My Cricketing Memories – Part II
ALTHOUGH I was a better footballer than cricketer, cricket was my number one passion as a young man. Not just playing the game but watching it as well.
During Somerset’s golden years of Ian Botham, Vic Richards and Joel Garner, I enjoyed many a trip to Lord’s, the headquarters of cricket at St John’s Wood, in the company of my great pal John Stamp to see the Cidermen play in the one-day finals.
John and I also followed the England team and were lucky enough to travel to Barbados to see a test match against the wonderful West Indies, the kings of cricket in those days. The match was played at the old Kennington Oval in Bridgetown and we were fortunate to see one of the fastest balls ever bowled when Michael Holding, known as ‘The Whispering Death’ dispensed of England opener Geoffrey Boycott with a 99mph corker in the fifth ball of the game.
Our apartment was directly opposite a very popular bar called The Ship where we saw the England wicketkeeper, David Bairstow, being carried out of the pub the night before the opening test. The next day Bairstow trotted out in front of the team looking fresh as a daisy, but he did drop the Windies’ captain, Sir Clive Lloyd, when he was on a duck. Sir Clive went on to score a match-winning century.
I enjoyed many trips abroad with Stomper but you had to be a fast talker or fast runner to keep out of trouble in his company. None more so when we inadvertently wandered into a gay bar in Majorca and were on our second pint before we realised all the blokes were dancing with each other!
I finished part one of my cricketing memories with the story of the wonderful Dennis Applebee, saviour of Uplyme and Lyme CC in the 1980s, ruining his dress shirt which his wife had mistakenly packed for him.
I could fill the whole of this paper with Dennis Applebee tales. One that immediately comes to mind was the occasion when Dennis was stoically batting out the game at No 10 in a bid to avoid defeat. Suddenly a car screeched into the village hall car park before it was tarmaced. Out of the cloud of dust was that was sent skywards stepped Dennis’ wife, Sheila, not a woman to allow a mere cricket match to take priority over business matters.
Sheila stepped towards the boundary and just as Dennis was about to play yet another defensive potential match-saving shot, she screamed: “Dennis, the hotel’s on fire!” Apparently they could hear her in Shapwick.
Dennis pulled out of his shot and apologised to the umpire as he tucked his bat under his arm and trudged off, saying: “Sorry ump, the missus needs me.”
One of Dennis’ greatest achievements was pulling off a game against the Crossarrows at Lord’s cricket ground to celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary. It was a day we shall never forget, crowned by a superb century by the club’s most stylish batsman, Mike Denham. Just think about it, scoring 100 at the home of cricket! The stuff of dreams. But Mike took it all in his stride in his usual calm and collected way.
I was working in London at the time but drove back to Lyme late the night before, arriving home around midnight, only to get up a 4am to catch the team bus back to London. I didn’t want to miss one minute of this special occasion and opportunity to play at Lord’s.
Well, when I say play, I was actually 13th man but I changed for the team photo under Old Father Time. I spent the rest of the day in the bar and pavilion which overlooks the Nursery Ground where the game was played.
I distinctly recall Terry Matthews ordering several drinks for himself just before 2.30pm. When the barman asked why he was doing that, Terry said he was getting them in for the afternoon before the bar shut, as they always did in Uplyme at 2.30pm. “Don’t worry,” said the barman. “We don’t close the bar until 6.30 this evening.”
Brian Rattenbury’s rain dance at the dinner
The day finished with a celebratory dinner at the Cumberland Hotel opposite the Lord’s cricket ground. This was a very special day for a group of young men from Devon and Dorset.
Dennis did a fantastic job organising the occasion and, if I recall, he made a very emotional speech at the dinner. It meant a great deal to him, hosting such an occasion in London where he was born and played most of his cricket.
Abiding memory of the day was Brian Rattenbury making use of a tablecloth at the dinner to do a rain dance. Don’t ask me why. The dinner was attended by a number of apprentices at Lord’s and they had no idea what was going on. I’m not sure we did either.
During the evening Babe McMurtry, wife of umpire Jim, was not feeling well. I arranged for her to rest in one of the hotel bedrooms but she wanted to get home as soon as she could. So we summoned a cab to take her and Jim to Paddington station (the last train for Waterloo had already left) and they caught a taxi from Taunton to Lyme.
I remember the cab pulling away from the Cumbertland as Babe wound down the window and said: “Pip, you will look after my Ian won’t you?” “If course I will Mrs McMurtry,” I replied. “You know you can trust me.” Sniggers all round.
Our bus left London around midnight and we arrived home as daylight was rising over the old pavilion at Uplyme. What a day.
In the 2nd XI, we did not take things quite as seriously as the club’s first teamers. Although we always played to win, having fun was a great part of our cricketing exploits. And there were many hilarious moments. No more so that when we were playing an away game. I was keeping wicket and Stomper was in the slips.
Pete Kirkman was the bowler and one of his deliveries struck the upper thigh of the batsmen. I caught the ball behind, threw to Stomper at first slip who returned it to the bowler. Just as Pete was coming in for his next delivery, a flame shot out of the pocket of the batsmen.
Stomper, who had just been appointed station officer for Charmouth Fire Brigade, immediately sprung into action and extinguished the pocket blaze. It transpired that the batsmen had a box of Swan Vesta in his pocket which ignited when the ball hit his leg.
It was recorded in the scorebook that the batsmen had “retired on fire”. I sold the story to The Sun on Monday morning for the princely sum of £40!
In the third part of this series I will recall how we raised the money to build the new pavilion at the King George V playing field and rekindle some memories of the great characters who have played for Uplyme & Lyme Regis Cricket Club over the years.