Chapter Twenty-two……….1980-1989 Sterling qualities

For many it was a time of the fast buck, even faster life-style.   Husbands hurried to work at sunrise industries like Nissan.   Wives winged on speedy Metro rail system to Gateshead Metro Centre, largest shopping complex in Europe.   On the town at night.   Their children pent with computer, video and Nintendo ‘Game Boy’.   Less often now did their sons hurry to the nets.

For the less fortunate, except when graceful Tall Ships sailed into the Tyne, the past vanished overnight.   Consett was laid bare after the ironworks was dismantled.   Shildon railway workshops hit the buffers, devastating township and cricket club alike.   Pits were sunk – without trace.   Close-knit communities endured agonies as unemployment soared to an unprecedented 3.3 million.   In 1913 there were over a million miners in 3,000 British mines.   By 1984 there were 183,000 in 171.   North-east coalfields, once the region’s pride, had 201 pits at Nationalisation.   Now there were 17.   Soon it would be six.   Arthur Scargill could tolerate no more; a miners’ strike began on 12 March 1984.   Pitmen and their family were served free lunches in Miners’ Welfare halls.   This was an advance on the old soup kitchens where gruel was ladled from zinc baths that had been used by hewers the night before to scrub coal dust off their backs.   Tensions rose amid ugly, primitive scenes.   David Jenkins, new Bishop of Durham, controversially used his enthronement speech to express political views on the issue.

The strike had bizarre repercussions at Wearmouth.   Groundsman Colin Dobson occupied a detached house within the ground.   The Welfare Committee told Colin to join a trade union.   He chose NUM.   Then, because he was entitled to the benefits of membership, the Lodge secretary ordered him to join the strike.   The ground was left untended.   The longer the strike lasted, the longer the grass grew.   Club members, many of them retired miners, had to look elsewhere for a game of bowls.   Wearmouth played all league matches away from home, did not win a single one.   They had struggled in the lower reaches for 15 years but, with nightmarish Orwellian undertones, 1984 was the beginning of the end.   Wearmouth were bottom in four consecutive years.   Only in their penultimate DSL season did they climb out of the bottom three.   Even so the club’s eventual resignation came as a surprise to Andy Robson since he was re-engaged for 1999.

Unemployment had hit cricket before.   This time, ironically, clubs found the means to spend money at will.   If they adopted one strand of Thatcherite philosophy (few in a socialist stronghold would express it so) it was commitment to personal responsibility.   Realising they must swim, or sink like the heavy industries that once helped provide resources, they dog-paddled or crawled furiously depending on the extent of their ambition.

Sponsors provided welcome aid.   Previous interest was spasmodic.   New fencing at Feethams in 1884 served as temporary advertisement hoarding :  “Although Bryant and May matches may be seen outside for nothing, cricket matches must be paid for.”   Fairy Soap sponsored the 1904 Tyneside Minor Cup.   Eventually the popularity of cup cricket attracted sponsors in numbers.   NWD was the first league to be sponsored in 1981.   Fittingly by Dixon Sports.   By 1986 TSL was the only senior league without a sponsor.   Invidious to single out one of many generous sponsors but nostalgia demands mention of Vaux Breweries.   Cuthbert Vaux opened a brewery in 1837.  (Interestingly, a C.Vaux turned out for Bishopwearmouth in 1834.)   Vaux introduced Maxim ale to honour the gallantry of Major Ernest Vaux, commander of a Maxim gun detachment in the Boer War.   Landlords complained Maxim was too strong as customers nodded off after a single bottle.   Vaux patronage began in 1984.   They sponsored half of Durham’s six senior leagues in each of seven years before its emotive closure in 1999.   Darlington Building Society began its thirteenth year as NYSD’s sponsor in 2002, the longest association with one league.

Clubs still relied mainly on bar sales to pay an increasing number of professionals.   Some 60% now had a pro.   The proportion of overseas pros rose from 42% in 1980 to about two-thirds in 1988.   A few earned sizeable fees but money was not sole reason to quit Caribbean sun and sand for cool North Sea beaches.   Clayton Lambert found NYSD “very competitive”, liked it enough to return 13 times.   “I am not a city boy,” said West Indies opener Desmond Haynes, “so the friendliness of Blackhall suits me”.   Haynes, who exceeded 1,000 NYSD runs in 1981-82, could joke at his own expense.   Dismissed twice for a ‘duck’ in one season in cup-ties against Blaydon, he signed his autograph for the club inside a gigantic nought.   Jimmy Adams makes no secret of his affection for the area.   “The people of the north-east are something else.   They remind me very much of the people back home.   They speak their mind and are easy to get on with.   I grew up with people like that.”   Jimmy, who replaced injured Nehemiah Perry at Blaydon in 2002, thought nothing of the weekly 600-mile round trip : “When you’re going home you don’t really mind”.   These and others forged lasting friendships, brought excitement, glamour and considerable skill to an appreciative audience.

Less wealthy clubs tried to ban overseas pros, reasoning that fees would be better spent on facilities.   More likely this thinking concealed suspicions that some engaged speed merchants and let their pitch deteriorate.   Ian Bishop signed for Evenwood.   He had just made himself cosy at the home of skipper Billy Teesdale when he was called up by West Indies.   Even though helmets were now in common use Mainsforth secretary, John Irvine, felt it could have been dangerous.   “On our wickets he would have killed someone.”   Irvine admitted it a dilemma because overseas pros helped improve standards.   Roy Coates was in no doubt about that.   “They’re well liked, are good ambassadors, bring in revenue over the bar and coach youngsters.”   Roy’s parting shot was typically brusque : “If you want village cricket, you should join a village league.”   A proposal to ban overseas pros in D.Co was defeated but D.Coast banned them in 1989 so Hetton Lyons resigned to join D.Co.

Other concerns surfaced such as the registration of overseas men who just happened to be in the area ‘on holiday’ or were ‘friends’ of current pros.   It helped those unable to afford a pro but, with England’s future prospects in mind, gave promising overseas players experience of English conditions.   Damien Martyn played for North Durham just three years before his Test debut.   In time DSL allowed clubs to register one player not qualified to play for England.   Rumour, too, that clubs paid “expenses” to attract amateurs from other clubs.   It was, indeed is, the worst kept secret.   Herbert Trenholm voiced criticism.   “Certain D.Co clubs have spoilt cricket by poaching players through offers of payment.”   Harry Allen was more explicit : “There is no doubt that some players are paid back-handers.   I have talked to players who admit it.   One professional told me he was paid more to stay on as an amateur when his club engaged a new pro the following season.”   The brashness of the age.   Etherley tried to tighten control by proposing new players should live within 15 miles of their club.   They were defeated.   The Northern Echo cricket correspondent Tim Wellock left NYSD to play in D.Co.   Hearing much talk of money, Tim tried valiantly to bring matters into the open through his columns but admitted : “It did not go down well at all”.   Accusations were not confined to D.Co.   A D.Coast club was said to pay for a player’s holiday in return for his fleeting services.   It was becoming an auction and not uncommon for some to change clubs each season.   “The old amateur ethic of playing purely for relaxation and pleasure is dying out,” concluded Wellock.   So, too, was gentlemanly conduct judging by the increasing number of players suspended for using abusive language to umpires.   Youngsters, as ever, modelled themselves on the idols of the day but unfortunately they were disfigured by the warts of the First-class game.   A brighter facet lay hidden under the names of late-1980s debutants destined for everyday entry in Wisden: W.P.C.Weston, D.A.Blenkiron, J.A.Daley and precocious Q.J. Hughes.

Wellock pulled no punches, cited Crook and Esh Winning among those under most suspicion.   Each denied contravening league rules.   It did not stop the rumours.   Fine bat John Cranney tells of the day Leadgate parked their cars in Crook market place and walked to the field.   Noticing an attendant in a kiosk, a young player asked why he was there.   “He directs the home players to the ground,” quipped Brian McNally.   Roy Coates was vigorous in Crook’s defence.   “We don’t need to offer money to attract players.   All our players are local lads apart from two from Northallerton.   The reason for all the rumours about us is that everyone is jealous because we are successful.”   There was no denying that.   Crook won 173 of 250 league matches in the 1980s, won four successive titles in 1980-83, two more in 1986-87.   Indian Test all-rounder Suru Nayak was dominant during the first two successes; 24-year-old Guyanan Andrew Lyght more so until struck by illness mid-way through 1986.   Lyght’s impact is measured by 2,600 runs and 112 wickets in all on debut.   Left-hander Gordon Pratt scored heavily while coaching his talented sons.   Bill Whithorn, John Gregory and slow left-arm Colin Robson took the wickets.   Esh Winning challenged Crook’s domination but rarely beat them in the league.   Esh won a first major title in 1985 when Ali Zia of Pakistan Railways was in sparkling all-round form.   They beat Ushaw Moor in a crunch match in July and held them off during a relentless finish in which each won every subsequent match started.   Esh were again champions in 1989-90 with Javed Hayat as pro.   He set a D.Co record with 102 league wickets in 1989, 201 in all.   Javed moved to Tudhoe and Ushaw Moor, claimed 774 league wickets in ten seasons and consistently improved his batting.   He reached 1,000 league runs at Tudhoe in 1993.

In 1983 Durham was drenched by the wettest April since records began.   Tudhoe could be forgiven for thinking they would never play.   They did – on 19 June after ten matches were washed out.   Mid-D completed a first full league programme that same week-end.   As if by command, the rain had stopped two days earlier when Tony Blair was elected to Sedgefield.   Sun over his constituency ignited a Vesuvian explosion of runs.   Records melted.   Shirlon Williams hit 7 centuries in a season for Shildon BR, Gary Ireland 11 in two seasons at Tudhoe.   Clint Yorke clouted 177, 210 not out and 145 not out in his first three league innings for Evenwood.  Tom Moody, perhaps unlucky to play just eight Tests for Australia, flexed young muscles while scoring 1,500 league runs for Hetton Lyons.   Tom’s reach posed problems for bowlers.   A good length ball to Moody was little better than a half-volley.   Anyone over-compensating by bowling shorter was severely punished.

M.A. Harper topped the Shell Shield batting with Guyana before signing for Blaydon in 1986.   Harper made TSL batting history with 1,863 runs (av 109.5) and 8 centuries.   If we count a pre-season friendly, he hit 3,013 and 12 hundreds, one off 63 balls.   Mark was no slogger.   A major Harper innings contained up to twenty dot-balls before he struck a boundary.   To tabulate his statistics would lead from stunned incredulity to numbed tedium.   Suffice to say he scored 40% of Blaydon’s runs.   Harper was a clinical surgeon specialising in amputating bowlers’ reputations.   Few who saw it will forget a breath-taking innings against Shotley Bridge.   The visitors made 275, sufficient to win 99 matches in a hundred.  This was the hundredth.   Wilkinson and Wasim Raja claimed four early wickets.   Harper responded with an unbeaten 176 off 129 balls to secure a memorable victory.   For the next four seasons Harper was pro at Peterlee where he made 40% of their league runs and 20 league hundreds, eight in 1989.   Without him in 1991, Peterlee were bottom.

Dynamic, muscular all-rounder Wesley Thomas replaced Harper.   Thomas was from Grenada and admitted that, on occasion, he had to pinch a few bananas to get by.   When West Indies’ fearsome pace was at its peak the islands’ press dismissed Thomas as “a slow bowler in a hurry”.   He was quick enough to send 857 locals packing in six-and-a-half seasons and he also belted 536 sixes in his 11,621 runs off 11,755 balls.   Thomas hit a TSL individual record 215 not out off 100 balls in 1991 three hours after attending a church service to celebrate the club’s centenary.   He had the day of his life on 15 May 1988.   Thomas strolled leisurely to the crease at 3.18 pm, pushed a single off Bob Cook’s first delivery, and reached a hundred in 86 balls.   Blaydon made 256 for 8 and took the field at twenty-five to six.   Lintz were all out for 55 an hour later.   Thomas took 10 for 27, the only record of a hundred and all ten wickets in a club match in Durham.   He captured the first 9 in the return, induced the last man to edge to the wicket-keeper but he dropped it.   Ian Reid got the tenth to deny Thomas all ten twice in a season against the same club.   A shy, young man on arrival, Wes left as a giant.   He was diagnosed terminally ill in July 1993.   In hindsight, an examination of the scorebook could have told as much.   A whirlwind who blasted 536 sixes did not hit a boundary in a third of his innings that year, nor score a 50 until his nineteenth visit to the wicket.   The tempest was spent.   Adams, Baptiste, Butts, Lambert, Simmons, Mark and Roger Harper defied all to play in a testimonial.   Grown men cried during Wesley’s brave, farewell speech.   Three times the club got him to the airport; three times he was too ill to board the flight.   Thomas died in Grenada in February.   But not before he was visited by Clyde Butts who, with no mention of terms, agreed by telephone to return to Blaydon in his place.

West Indies Test opener Richie Richardson was the highest-paid pro in the north-east when he made 1,000 league runs in each season at Gateshead Fell.   Obviously the standard of bowling was way below his class yet Richie accorded it every respect and took 27 minutes to get off the mark on debut.   That he made only four hundreds is explained by the remarkable fact that Fell’s 18 victories were gained batting second with Richardson undefeated in eleven of them.   Michael Roseberry, future Middlesex opener and captain of Durham, was MCC Young Cricketer of the Year in 1982.   Next year he hit 216 for Durham School.   He joined Sunderland in 1984 and with Greensword raised the hundred for the first wicket on five occasions.   Mike was still at school when he turned pro at Ashbrooke in 1985.

C.B. Lambert (qv) smashed 1,733 NYSD runs in 1986.   Commonplace aggregate for the complex, deep-thinking Guyanan.   At times exuberant or humorous, at others silent or brooding, he always appeared ‘laid-back’.   Except he was scared when he first saw snow, Clayton felt at home in the north-east.   He was good at cards and dominos but declined Brown Ale for his favourite Bacardi and coke.   When batting he had an engaging, if disconcerting, habit of chanting Reggae to the rhythm of the bowler’s strides.   Surely a myth that he concealed a walkman in his helmet?   Clayton’s shots ranged from classic to outrageous, as rich as his festoon of gold jewellery.   Ray Baker is more lyrical.   “Watching Lambert bat was like visiting the National Gallery, his shots an array of masterpieces so monotonous in their regularity that spectators failed to appreciate the beauty of each moment.”

Derek Soakell resumed as amateur at Shildon BR after half-a-dozen successful engagements.   Good cricketer, too nice to be pro.  Soakell celebrated the Millennium by turning out for ‘Bishops’ with his elders Smurthwaite and Hopper.   Opening with a young whippet one day, Derek cut a ball toward a vacant third man boundary.   They ran one, ran two, as the ball revolved sedately.   Derek was happy to note he kept pace with the whippet.   A third was completed; Soakell still up with the lad.   They began a fourth when, mercifully for breathless Derek, the ball trickled over the line.   “Just as well it went for four batsman,” said the umpire at the end of the over.   “How’s that?”   “Because you ran two short.”   “Never,” Derek denied, “I grounded my bat over the line.”   “You grounded your bat over the five-foot line marking the danger area for a bowler running on the wicket!”

Chester-le-Street and Durham City dominated DSL.   Chester were champions in 1980-81 and 1983 with three different pros, upsetting the establishment along the way by refusing to release them for county duty.   Allison, Alan Bell, Ken Flynn and wicket-keeper Robbie Harrison scored consistently.   The flowering of David Jackson, who averaged 40 in league matches between 1980-84, was particularly influential.   George Bull shared the bowling honours with pros Wasim Raja, D.D.Parsana, and Suresh Shastri.   Left-hander Wasim Raja endeared himself to Durham enthusiasts for 15 seasons with some colossal innings.   Wasim (qv) made a memorable 155 in his first knock for Shotley Bridge in 1984 and 202 off 133 balls (14 sixes, 14 fours) in his last.

Wasim won a second medal at Durham City, champions by large margins in 1982, 1984, 1986-87.   City had seven county men and an incisive opening attack in Gary Hulme, who passed 2,000 first team wickets in 2001, and Lander who counted 1,979 alongside 10,656 runs.   Strong batting featured Graham Hurst, Birtwisle, Weston, Hughes, Jonathon Bland and wicket-keeper Mercer who had 640 dismissals for City.   Birtwisle, competitive and not short on confidence, was supremely correct only lifting the ball when hitting square.   He made over 13,000 stylish league runs in an impressive career, topping DSL batting in 1974.   Hurst compiled relentlessly for a decade making 8,000 league runs at 38, a high average for an opener, and continued in like vein at Esh Winning.   He is remembered for a rare, selfless act in the last match of 1986.   City were already champions.   Hurst had passed Ron Leathard’s amateur record and was 130 short of Steve Small’s DSL record 1,284.   When Graham reached 125 he declared in the interests of winning the match.   City won by 55.   A succession of Sunderland pros reduced Small’s total to pygmy proportions.   Kirti Azad hit 1,293 in 1987, Gary Brown made 1,318 and 1,445 in successive years and Philo Wallace set the current record of 1,667 in 1996.

A pit was sunk at Horden in 1890.   Before long ,terraced housing raked a square mile of bleak moor within moan of the sea.   Horden had only 1,000 souls when the club gained league status in 1905.  Acrid, yellow smoke drifted across the colliery ground when the wind blew nor-east. J.C.Matthews, 45 years in the first team, made his debut before World War I.   He hit 200 not out in 1933, the only double century in D.Coast and its most neglected record.   The press proclaimed four lesser scores in the 1980s as new Coast League records.   Horden were three years without amenities in 1932 when they raised a new pavilion and flag.   It was unfurled by vice-chairman T.G.Mulgrew who confessed to dreams of flying another kind of flag.   They came true.   With Stan Ellis as pro, Horden were champions of D.Coast, D.Co and Mid-D.

PRO-FILE (No. 22)


(b. New Amsterdam, Guyana, 10 Feb 1962)

Ruthless left-hander who hit 1,000 league runs six times and 30 league hundreds, 51 in all, at Blackhall (1984-91).   Reached 150 nine times, the most in Durham club cricket, plus two more at Redcar (1992) and Normanby Hall (1996).   Scored a record 69 hundreds in NYSD.   Of 5 Tests, one was against England when called into West Indies touring side mid-way through his last season at Blackhall.   Declined to rejoin Blackhall as he did not want to confine his talents to one NYSD club.   Nor were his talents confined to batting for he often achieved startling bowling feats and brilliant catches.   Reached 1,000 NYSD runs each season at Normanby Hall (1994-97) and Redcar (1992-93) where his 1,938 runs in 1993 remains the record aggregate in NYSD.

Blackhall league record :   182 inns     28 not     10,036 runs     HS  202*     (av 65.2)

NYSD  league record :        320 inns     66 not     19,611 runs     (av 77.2)

Horden jacked-up their pavilion and rolled it to its present position on a narrow-gauge railway.   They signed quality pros from election to DSL in 1946 until 1980 but finished no higher than third.   In fact Horden were in the bottom three 15 times, six times wooden spoonists.   Success was the sweeter for that.   Off-spinner Derick Parry (qv) arrived in 1981.   It proved a fairy-tale signing in the year of a fairy-tale Royal Wedding.   Parry played twelve Tests for West Indies but was permanent twelfth man once they opted for sheer speed .   Parry believed he could improve his batting at Horden and regain his place.   That he never did was to the club’s benefit for he influenced the development of Stuart Wilson, Gary Purcell, Paul Patterson and Colin Spanton then Paul Hill, paceman Steve Ward and wicket-keeper David Sherrington.   They won 35 of fifty-one cup finals in 20 seasons and Spanton played in all but a losing final.   Parry predicted Horden would win the title in 1984.   He was four years premature but, when they did, they led from start to finish.   As did Eppleton, champions in 1989 with Jimmy Adams and a blend of experienced players Graham Johnson, Tony Birbeck, John Smithson, Dale Froud, the Andersons and 16-year-old Jimmy Daley.   Daley made his First-class debut in 1992, the year he shared a first wicket stand of 219 with Adams.

Clyde Butts succeeded Parry as West Indies’ off-spinner.   Butts (qv) enjoyed TV Westerns, rode into town in 1983 to shoot Blaydon to a first TSL title.   Blaydon played at Ryton Willows in 1876 but prefer to date formation from 1891 when they had a ground in the village, a pavilion and generous benefactor Sir Henry Clavering.   Fired by ambitious schoolmaster Tom Ryding and spearheaded by fast bowler Robson Thompson they won Derwent Valley League three times in 1909-12.   Thompson was lethal at that level and 60% of his 760 wickets were bowled.   Blaydon were champions of West Tyne League and NWD before election to TSL in 1972, their goal since 1908.   Batsman Tony King designed, and members built, the present pavilion.   It was home to growing success.   While Butts was hero, the title was just reward for David Richardson, first to score 10,000 for the club, and prodigious in-swinger Peter Carroll who left the shadows at Greenside and emerged Blaydon’s leading wicket-taker with 1,353 victims.   Ian Somerville and Paul Veitch formed a most productive and destructive opening partnership.

PRO-FILE (No. 23)


(b. Multan, Pakistan, 3 Jul 1952)

Popular, bearded all-rounder at Chester-le-Street (1977-80), Whitburn (1981), Durham City (1982), Shotley Bridge (1984-86), Philadelphia (1987-88) and Sacriston (1989-90).   Mercurial, entertaining left-hander who hit a six into a garage and smashed a Crypton tuning machine.   Sacriston were billed for the damage.   Modesty underlined by his self-derisory “I’m just a slogger”.   In June 1982 left City to join Pakistan squad in England.   Tour over, he hurriedly returned for last match to help City clinch the title.   Classic front-foot drives were completed with knee bent and left leg parallel to the ground; back-foot shots ended in a poised pirouette on the left foot.   Opted for accurate, whippy seam-up in club cricket but leg-breaks whenever he bowled in 57 Tests.   Now an international Test panel referee.

League record :    Batting       245 inns     37 not     9,243 runs     HS 202     (av 44.4)

Bowling     879 wkts for 12,091 runs     (av 13.8)

The classic combination of left-hand and right : Somerville serene, Veitch violent.   They still exhibit their everlasting skills.   Somerville stroked 159 for Blaydon in 2002 on the same Saturday that Veitch blasted 162 for Chopwell.

It took a hundred years for the area’s cricket to gain prominence before Felling won Tyne & District League three times to earn admission to NWD.   Bottom in 1973, a meteoric rise via D.Coast peaked at TSL’s summit in 1987.   Three successive titles followed in 1989-91 and they were elected to DSL.   Determined, combative, lean fast bowler Dave Parnaby was major reason for the transformation.   Parnaby ignited the rockets; all-rounder Madan Lal, completed an astonishing flight.   All four TSL titles were won during Madan Lal’s eight-year engagement.   A most resolute batsman, he was dismissed only six times in league matches in 1987 and was undefeated in 82 of 181 league innings for an average of 74.   His nagging control frustrated batsmen and his Test experience with India brought a competitive edge to the side that was not always appreciated on the circuit.   Fast bowler Chris Pleasants began his career at Felling in 1974.   He returned in 1987 and laid claim to his 3,000th wicket for the club in 2001.

PRO-FILE  (No. 24)


(b. Nevis, Leeward Islands, 22 Dec 1954)

One of finest pros in Durham.   Highly influential all-rounder whose engagement at Horden (1981-1991, 1993-96) is one of the longest at one club.   Reliable, thoughtful batsman who tailored his game to the needs of a strong batting side.   Not a classical stance and unhurried at times but an explosive hitter when required.   Scored 15 league hundreds.   Brilliant outfielder who, even at 48, made an incredible caught-and-bowled.   High-class off-spinner.   Quick through the air with a lovely loop and a lot of turn.   Took 5-or-more wkts in league matches 63 times.   Missed half of 1989 season through illness.

League record :    325 inns     90 not     10,736 runs     HS 130*     (av 45.69)      15 hundreds

994 wkts  for  14,014 runs     (av 14.0)

Swalwell won three titles between 1985-88.   Robert Stokoe, pro in the first two, cut his teeth in Consett’s title sides in the late 1970s.  He turned pro after topping TSL bowling and scoring a club record 155 not out.   Stokoes bred at will.   Rob’s father Bill was a distinguished batsman and brother Shaun was pro at Greenside where the aggressive left-hander had 15 hundreds in his 9,000 league runs (av 41).   Lesser twigs of the family tree were decent players.   Swalwell’s leading batsmen included unrelated Ian Stokoe, Don Robson’s son Ian, and Neil Burdon who later scored heavily for Shotley.   Neil Pickering, Alan Dumighan and Brian Taylor were the pick of an all-seam attack.

Leadgate followed up five consecutive NWD titles with a D.Co title in 1984, a marvellous period for inspirational pro Ernie Bewick together with Brian Farley, Dave Steadman, Austin Lee, Jeff Shield, Brian McNally, Joe McCabe and two more Stokoes.   McCabe was the key to success.   With 15 years as pro behind him Leadgate had two pros in all but name.    McCabe was an outstanding cricketer.   A mite parsimonious, perhaps, but single-minded with great belief in his ability.   A small, compact bat who conceded his wicket grudgingly; not flamboyant but clinically effective.   A miserly left-arm bowler with rhythmic, economical action.   He captained Durham Schoolboys, graduated through Leadgate’s ranks and won three league medals at Consett.   McCabe made such rapid progress that Roxby Surtees criticised county selectors for not picking him until 1962, a common enough experience for one or two in unfashionable TSL.   Signed by Beamish in 1965, McCabe passed 1,000 runs and took 148 wickets in all.   Pro at Annfield Plain in 1967-76, he exceeded 900 runs and 90 wickets in all each year.   Blaydon came closest yet to a TSL title with McCabe as pro in 1977-79.   Joe returned to Leadgate and played long enough to see his two sons bedded alongside him in the first team.

Kimblesworth rekindled pre-war NWD glories with four successive titles in 1988-91.   Having re-joined in 1974 they languished near the basement until Bobby Orton signed in 1986.   Orton’s “fiery pace” proved too much for most and Coxhoe in particular when he destroyed them with 10 for 20.

PRO-FILE (No. 25)


(b. Demerara, Guyana, 8 July 1957)

Popular pro at Blaydon (1983-85, 1994-97), Hartlepool (1991-92) and Bishop Auckland (1993).   Youngest of ten children who came late into cricket owing to cost of travelling from up-country 33 miles to Georgetown.   Married Marlene on the rest day of debut Test, the first of seven for West Indies.   Laid-back, soft-spoken off-spinner with mesmerising control of flight and change of pace.   Over a quarter of league overs were maidens.   Blaydon were thrice champions in his 7 years at the club.   His batting was not utilised quite so much in NYSD but, against their stronger batting, his accuracy commanded the utmost respect.

League record :    204 inns     53 not     6,273 runs     HS 187*     (av 41.5)                                                                              736 wkts  for  10,383  (av 14.1)

Nine were clean bowled, five with successive balls; seven got ‘ducks’, six of them bowled first ball.   North Bitchburn enjoyed even greater success in Mid-D.   They were champions in five successive seasons and undefeated in 1980-83.

Durham clubs regained some NYSD prestige despite Trenholm devaluing the mini-renaissance by saying standards were “lower than at any time in my 47 years as secretary”.   Bishop Auckland were champions in 1980.   Crowds scurried back to Kingsway to see the rollicking entertainment provided by big-hitters Lance Cairns, Bill Blenkiron and stocky Graham Smith.   Cairns in full flight was spectacular.   Signed in 1980 at a reported £4,000, the New Zealand Test all-rounder despatched the first two balls he received in NYSD for six and hammered 34 off an over later in the match.   Next year he hit a whirlwind 153, the last 53 off 13 balls.   Cairns’ fast-medium in-swing wreaked havoc, a third 8-wicket haul on 21 June 1980 sent Bishop to the top and an eventual title.   Three weeks later he passed Harry Turner’s club record 122 in a season and his final NYSD tally of 120 was a new record.

Bishop Auckland and Hartlepool fought a thrilling battle in 1988 when Cairns set the current NYSD record at 123 wickets.   ‘Bishops’ were top when the two met in July.   The match began explosively with David Jackson given out ‘handled the ball’.   The appeal was withdrawn but not the intensity.   Tommy Fountain’s six wickets restricted ‘Bishops’ to 125.   Hartlepool scrambled home off the second last ball to go top.   Fast bowler Ashley Day confirmed his potential, Mike Gough continued his prolific form and Andy Holland scored freely but it was Ashok Patel’s purple patch that kept Hartlepool’s nose in front to win the title.   Over half of the left-hander’s 1,139 league runs came in the last eight matches.   Ken Gardner still talks of Patel’s professionalism and attacking flair while passing 1,000 league runs in four of five seasons at Hartlepool.   Patel (qv) has been 23 years a pro, a marauding crusade putting bowlers to the sword.   There is no better accolade than compliment from a fellow pro.   In Greensword’s modern parlance “Patel is something else.”   When Hartlepool were champions in 1982 Rakesh Shukla hit 1,280 league runs and posed problems with leg-breaks and googlies in an effective, contrasting partnership with Johnny Johnston’s pace and accuracy.   Johnny-on-the-spot raised Cairns’ NYSD record by one in 1984.   Shukla, pro at Stockton and Thornaby either side of four seasons at Park Drive, hit 19 NYSD hundreds.

NYSD increased the length of matches in 1977 by introducing two o’clock starts and requiring 20 overs be bowled in the last hour.   When the number of matches were increased to 28 in 1982 clubs played more league cricket than ever.   Consequently long-standing batting records faded from memory.   Riddell and Haggie were first to reach 10,000 runs for Darlington and the opening partnership of Haggie and Lister rivalled that of Parnaby and Levy fifty years before.   John Lister returned from Derbyshire to score 1,112 and surpass F.R.Smith’s club record.   The run feast brought two further titles in 1985 and 1987, each by handsome margins.   Mike Hatch, then at his peak, went on to exceed Goodrick’s record club aggregate.   He and pro new ball partners, Andrew Scott and Johnny Johnston, were grateful to Andrew Fothergill’s slick wicket-keeping.   A forcing bat, Fothergill later played First-class for Durham.   Johnston reverted to amateur in 1990 and captained Darlington to a twentieth NYSD title, six more than Guisborough and nine more than the next best Durham club.

Synthonia gained an unexpected, and ultimately nervy, first title in 1983.   Wellock described it “a transformation from doormats to front-runners”.   Billingham Synthonia (a contraction of Synthetic Ammonia) formed in 1923.   Industrial mergers spawned ICI Billingham and a monstrous, overhead pall of smoke.   Synthonia were elected to NYSD in 1930.   Next year ICI built a ground close to the works at Belasis Avenue.   So close it was bombed in 1940.   All-rounder and groundsman-pro Bert Morgan ensured a promising start but even with Crawford, Wilkinson, wicket-keeper Vin Evans, Lenny Govan and Colin Metson subsequent seasonal form was as about reliable as the English weather.   George Linton brought a sunny interval from Barbados.   With all-rounder Linton dominant and seamer Barry Jeffels back to form the ‘Sinners’ were champions despite winning only two of the last eight matches.

Ryhope staged a remarkable revival after finishing bottom in 1977-78.   They twice won three successive D.Coast championships in the space of seven years, each by ever-increasing margins except for the last when defeating arch-rivals Hetton Lyons in a play-off.    The powerful nucleus of the side came together at the start of the decade : Keith Trotter, Ian Hauxwell, Alan Dick, Ken Rudd and the Borthwick brothers.   Young David Borthwick was not too fond of fielding.   It was even said he would pretend to pull a muscle to get off the field.   Someone suggested he put on the gloves and, problem solved, he developed into a fine batsman-wicket-keeper and had trials with Nottinghamshire.   Had he been in a ‘fashionable’ league David might have played more Minor Counties cricket.   D.Coast was improving but their best were overlooked.   Borthwick’s successful seasons at Whitburn (1,121 league runs in 1993) proved he was capable in the best company.

PRO-FILE  (No. 26)


(b. Nairobi, Kenya, 23 Sep 1956)

Prolific all-rounder at Burnmoor (1980-3), Hetton Lyons (1984-5, 1994), Hartlepool (1986-90), Seaham Harbour (1991), Whitburn (1992-3), Darlington (1995-7), Philadelphia (1999-2000) and South Shields (2001-2).   Toured West Indies with Young England alongside Mike Gatting after they were together in school representative and club cricket.   They were also together at Middlesex.   Patel studied at Durham University, married a Durham girl and took up a teaching post in the county when Middlesex offered only a one-year contract.   Attacking left-hander whose 41 league hundreds is the most in Durham club cricket.   Brilliant gully fielder.   Captured countless wickets with slow left-arm.   ‘Ash’ can be gritty on the field, a will to succeed rooted in his Middlesex days.   Virtually every club that signed him improved on previous year’s performance.   None more startlingly than South Shields, transformed from wooden-spoonists to runners-up in 2001.

League record : 18,000 runs (av 45)

Ryhope went 63 matches undefeated during a second ‘hat-trick’ of titles in 1987-89.   Their delightful ground was now a batting paradise and in 1988 they amassed 405 for 5 against Dawdon, the highest league total for 95 years.   Joe Bittlestone’s 178 capped a memorable season in which he set a D.Coast record aggregate of 1,353 runs.   A high proportion of the opener’s 24 league hundreds were big ones, three over 150.   Joe may not have the widest range of shots but has that rare skill of precise placement and once scored 155 off only 75 balls.   He was another thought only capable of ‘easy’ runs when not confronted by high calibre bowling.   Joe knocked that theory on the head when averaging 45 in DSL in 1990.   Ryhope rated Alan Dick the best bat in D.Coast.   Initially inclined to play over-freely, he developed a more secure technique when pro on a sporty track at Seaham Park.   Alan worked hard to become a gun-barrel-straight bowler whose form helped Seaham Park retain a respectable position.

Cricket, batting in particular, now bristled with purpose and aggression.   Traditionalists still fretted about illicit payments and bowlers’ lack of penetration and, of course, some sides were weak.   However the weak struggled through their difficulties to earn credit for guts and determination.   Not for them the glory of medals and cups.   Success was avoiding the ‘wooden spoon’ and survival next year.   Gary Purcell’s later career provides illustration.   Gary crept into Horden’s slumbering side in the 1970s.   He missed out on their first DSL championship but had the compensation of two D.Co titles in 1986-87 with the star-studded Lyght brigade at Crook.   By then he was an established opener, studious foil to aggressive Andrew Lyght and Ian Williams, and useful change bowler.   Following a third title in 1991, schoolmaster Purcell moved to less frenetic surroundings at Mainsforth who had languished near the bottom in four of the six preceding seasons.   Purcell averages 30 over the last ten seasons and has exceeded 500 league wickets.   His story has no fairy-tale end.   Gary is simply an example of those who give their all, week after week, for teams unlikely to win a title but whose consistency and reliability make their club competitive rather than candidates for the wooden-spoon.

There were diverse developments beyond the league scene.    Durham appointed Pauline Peel to invigorate women’s cricket.   Michael Potts gained the support of Durham City Council to organise a Festival for European clubs.   It was notable for its enthusiasm, particularly the photographer who stood at third slip to snap the action, and expanded into a successful World Club Cricket Festival in 1997.   Durham University’s growing reputation owed much to the vigorous direction of Grenville Holland.   The University now stood comparison with their traditional Oxbridge betters and supplied the core of the Combined Universities XI in 1989.   Tim O’Gorman had already made his Derbyshire debut and James Boiling, Jon Longley and Martin Speight later earned contracts at Durham.   A fifth, Nasser Hussain, whose father played for South Shields, is England’s current captain.

Chapter 23

Chapter 21

%d bloggers like this: