Jun 192020

The latest of the Memories series was actually sent over by Keith a few years ago but forms some of the oldest recollections we have and was well worth revisiting:

In 1959, Heywood Cricket Club were scouring the cricketing world to find their new professional.

Keith Slater was a young Western Australian all-rounder who had just made his way into the Australian Test team and was playing in his first (and subsequently only) Test match against England in the 1958-1959 Ashes.

His only two dismissals in Test cricket can hardly have been any bigger – Peter May and Ted Dexter – but they weren’t enough to earn him another Test.

It was during this match that Keith was first contacted about joining Heywood Cricket Club.

Do you remember how you came to be a Heywood player?

I was playing in a Test match on the Adelaide Oval when on day 4 I received a cable gram from the Heywood Cricket Club which read: “Interested in your services as our professional for season 1959. Please advise availability, remuneration required and conditions ASAP. Col Farish Chairman Heywood Cricket Club.”

At this stage of my sheltered life I had not heard of Lancashire let alone the Central Lancashire League!

I showed my cable gram to my captain of the day, one Richie Benaud, who immediately became quite excited at the invitation. He then called Ray Lindwall and Alan Davidson and they, mainly, worded the reply after establishing that it suited me to be away from home for six months.

In fact I was already planning to be married in September 1959 so we would bring the wedding date forward to March and have our honeymoon in the UK. The “committee” established that the remuneration should be 1,000 pounds minimum, otherwise it would not be worthwhile, so we decided to ask for 1,100 pounds expecting Heywood to knock it down to the even thousand. The conditions were fares, accommodation and car and back went the reply along these lines.

Within 24 hours the reply from Heywood: “Terms acceptable contract in the mail. Col Farish, chairman.” My team-mates were quite ecstatic and of course Val and I non plussed to say the least!

We were married on 7th March, left Fremantle per SS Orsova 10th March and I had a birthday on the 12th March and 3 weeks later we arrived at Tilbury Docks.

Do you remember your debut?

First game v Middleton 1958 champions, and it’s Roy Gilchrist! Extremely wet and cold and we bowled Middleton out cheaply. I decided to open the bowling into the breeze with my off spinners – I bowled off 19 yards or off spinners, depending on the conditions prevailing.

Coming from Perth Western Australia where the wickets are rock hard for most of the time I had never experienced the ball turning to any extent – this day at Crimble the ball was turning square and bowling into a strong breeze the ball was drifting a yard out and spinning back a yard – I thought I was in heaven! 6-30, thanks very much!

I took 8-72 v Werneth in the second game and so the season was under way!

Do you recall your teammates from back then?

Ray Purser was our captain with Jack Davenport, Colin Mooney, Alan Wilson, Jimmy Porter, Bob Horrox, Joe Kitchen, Michael North and a few others I remember!

Is it true you played a part in the career of Bob Cross?

A final little snippet from a wonderful experience of a season with Heywood. I talked Ray into picking a promising young fast bowler in the firsts and I remember saying to Ray: “I’ll look after him”!

His name was Bob Cross and he bowled the biggest in swingers you are ever likely to see anywhere and I remember his first wicket!

Ralph Legall was a big West Indian who liked to hit the cover off the ball. I got Ray to set a special field of mid-off and a big gap to point and then stood along side young Bob as Ralph unleashed three ferocious cover drives through the giant gap. “Keep them up Bob, he’ll miss one in a minute” and sure enough when he tried to hit one even harder it went straight through the gap and knocked all three down!

I loved my time at Heywood enjoyed the company of my teammates and send regards to all still around. Special cheerio to my good mate Bob – hope the back is all healed!

From 1959 and looking after Bob Cross, some 45 years later Keith would host, mentor and coach Bobby Cross as he played for Keith’s beloved Midland Guildford CC in Perth. Despite illness Keith would be feeding a bowling machine every morning and helped Bobby develop his game. Keith and Val were fantastic hosts and remain in contact with Heywood CC.

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