Chapter Twenty-one……….1970-1979 Come unto these yellow sands

Britain groped for a new identity in the Seventies.   A search, from a north-east angle, faithfully captured on television in the disparate life-styles of The Likely Lads.   Oil production exceeded coal output.   The Beatles split up; Punks, hot pants and kinky boots dazzled the eye.   Ten-bob note, tanner and three-penny bit were lost to decimalisation.   A brash, money-driven society of rampant inflation and package holidays.   Transport developments again changed the face of Durham cricket.   The arrival of Jumbo jets and subsequent ‘fare wars’ reduced the cost of long-haul travel.   Test men jetted in from all corners of cricket’s globe : O’Sullivan and Nasim-ul-Ghani, Shillingford and Clairmonte Depeiza, Armarnath and Wasim Raja.   Of ten DSL pros in 1977 only one was English.   In the ten years following O’Sullivan’s arrival in 1974 over 60 overseas pros landed, half of them Test or future Test players.   Bar profits dispersed overseas as consequence.   Nayudu paid his own air fare out of a fee of £575.   Twenty years later it cost South Shields twice as much to engage Armarnath.

Overseas pros quickened interest, slowed the exodus of spectators.   In the company of Test men players grew in confidence.   They absorbed some of their skills but as by-product rather than tuition.   Social change presented fresh drawbacks.   Presence of a pro always restricts the opportunities of amateurs.   The difference now was that a player disillusioned by lack of opportunity could turn to any number of sports that took up less of his time.   Cricket was forced increasingly to cede ground to soccer as the winter game ate deeper into summer.   Cup Final Saturday illustrates the change.   When Sunderland won the FA Cup in 1937 the only match postponed was Sunderland v Philadelphia.   Almost every league played when Newcastle United won three finals in the 1950s.   In 1973, however, only TSL and NYSD players were unable to watch Porterfield score Sunderland’s fairy-tale winner on the ‘telly‘.

A professional’s rôle had altered from the days of Lambert and Butler or even Coverdale and Coxon.   All were hired to coach as well as dominate matches.   That remained the ideal but pros now did less coaching.   They were perceived as reinforcements to help win trophies and generate return on expenditure.   Such pragmatism provoked justifiable objections.   Given the alternative of Greenley’s scenario, however, it was short-sighted to condemn it on principle.

The early invaders had minimal success if championships are a yardstick.   Of 40-odd overseas pros in the 1970s only three helped a club win a senior title.  Judged on statistics, however, few failed.   One or two were accused of half-hearted commitment but the charge was easily countered by the sweat of others.   Boldon’s slow left-armer D.D.Parsana, for one, bowled 594 league overs in 1976.

When clubs laid on ale in the Sixties it was served from a convenient corner of the pavilion.   Vast improvements in the Seventies, a lot carried out by members, elevated grounds to undreamt status.   Purpose-built clubhouses replaced old wooden structures.   Darlington added lounge bar and kitchen; billiards, television and function rooms, all with the added comfort of central heating.   Norton’s sports complex included extra rugby pitches and a floodlit soccer field.   If necessity required the past be buried it did not dim memories of gas-lit cricket talk in a tiny hut.   At least not until luxuriating in the showers on Saturday after a hard-earned fifty.

Any sense of well-being was jarred by alarming events within ear-shot of the ground.   As clubs built inside their field, others built outside.   Five years after Lintz built their pavilion a row of houses appeared beyond the north boundary wall.   John and Brenda Miller moved into 20 Brackenridge.   “Neither paid any particular attention to the fact that the garden was bounded by a cricket field.   Their only concern was that the house was bounded by an open space which precluded other premises being erected and the house from being overlooked.”[1]   Lintz’s field is small enough to invite the lofted hit.   When flying balls descended on roof and garden of Number 20, complaints flew, too.   Of 29,000 balls delivered in 1975-76 one in a hundred was hit for six.   Of those, 110 went out of the ground and fourteen fell on or about Number 20.

An inconvenience tolerated by nearby residents for decades now assumed critical proportions.   A High Court Writ was served on Lintz for “negligence and nuisance” on 4 July 1975.   By then the club had offered to remedy all damage and pay all expenses; fit moveable shutters and unbreakable glass to all windows.   They spent £700 on a 16-foot wire fence above the north wall, a further £400 when gales blew it down in 1976.   Half of all northward sixes still sailed over the fence.   The Millers sought an injunction “to prevent the playing of cricket on the ground until steps are taken to prevent balls being struck onto the property”.   Here was heavy irony.   If cricket was stopped the ground could fall into the hands of builders who would soon fill the open space cherished by the Millers.   Although alarmed by events National Cricket Association felt it was beyond their responsibility to intervene in legal issues.   Justice Reeve eventually ruled in the plaintiffs’ favour and an injunction granted.

The decision staggered the club, stunned the village.   Lintz lodged an appeal and set up a Survival Fund.   Cricket and non-cricket organisations and private individuals responded generously.   No longer was it a lone crusade.   Women, many unconnected with the club, held at-home functions to raise funds.   The Cricket Council agreed to underwrite the costs of the appeal.   It was heard in London on 6 April 1977 before Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Geoffrey Lane and Lord Justice Cumming-Bruce.   Lord Denning expressed surprise that developers were allowed to build houses so close to a cricket field, emphasised the ground was there first.   “The club has spent money, labour and love in the making of the cricket ground and they have a right to play on it.   It has provided great benefit to the community as a whole and to the injury of none….Does it suddenly become a nuisance because one of the neighbours chooses to build a house on the very edge of the ground in such a position that it may well be struck by the ball on the rare occasion when there is a hit for six?   To my mind the answer is plainly ‘No’.”   The injunction was refused and the appeal allowed by two to one, Lord Justice Lane dissenting.   Lintz’s future was saved.   So, too, the future of other clubs, a point unwittingly confirmed by K.R.Souter, acting for the plaintiffs : “I have had enquiries from all over the country from people in the legal profession considering taking up similar cases.”

Barnes CC, London, was in such a position.   Chairman Graham Turner’s letter to Lintz, in all its simplicity, captured the unique spirit of cricket.   “I don’t suppose you have heard of Barnes and, with respect, we have to say that until the last few months we had never heard of Lintz.   But now we feel rather closer to you than the many miles which separate us geographically.”


So Lintz became the Champions

Of village cricket clubs,

News of their famous victory

Cheered many inns and pubs.

But heroes all that they might be

They must have lost the fight

Without the funds that flooded in

From folk that thought them right.[2]

That first line took on added meaning when Lintz were champions in 1982.   Deserved reward for tireless pacemen Bob Cook and Robert Bainbridge.   Bainbridge captured countless wickets with a slinging, some said suspect, action.   Cook, lean, spare and side-on, moved the ball late.   Typical of Cook that he should seek sponsorship for each wicket.   His penetration and the generosity of friends and members enriched British Heart Foundation by £500.   Heart-warming, too, in an age when league cricketers aped the unsavoury antics of their First-class brethren, that one of mild nature should end an unstinting career with more TSL wickets than all but great Northumberland spinner George Milne.

Out of the trauma endured by Lintz, its members and the Millers, one thing was clear.   Club cricket beats with emotional fervour deep-rooted in English soil.   This celebrated legal case revealed a strength of will, a spirit of togetherness rarely witnessed outside times of social crisis.   Only when deprived of God-given rights do we fully appreciate what we have.   It falls upon today’s youth to heed that lesson and preserve what their forebears created.

Cup cricket increased in pace with growing car ownership.   The formation of Durham Cricket Association helped rationalise an overfilled summer calendar by consolidating competition dates, inter-league matches and Sunday play.   The number of senior league fixtures rose by 25% between 1962-70.   Extra cup competitions increased players’ work-load.   Stuart Young would not re-sign for Philadelphia because cup commitments were too heavy.   I averaged 26 matches a season as a youth in a moderate team but played 70 matches in a successful championship side 25 years later.   It was common to play eight matches in ten days in early season, paradoxically on soft wickets and often in poor light.   The reason was simple.   More matches generated bar sales to meet rising costs and aid solvency.

Increased fixtures coincided with a shift in balance between bat and ball.   Snow blanketed all junior cricket on the evening of 31 May 1976.   For the rest of the summer a red ball shone in the sky with an intensity not felt for 75 years.   It heated batsmen’s ambitions, warmed brain and muscle into realising the day had arrived to spend time at the crease.   If anyone ‘cashed in’ it would be Greensword.   He was the first for four seasons to record 1,000 league runs in either DSL, TSL or NYSD.   In those leagues alone 14 batsmen reached 1,000 runs in the 1970s.   There were fifty-two in the 1980s; 126 in the 1990s, 40 of them in the peak years 1993-94.   By the end of the Eighties it was as common for a batsman to score 1,000 league runs as score a century a hundred years before.

Presence of quality pros was part reason for the progression.   Of the 126 who reached 1,000, 85% were professionals.   This ran parallel to a decline in penetration owing to better wickets and the effects of increased cup cricket.   Bowlers are not always at their best after a day earning the family crust, nor at their peak every Saturday after numerous mid-week cup-ties.   Batsmen fed on their weariness.   Of 47 at Durham clubs who took 100 wickets in a season in DSL, TSL or NYSD, 75% did so before 1976 and 90% were pros.   If the statistics fall short of proof they strengthen the hypothesis.   Bowling is hard work.   It calls for skill, determination, strength and mental resilience, requirements less attractive than thunderous hits or elegant strokes.   Nyren’s “aristocratical playmates” and gentlemen down the ages realised this.   So, too, the youth of today.

Rapid decline in mining, shipbuilding and heavy engineering resulted in the respective demise of Seghill, Leslies and Vickers-Armstrong.   The laudable history of welfare clubs was at an end.   Some were rescued by local authorities and a few colliery clubs defiantly retained ‘CW’ after their name to honour the welfare ideal.   TSL replaced the defunct trio but it had repercussions elsewhere.   Their replacements were from NWD.   They, in turn, admitted teams from Mid-D that was left with only eight clubs in 1974.   Crook and Langley Park quit NWD that year so the composition of NWD changed radically in three years.   More accurately, the League’s strength was heavily diluted.

It had compensations for Whickham who languished in the bottom four in most of the previous 24 seasons.   Steve Gamble’s pace helped Whickham win NWD in 1974-75 and 1977.   Sacriston signed Tommy O’Connor in 1969 and sparked a revival that coincided with the launch of Esso Northumbria, at 253,000 tons the largest ship yet built in Britain.   It was the swan-song of Tyneside shipbuilding but not Sacriston cricket.   They were champions in 1972-73 when Fred Hilton’s ‘leggies’ and Jack Wrightson’s pace supplemented O’Connor‘s heroics.   Tommy, now with disconcerting late swing, took 100 league wickets in three successive seasons, the last yielding 151 in all.   Sacriston’s first defeat in 1972 in late July brought double disappointment for Wrightson and Hilton.   They were due to go on holiday after the match but returned to the dressing room to find their holiday money stolen.   After a quick ‘whip-round’ in the club they proceeded on their way.

Leadgate won five successive titles under Brian Farley in 1978-82.   Leadgate cricket dates back to 1873.   Matches were spasmodic.   Not surprising, perhaps, with the club “unable to keep its engagements owing to the fact that most of the members have been converted by a lady evangelist and being inclined, object to playing at cricket”.[3]   Leadgate had two reformations.   The first, as Leadgate Temperance in 1898, rooted in the Methodist church; the second six years later as Leadgate.   Elected to NWD (Junior Division) in 1910 they won two titles and promotion to Division II.   Election to Division I after the war was a prelude to conflict not peace.

All was smooth on the surface : new pavilion, Jack Carr flourishing.   Closer scrutiny reveals festering sores.   Leadgate were trying the League’s patience.   They had fallen behind with the ground rent, were dissatisfied with the make-up of the Committee and vehemently opposed its decision to appoint neutral umpires.   “Any rate,” they added smugly, “there is no such thing as a neutral umpire”.   When their spectators abused an umpire, NWD vowed “their next appearance before them would be their last”.   After more wrangling the Committee threatened to resign if Leadgate remained members.   They were expelled in 1922.   NWD proffered an olive branch after the club’s committee resigned, said they would be re-admitted if they agreed to a three-year period of probation during which they had to submit annually the names of their committee for approval.   Leadgate thought that an insult to the great and good on the new committee.   In a bid to shame NWD into submission they hung out dirty washing at a public meeting in the Co-operative Hall.   Only one voice dissented so, perversely, Leadgate upheld their own expulsion.   Re-admitted to Division II six years later, they were champions in 1930, but not promoted, so they joined Stanley & District League which they won in 1933.   Next year the hatchet was buried and they returned to NWD.   This time the end of war did bring peace.   With Latchford as pro Leadgate were champions in 1946 and again in 1951 when pro Albert Atkinson was in devastating all-round form.   They won a third title in 1957 when Norman Pearson grabbed 162 cup and league wickets in tandem with Eric Topham.   For all his square-arm action Pearson was quick.   Later engagements at Craghead (best 163) and Beamish (best 179) were sandwiched by a year at Sacriston curtailed by a football injury necessitating a plate to be inserted in an ankle.   The injury caused his retirement after 23 seasons in which, Norman reckoned, he captured over 2,500 wickets.

South Hylton and Hetton Lyons dominated D.Coast.   South Hylton won four successive titles after finishing runners-up to Vaux Welfare by half-a-point in 1971.   All-rounder Bob Markham was key to the success and the bowling Andrews brothers were on song.   Hetton Lyons formed in 1865.   The name honours William Lyons who attempted to sink a pit shaft through limestone.   Lyons provided stiff opposition for the best in the north of the county and gained league status in 1893.   Pit deputy William Bamborough captured countless wickets until his right wrist was crushed in a pit roof fall.   Matt Storey was at his best when Lyons were inaugural champions of D.Coast.   They won it again in 1947 then had two spells in D.Co and were champions in 1957.   The ambitious club raised £1,500 towards an indoor cricket school at Lyons Boys’ Club, opened by the late Queen Mother in 1960, then bought their ground from Bowes Lyons Estates for £500.   Hetton Lyons returned to D.Coast in 1966 to conserve on travel costs and Trevor Walker led them to six successive titles in 1977-82.   The first campaign had started when David Alexander strolled onto the field looking for a game.   David came to England with Gordon Greenidge to try his luck at Hampshire.   Free-scoring ‘Alex’ hit 93 in his second match on 28 May.   From that day Hetton Lyons were infallible for four years and unbeaten in 87 league matches.   Walker led with the ball, Billy Kent with the bat.   Lyons were later strengthened by pros Stewart Lowery and Desmond Collymore, lissom West Indian and explosive fielder.   A Horner Cup final perfectly illustrates their fighting qualities.   When Horden needed just five to win with 7 wickets to fall the Cup Committee wrote a cheque in their favour.   Hetton Lyons knocked over all seven for two runs and the cheque had to be countermanded in their name.

Elsdon announced his retirement in 1969.   Then spent five years at Medomsley.   Bottom in four of those seasons, they collapsed so often that his legs were not unduly taxed if they batted first.   Quiet and unassuming, Albert had a boyish desire to play for ever.  He bowled on at 67 despite seeing his captain drop dead on the pitch.   Figures of 2 for 91 at 69 reveal remarkable stamina; 6 for 24 at 70 emphasise lasting skill.   Elsdon faced bowlers in his twilight years, mere boys by comparison, with the same heart if not art : Steve Brettwood, Fred Brownless, Keith Fleming and Geoff Mason; James Teare, Ken Stephenson and ‘Bulldog’ Billy Teesdale.   Each toiled 20 years and more and frequently produced amazing analyses.   Most were rewarded with a league medal.    Two had shorter careers before entering parliament.   Jack Dormand, later Lord Dormand of Easington, hit 50s for Burnmoor; Gerry Steinberg produced startling bowling figures for Durham North End.

Seven different champions in the 1970s emphasised growing competition in D.Co.   Batsmen included rich characters like village constable Joe Cushlow and lay preacher Jimmy Cook who alternated between religion and drink.   Shildon BR’s 1971 title side had Tom Kilcran, irrepressible Jack Watson and Harry ‘The Talk’ Taylor whose bat, judged on his centuries, could talk too.   Contrasting openers John Baker and Alan Chapman were prominent in Etherley’s 1972 success.   Baker savaged many an attack and once completed a cup hundred by the 13th over; Chapman’s sound technique fashioned 1,000 in all.   Chapman, who had already won a medal with Shildon BR, gained two more at Evenwood and Willington where he found a staunch ally in Keith Fleming.   There are no more partisan followers than Crook’s.   One doubts it was necessary to combative Roy Coates but they urged his team to keep ahead of a hungry, chasing pack to narrowly win the title in 1974.   Roy led the way with belligerent hitting aided by Arnold Coates, Gordon Pratt and match-winning bowlers Stephenson and Alec Dolphin.

The decade ended with Langley Park and Evenwood (in the odd years) each gaining two titles.   Langley rarely needed to look beyond Keith Emmerson, Alan Reeve and Jack Wilkinson for wickets in 1976.   Gordon Hunter was pro.   Raised on Blackfyne’s fine track, the left-hander was strong on the back foot, drove sweetly through the off.   Gordon later returned to his roots to raise his Consett league aggregate to 15,000 before injury ended his career after 34 years in the first team.   Of Park’s 1976 regulars, only Reeve and Gordon Pratt played in 1978.   David Jackson returned to his first club to replace Hunter.   Evenwood, more settled, were well served by Chapman, Stuart Land, the Teesdales and Gills.   An Evenwood side played Raby in 1887 and they operated in Auckland & District League at the turn of the century but these were the club’s first major league honours.

Concerned by the number of drawn matches, but reluctant to ditch the ‘honourable draw’, DSL and NYSD increased the award of bonus points and limited the side batting first to a maximum of 55 overs.   It had little effect.   Draws in NYSD rose from 34% in 1970 to 61% in 1976, the year Norton drew 80% of matches.   Rising temperatures in 1975 and the sweltering heat of 1976 were contributory factors but, in truth, too many sides batted overlong to make a match ‘safe’.

The captain of Durham and heir apparent expressed opposing views during the ensuing debate.   Brian Lander, no doubt recalling that four years earlier Seaham Harbour left his side eight overs to get 152, believed the high proportion of draws warranted the introduction of overs cricket.   Neil Riddell vowed his club would oppose such a proposal : “We don’t want a system which would produce negative bowling.   That’s what ‘sudden death’ cricket would do.”   Kippax added that, in his experience, the tempo of NYSD was more purposeful than Bradford League.   “Fixed overs cricket is too stringent.   It takes away a captain’s skill to manipulate a game.”    Not all captains had that skill and, in reality, it was the captains who resorted to pragmatic methods in tight situations.

NYSD increased to 16 clubs in 1971.   The additions were from Yorkshire so reducing the mathematical chances of Durham clubs winning a title.   Four did so but overall achievement, compared with past dominance, was an oasis in a desert of decline.   For the first time since 1896, no Durham club finished in the top three in 1971.   In fact none in the top six.   Durham sides filled the bottom five places for the first time in 1977, an indignity experienced again in 1984.

Bishop Auckland were stylish champions in 1973 with depth of batting stretching to infinity.   Harry Smurthwaite had Barrie Clark, Neil Duckworth, Ralph Beadle and Riddell, first to score 1,000 league runs for Bishop, plus all-rounders Hopper, Tim Haggie, Graham Smith and Geoff Wilde who each exceeded 500 in all.   Stuart Young spearheaded the attack while brisk Tony Hawthorne seamed it both ways.   Sixteen-year-old Paul Romaines played occasionally before joining Northamptonshire.   Paul’s father George, well-known local broadcaster, played for ‘Bishops’ and Shildon BR.   Grandfather Billy was pro for railway sides Shildon LNER (as they were before Nationalisation) and Darlington RA.   Released after a couple of seasons, Romaines remained determined.   He made 1,000 league runs when pro at Synthonia, scoring 22 out of 28 the day Johnny Johnston took 8 for 21.   After two seasons at Darlington, Romaines successfully resumed his First-class career with Gloucestershire.

Sturdy, blond left-hander Neil Riddell, 7,583 in all for Bishop Auckland, won a second medal at Feethams where he amassed 10,750 league runs (av 42) in 1977-91.   The statistics are impressive.   The manner of their making more so – once past an initial, ugly forward prod.   Each major innings accelerated with the power of ‘Mallard’ : emphatic strokes, then momentum unstoppable.   Riddell was undefeated in thirteen of his 15 league hundreds.   In his first for Darlington (9 sixes, 7 fours) he reached fifty off 53 balls; a century 20 balls later.   Neil dominated the best, witness a century for Minor Counties against a Northamptonshire attack containing four Test bowlers.   Left-hander Tim Haggie, educated at St. Peter’s (York) and Cambridge, gained a second medal when captain of Darlington in 1977.   Riddell again passed 1,000 in all matches; pro John Waring and Tim Wellock spearheaded the attack.

Stockton were joint top in 1974 in a photo-finish decided in Saltburn’s favour on matches won.   They were level after seven matches and, though the lead changed three times, the gap never exceeded 3 points.   Next season skipper Gordon Lake popped championship champagne.   Attractive right-hander Lake topped Stockton’s batting seven times in a distinguished career that included 18 years as secretary.   Bill Webster, Mike Thomas and 17-year-old Ian Richards impressed with the bat, Barry Jeffells with the ball.   All-rounder Nasim-ul-Ghani was outstanding and a frequent match-winner.   Nasim, who went to Lowerhouse for a reported offer of £2,500 plus benefit, was replaced by Irving Shillingford.   The Windward Islander averaged 57 over three seasons including a club record 1,258 in 1978.   It says much for Tom Olver that it required 43 years and a Test batsman to surpass his previous record.

Hartlepool re-engaged Kippax for 1978 after being third bottom the previous year.   Seventh at half-way, they went 19 matches undefeated to thread past the leaders and win at the post.   Kippax’s strokes were complemented by Michael Gough’s obduracy; his leg-breaks by Johnny Johnston’s pace.   A league medal was welcome consolation for David Olaman who found runs scarce at Park Drive after dominant form at struggling Blackhall.   Ken Gardner, 33 years an administrator, played in both Kippax-inspired title sides.   Memory man Ken, “he even knows the time it started to rain”, talks knowledgeably about the game and is an excellent after-dinner speaker.   Ken maintains an intense, boyish enthusiasm for the game as President of NYSD and Durham CCC Board Member.

Philadelphia twice won three successive DSL championships during a glorious decade.   At no time did they rest on their laurels, continually strengthened the side.   The 1973 title coincided with the signing of Steve Greensword (qv).   Given few opportunities at Leicestershire, and in search of financial security, Greensword joined South Northumberland as pro.   He helped Gateshead Fell win DSL in 1970 then raised South Shields’ hopes of a title.   Secure in defence, Greensword drove with masterly judgement.   He bowled straight and got movement.   Metronomic accuracy from a robotic action tried batsmen’s patience.   His miserly bowling enabled Philly derive full benefit from free-scorers Bobby Johnson, John Robertson and Tom Clish who gleefully belted the ball over the ‘choppy house’, as locals termed the old abattoir.   A second championship was won with the addition of George Bull’s pace; a third with Stuart Wilkinson’s speed.   Philadelphia’s march was halted by Eppleton.   After a damp start Eppleton were becalmed mid-table but won their last six and raced to a first title in 50 years.   Kiwi Test spinner David O’Sullivan captured 96 wickets.   The arrival of the slow left-armer put an end to Ken Ferguson’s illustrious career but he managed to snatch his 1,000th DSL wicket in the title year.   Philly then strode to three more successive titles.   Left-hander Tom Harland arrived in 1978 with lugubrious moustache and his Eppleton medal in his back pocket.   Harland’s partnership with Greensword, as opener and wicket-keeper, was integral to a line-up that, by then, included seven county players.

It is not possible to compare players of different eras.   Safe to say, however, the achievements of Coxon and Greensword over a long period mark them the pre-eminent pro all-rounders of the last 50 years.   Coxon was confrontational, Greensword less so.   Greensword could ‘sledge’ but with vitriol diluted in banality : “Me muther can bowl faster than thu.”   If Greensword was slogged to cow-corner he would mutter “Thu cannot bat” but if he slogged to cow-corner any derogatory comment was countered more rationally : “State of the game, young ’un”.   Coxon’s clubs won four titles in 16 seasons; Greensword’s seven in 26.   At the start of their respective engagements Coxon had played 142 First-class matches compared to Greensword’s 39.   Coxon was then 35, Greensword 26.   Greensword, more sedate, made three times as many runs as Coxon; Alex, more penetrative, took almost twice as many wickets as Steve.   They never crossed swords in battle although their clubs met in 1959.   Steve, a lad of 15, had just made a maiden league 50.   Alex was absent with a damaged finger.

Whitburn were bridesmaid at three Philly celebrations.   A.A.Johnson deserved better.   In all but a twitching energy in his walk, Johnson called to mind Keith Miller.   Alex was a dynamic opponent.   A powerful hitter endowed with a cricket brain and a bowler with searing pace.   After each lightning delivery his boyish good looks disappeared behind a dishevelled mesh of hair.   Pro in 1972-75, Johnson twice took 100 DSL wickets, never less than 94.   Stylish opener Peter Freeman and breezy Wilf Barker are Whitburn’s most prolific amateur post-war batsmen.   Gordon Lamb, a consistent, busy right-hander in TSL, enjoyed further success before premature retirement.   Chester-le-Street also trailed the bride in three successive years, once by two points, once by four.   ‘Cestrians’ could score runs but lacked depth in attack.   It was the same with Durham City despite John Darling’s 8 for 1 against North Durham.

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John Darling’s bowling analysis  v  North Durham, 26 June 1971

North Durham’s form was as dreadful as their war-time tribulations.   From 11 July 1970 they lost 37 times when going 50 league matches without a win.   In a third of them they were all out for under 100.

Durham City’s eighth placing in 1970 mocked the pedigree of a side with five county men.   A sixth righted matters in 1972.   Stuart Wilkinson added sword edge to their attack.   Chester-le-Street chased City all season, trailed by a point on the final day.   Weston’s generous declaration left Horden to get 201 in three hours.   Wilkinson needed but 80 minutes to skewer the title with 8 for 29.   B.R.Lander was in prime form.   Tall, lean Lander maintained tight control from a high-stepping approach.   In one of such amiable nature one sensed a Judas-kiss behind his violent movement off the pitch.   Brian gained everlasting fame as captain of Durham in the defeat of Yorkshire in 1973, the first Minor County to beat a First-class county in the Gillette Cup.   Lander’s 5 for 15 earned the Gold Award.

M.P. Weston was captain of England and British Lions.   At week-ends before an international he slept nights in his car, spent the day pounding punishing dunes on the coast of Northumberland.   A high level of fitness was one benefit, stumbling upon the house of his dreams the other.   A competitive all-rounder, Weston got the best out of City’s talented side.   He fulfilled the first duty of a captain, winning the toss fifteen times in the first 17 matches of 1972.   Appearances were restricted by business and rugby but he found time to sire two county cricketers who gave Mike marvellous moments as they grew.   Philip hit an undefeated 173 to smash his dad’s Bow School record 153 not out.   Philip, then 12, added 239 with ten-year-old Robin.   When Robin hit 103 not out in Bow’s 141 there were 30 extras and the next highest score was 2.

PRO-FILE (No. 21)


(b. Gateshead, 6 Sep 1943)

Burst onto scene at Philadelphia, aged 15, then joined Leicestershire.   Supremely-consistent all-rounder at Gateshead Fell (1969-70, 1993-94), South Shields (1971-72), Philadelphia (1973-80, 1989-91), Hartlepool (1981), Whitburn (1982-83; 1987-88), Sunderland (1984), Eppleton (1985-86) and Wearmouth (1992).   Game is based firmly on the fundamentals, techniques perfected to such degree they guaranteed his employers constant success.   Topped DSL batting 8 times.   First to score 1,000 DSL runs in successive seasons (1972) and the only batsmen to do so in four successive seasons (1979).   Reached 1,000 DSL runs a record 8 times.   Set new DSL record of 1,212 runs in 1972 and raised it to 1,274 in 1977.   Final league record of 23,000 runs (av 55), 36 hundreds and almost 1,400 wkts is unsurpassed in Durham club cricket history.   Of some 10,000 league overs, 35% were maidens.   Regular for Minor Counties.

South Shields went thirty years without a title from 1961.   Surprising considering their quality pros and rich crop of youngsters.   Bill Parker was consumed with passion for the game almost to the exclusion of all else but work.   “I did enjoy ale and women,” adds less pious Parker.   Bill hooked, cut and drove as well as any diminutive bat to score 16,101 in all for Shields.   Peter Crane, if sometimes unassertive, pierced the leg-side at will.   Crane retired as the club’s leading scorer with 852 more than Parker.   Ricky Stephenson’s accuracy earned more wickets than any Westoe amateur.   Unfortuantely Dave Parnaby’s aggressive pace was too soon lost to the pro ranks.   Therein lay Shields’ problem.   Too often the attack lacked penetration except when Stuart Young topped DSL bowling in 1970.

Burnmoor were in the same boat.   They possessed batsmen as good as most in Vic Hanson, Bill Routledge, George Ryder, Jim Weeks and Ian Linsley whose consistency throughout the 1970s put him in the top five DSL openers.   Burnmoor sensibly opted for bowler-pros until signing Paul Hibbert in 1977.   He scored 1,000 league runs and played a solitary Test for Australia but Burnmoor dropped to fourth bottom.   Somehow the side lacked the balance to really tilt at the title.   Fast bowler George Bull began to knock castles over in 1965; Ian Conn had yet to emerge.   Had they been contemporaries operating alongside pros Frank Forster, or later John Glassford, Burnmoor may have been champions.

Greenside’s TSL reign ended in 1977 when the waning powers of Smith and Jones coincided with Consett’s 15 wins on the trot.   Consett won another title in 1978, successes based on fluent Billy Gibson, all-rounders Donald Brown and Walter Armstrong, and seamer Peter Curtis.   Their fourteenth title in 1981 is the most in TSL.   In between times the title rolled downhill to Shotley Bridge boosted by the signing of S.R.Atkinson and return of Stuart Wilkinson.    Atkinson represented English  Schools and played in Durham University’s 1972 UAU championship side with Richard Mercer, Tim Hughes and Tim Wellock.   His education was further broadened when opening with Inglis for the ‘Cestrians’ and the county.   Tall and broad of shoulder, Atkinson was sure in defence, strong off his legs and pulled mercilessly anything short.   Majestic front-foot driving and his power off the back foot left bowlers no margin for error.   Atkinson did not look out of place against First-class bowlers.   Only a dubious lbw decision ended a beautifully-crafted 76 for Minor Counties against a West Indies attack of Courtney Walsh, Winston Davis and Roger Harper.   His style called to mind Graeme Pollock, a comparison made possible in 1983 when each hit a century in the Callers-Pegasus Festival at Jesmond.

To label Atkinson ‘professional’ is misnomer.   A juvenile spirit rather who accepted a few bob to supplement his existence as ‘permanent’ student.   If Atkinson’s off-field life had about as much order as Fenwick’s sales his composure at the wicket suggested he would bat serenely through an earthquake.   Steve is a frustrated Thespian.   Clubhouses rocked with his boisterous performances of songs from the shows climaxed by the inevitable George and the Dwagon.   Steve was a superb mimic of bowlers’ run-ups and spoken accents – as a team-mate discovered when duped into a long telephone conversation supposedly with Australian batsman Graeme Wood.   Atkinson finally began work at 30.   He taught in Holland and Hong Kong and made runs for both, most notably 162 for Holland against Israel.   His undoubted class and infectious enthusiasm rejuvenated Shotley.   Atkinson exceeded 1,000 TSL runs in each title year, 4,125 in three seasons aided between the wickets by selfless, telepathic, opening partner  David Collingwood.   Innings over, no matter his score, Steve always returned to the hutch with a smile.

Atkinson and Qasim Omar raised TSL individual scoring to new heights.   Qasim Omar, born in Kenya, was raised in Pakistan for which country he played 26 Tests.   Pro at Sacriston and Annfield Plain, he was first to reach 1,000 TSL runs in a season and did so four times while making 5,461 (av 60) and 13 hundreds.   A diminutive, wristy stroke-maker, he whipped the ball off his legs with the authority and crack of a circus lion-tamer.   Such was his command at the crease it seemed his only likely mishap would be his cap falling on his wicket from its perilous perch atop thick Afro hairstyle.   Qasim loved a good time, too, as his fall from grace at Test level was to prove.

[1]  Lord Denning, 6 April 1977

[2] Poem written by a Lintz supporter.

[3] Newcastle Journal : 23 April 1888

Chapter 22

Chapter 20

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