In a previous post of this series on the heroic deeds of the staff cricket team, I had started going through a number of episodes which are also mentioned in my bestselling book, and my Hollywood and Bollywood screenplay, “Nottingham High School: an Anecdotal History”. If I remember rightly I had just discussed how crap I was at cricket compared to one prodigiously gifted member of the team who merely needed me to be there to do the fielding while he and the other superstars did all the batting and the bowling and showed off all their talents.
Not that I felt insulted by his words. They did not make me angry. No, Not at all.
The next mention of staff cricket in the book comes on the evening of Wednesday, June 21st 1978.
By then, the staff cricket team had two usual umpires, the young idiot Me, and the much more experienced Allan Sparrow, a History teacher. Whereas the first named umpire, Me, lived in permanent dread of having to make a decision which would upset his elders and betters by sending them back to the pavilion some 96 or so runs short of their century, the senior partner, Allan Sparrow, true to his own wonderfully analytical character, had no such scruples.
This particular day, in the very first moments of the game, the opposition’s opening bowler managed to trap, plumb in front of the wicket, with his score still stuck on zero, a very important batsman indeed. Standing far away at square leg, the young idiot, Me, thanked the cricketing gods that he was standing far away at square leg and would not be required to make a decision. The shrieked appeal of “howzat” died away in the quietness of the evening:
Umpire Sparrow waited for a moment. Then he raised the dreaded digit to the skies. What an angry trudge back to the pavilion for a very disappointed batsman . It was the bravest thing I have ever seen in the history of sport.
During the following year of 1979, staff cricket continued on apace, counting among its stars such sporting luminaries as Chris Chittenden, Paul Dawson, Bob Dickason, Claude Dupuy, Phil Eastwood, Steven Fairlie, Simon Jenkins, Dave Phillips, Graham Powell, Tony Slack, Chris Smith, Roger Stirrup and Norman Thompson.
Here’s Bob Dickason, Phil Eastwood, Dave Phillips, Tony Slack, three quarters of Chris Smith, and Norman Thompson:
Claude Dupuy, by the way, was the French assistant, who, after living for a year in Mansfield went back to win the All-France University prize for speaking colloquial English. Chris Chittenden was a Geography teacher who worked at the School in the interval between Charlie Stephens and Bob Howard. Chris had four nationalities. His father was English, he was born in India, his mother was from New Zealand and he was brought up in Australia. Poor, poor man, he lived a healthy life only to be cut down by cancer at just 40 years of age. I will be eternally grateful to him because he was the man who organised for three of us to drive down to Wembley after school one evening to watch England-Holland at football and we all saw Johann Cruyff play at Wembley. And we saw him introduce the Cruyff turn to the world. Here’s Bob Howard:
Such was the fame of the staff team that a member of staff appointed as a teacher for the following Christmas Term actually came along to play in a number of fixtures.
This was Ray Moore, who at the time sported a fashionable Afro hairdo, unencumbered by any such refinement as a protective helmet. Here’s a picture of him a week after the game, when he’d lost that Afro:
On one occasion, Ray was facing an extremely wild fast bowler, whose main interest in life seemed to be scaring the living daylights out of opposing batsmen, with bouncer after bouncer. After a series of whistlingly fast deliveries, he finished his over with a fast, lifting ball, which actually went through Ray’s hair. The moment when Ray advanced down the wicket, shouting loudly, and waving a menacing cricket bat, was, I believe, the closest the staff team ever came to an actual punch-up.
19 responses to “Staff cricket : the Golden Years (3)”
John, yet another wonderful post. Many thanks for this, and those still to come… Hope your hand is better. Regards Andy
Thanks very much for your very kind words. I can’t vouch for the posts to come however. Still to come are a look at 1960s comics, VE-Day in 1945 and some stories about the RAF.
We used to have an umpire called Alf Shepherd, he had retired from work and from playing cricket but we always took him along to matches because he was like having an extra man in the team!
It sounds a little bit like events when England toured Pakistan in the 1960s. Umpires were provided by the home team and the English bowlers had to smash stumps in half to claim a wicket in those days. It was always difficult to get Hanif Mohammed out, and he made his way to some extraordinary scores. Still, the Gods of Fair Play got their revenge when he was run out for 499.
My dad once told me never to complain, the umpire is always right even when he is wrong!
Bob Howard has a grin that seems to show he knows something we don’t! 🙂
Yes, Bob could always see the funny side of life. He was a marvellous young man and we got on “like a house on fire” as we say in England.
Another brilliant post John! I. Can just see Ray racing down the pitch, bat in hand and hair ablaze with rage!
Thank you. The only thing I have ever seen that came close was when Dennis Lillee, the Australian fast bowler, had a quiet discussion with a much disliked batsman called Javed Miandad. The video is best after about 40 seconds.
Well I never! That’s just not cricket! If he’d hit him with the bat he’d have killed him!
Fabulous post. Arthur giving (DP?) the finger … analytically.
Wrong guess, I’m afraid, but I’m pleased that you enjoyed the post so much.
It *must* be Tony Slack. The rumour was that he’d been on the books at a league side (Rotherham Utd?), so a natural sportsman.
You’ll see a little about Tony next time. He certainly was a natural sportsman.
Hugely entertaining post, John
Thank you Derrick. Cricket like this is what the sport is all about. And rugby and football come to that. As Kipling said, “the flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals”.
Is that you after curly haired guy and before guy with square rimmed glasses. The one with massive sideburns?
I guess not? None of the six names are John Knifton.
No, sorry to disappoint you, Lloyd. I decided that the world wasn’t quite ready yet to see my Hollywood handsome features, especially as you all had to get used to looking at those sporting Orcs in the slideshow. Don’t worry though. I have saved the best for last and I make four appearances in the next post about staff cricket.