Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Golden memories

I had a great chat with Dad last night, in which we talked over our respective memories of our early days of cricket watching together.

There were plenty of them and we used to pile into his Ford Anglia, ensure we had plenty of sun cream (just in case) and waterproof jackets (more likely needed) and then head off for the day. Chesterfield was our most common and most enjoyed venue, but it was also Derby, Heanor, Ilkeston, Burton and Buxton over many years.

We always had the deck chairs with us, arrived early and ensured our 'spot', usually by the sightscreen on the smaller grounds, but mid wicket, where the Media Centre now sits, at Derby. On cold days we'd sit in the car, Dad starting up the engine to keep us warm from time to time, but we normally ended up with good weather for our visits, or at least so it seems from memory.

We were at Buxton the day before the legendary snow in 1975, when Lancashire ran up well over 400 on the first day and the Derbyshire attack got hit further and further by every batsman who came in on a belter of a wicket. Clive Lloyd appeared to be aiming for the town centre, as he teed off from the word go.

Then of course, the Derbyshire batsmen were caught on a soaked wicket when play resumed on day three after the snow on day two and bowled out twice. Lancashire would have been were the roles reversed, as the wicket was deadly, balls lifting off a length spitefully. Ashley Harvey-Walker taking out his false teeth and handing them to Dickie Bird told its own story...

Between 1967 and 1977 we saw most home matches through the summer, unless the forecast was so poor to render the trip pointless. I vividly recall my excitement on waking to find the sun coming in my bedroom window, sometimes tempered by a first sight of a soaked garden and the indication of overnight rain.

That was the case for the 1969 Gillette Cup semi-final, when we went along anyway and were rewarded by one of the most amazing days in the club's history. It is just a shame that I wasn't old enough to fully appreciate that at the time, thinking such days would be commonplace. They weren't and we played poorly in the final at Lord's, a few weeks later. A few other times too, over the years.

My departure for Manchester and further education  meant we could only go in summer holidays, but we still managed to do so regularly and had some fine days. I went to Old Trafford with friends while up north, but it never felt the same, apart from one time when we played them there and the great Barlow bustled about the pitch as I told my pals of his greatness...

Dad's 89 now and less able to get about and sit around for any length of time, but he still follows the news, asks what is happening at the club and is on the phone as soon as a story breaks. He is still intolerant of failure and I have lost count of the number of trips home where he had 'sacked' eight or nine of the team that had just lost a game. It will be just the same this summer.

I asked him last night about his favourite players over the years and the names came thick and fast. Edwin Smith, Harold Rhodes, George Dawkes, Bob Taylor, Dean Jones, Michael Holding, Kim Barnett: he settled on two as favourites.

'You'll never see a better opening bowler than Les Jackson', he opined. 'He'd bowl all morning, then start all over again after lunch. Took wickets when things were in his favour and rarely got hit when they weren't. A brilliant bowler.' It was an opinion I expected, but accounted for the only time in my life I saw him tongue-tied, when we met the great man at Derby during his club presidency.

Overseas player? 'You can have them all and there were some right good ones', he said 'but there'll never be one who transformed a club like Eddie Barlow. Turned Derbyshire from sh*te to shining in no time at all. A wonderful bloke'.

It wasn't the sort of phrase that you'd have seen written by Swanton or Cardus, but it summed things up quite nicely.

May his 90th summer be a special one.

1 comment:

Mark said...

My main memory of Buxton Peakfan was crowd trouble between Derbys and Lancs fans back in 84, if my memory serves me correct. I'm sure it was still the John Player League back then and it was definitely on a Sunday.