortunately injured in a road accident and Heywood were left scampering around for a last-minute replacement. Lever answered the SOS – and he was to carve out an indelible place in Heywood CC history.
He aggregated 6,439 runs at an average of almost 32 over the next nine seasons – as well as taking 771 wickets with his brisk medium pace bowling – to inspire Heywood to one of their most successful eras.
During his tenure, Heywood immediately won the CLL title in 1968 then had further successes in 1974 and 1976. And, for good measure, they claimed the Wood Cup in 1970 and 1971.
Lever’s aggregate over those nine years were made when at a time when fellow fast bowling professionals were of a high standard and wickets were generally not.
But his total is still more than 1,700 clear of the second-placed man in the list, fellow Englishman Tom Simpson, who made 4,690 runs also in nine seasons from 1898-1906.
In third and fourth spot stand two players whose figures show what immense contributions they made to Heywood during the 1980s.
Robert Michael Oliver Cooke – better known as Bob – totalled 3,578 runs at an average of 46.47 in his four professional seasons from 1980-1983.
He also scored a further 1,221 runs as an amateur in 1984 and 1985. As captain, he led the team to a memorable CLL title and Wood Cup double in 1984.
Steve Wundke, the all-rounder from South Australia widely regarded as one of the Club’s best acquisitions, played alongside Cooke and totalled 3,438 runs from 84 innings at an average of almost 50 in just three seasons from 1984-1986 – although he did feature as Heywood’s stand-in pro three times between 1981 and 1983.
And talking about impressive figures, what about Reid, in fifth spot on the all-time list? His place in cricket history is indelible and he certainly left his mark on Crimble, too.
Reid was professional from 1952-1954, and his total of 3,223 runs from just 75 innings were made at an average of fractionally under 52.
So Travis Townsend is in exalted company in sixth place. The man from South Africa served from 2012-213 and again from 2017-2018, and his total of 3,126 runs were made at an average of 39.10 from 105 innings. The 2013 campaign also featured a Wood Cup triumph.
Seventh-placed Lionel Cranfield made his name for Gloucestershire and Somerset, and his six years as professional between 1910 and 1915 produced an aggregate of 3,094 in an age when runs at League cricket level were at a premium.
And in eighth place is a man who would go on to carve an indelible place in Heywood Cricket Club folklore – Cyril Clairmonte Depeiza.
The man from Barbados was 31-year-old and previously best documented as a Test wicket-keeper for the West Indies when he became the Club’s paid man in 1960. He was to stay for five eventful seasons, which included an immediate Central Lancashire League title triumph replicated in 1963. His gregarious personality and off-the-field reputation became almost legendary!
‘Dee’ could play, too, accumulating 2,889 runs in his spell at Heywood .
But his biggest claim to fame was as co-holder of the seventh-wicket record in Test cricket. When he joined Denis Atkinson at the crease in the fourth Test against Australia at Bridgetown in May, 1955, West Indies were 147-6 in reply to Australia’s imposing 668.
In an epic, match-saving stand the pair added 347, breaking the previous best for that wicket by three runs. Depeiza’s contribution was 122.
Just behind him comes Alan Badenhorst, who served from 1994-1998. The South African was then better known as a quick bowler but he still managed to pile up 2,841 runs during his five-year professional tenure.
In the last quarter-of-a-century, Heywood’s paid men have generally performed in much shorter terms so their aggregate figures are naturally lower than those longer-servers previously mentioned.
But the figures of some of cricket’s greats are none the less impressive.
Campbell featured in just two seasons at Crimble in 2006 and 2007, but his legacy is plain for all to see. The West Indian star averaged 54.34 in an aggregate of 2,554 from just 56 innings. Heywood also won the CLL title in his first year and the Wood Cup in both seasons!
Flower was virtually unheard of before coming to Heywood as overseas amateur in 1989. But 938 runs in his debut season left few in doubt of his immense talent, although not many could have predicted the heady heights he would scale.
The Zimbabwean returned as professional from 1992-1993 and totalled 2,393 runs at an average of 46.02. He also helped the side to a dramatic 1993 Wood Cup final victory at Crimble, before becoming one of the biggest names in English cricket.
Flower went on to become his country of birth’s wicket-keeper for more than 10 years and clearly the finest batsman Zimbabwe has ever produced.
He also fashioned a top-class county career with Essex before graduating to coach of the England team. All this after cutting his young teeth at Crimble!
Johan Botha came to Heywood for a two-year spell in 2003-2004, and his impressive contribution helped inspire the club to the first of four Wood Cup wins in five years.
His batting statistics certainly bear comparison with the best with 2,252 runs at an average of 60.86.
Bruce Hara, the Australian from Canberra, served from 1999-2000, making 1,879 runs at 38.35, and former Lancashire captain John Abrahams posted 1,791 runs at 35.82 in his two-year spell between 1989-1990.
That brings us to George Henry Pope, who played for Derbyshire from 1933-1948, made a single Test appearance for England in 1947, then had three seasons as Heywood’s professional from 1949-1951.
History may catalogue him as mainly a right-arm fast-medium bowler, yet he could also bat a bit! And during his three Crimble seasons Pope amassed 1,454 runs to supplement his 352 wickets.
But we could be considered to have saved the best for last, in terms of averages, in the shape of Reuvin Peiris and Craig Sugden.
Sri Lankan Peiris had one season in the title-winning team of 2008, when his 56.19 puts him third in the list of all-time record averages by a professional in a single Heywood season.
In second place is Botha, but pride of place at the top goes to Sugden, the South African whose figure of 64.80 from 1,296 runs came in his single Crimble year of 2002.
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