Chapter Eleven

Batting Records Broken

The club celebrated its Centenary in 1978 but there was little to celebrate on the playing activities and the First Eleven lost eleven of the first twelve matches. A mini-recovery developed mid-season with four successive victories but, losing six of the last seven fixtures, the team ended the season in next to the bottom position. Larry Gomes was still the club professional and he scored a further 834 runs at an average over 52 but it was in the bowling department where the Nelson side was weakest. Pat Calderbank had a poor season by his standards and took only 37 wickets whilst Gomes' 43 wickets cost over 20 runs each. Chris Hartley was the only amateur batsman to pass the 300 mark and he averaged over 25 in scoring 580 runs. Gomes (86 not out) and Hartley (69) had a third wicket partnership worth 144 in the home match with Lowerhouse.

On the recommendation of Jack Simmons, the Lancashire county player who played cricket in Tasmania during the English winters, a young Tasmanian called Stephen Howard was signed as professional for 1979. Simmons ought to have known the standard required for a professional in the Lancashire League, having played in the League himself, but Howard was well below that standard. His 34 wickets cost over 28 runs each and he made only 471 runs. The amateurs did quite well with Pat Calderbank leading the way and having his best season to date. He took 64 wickets at an average of 12.7 and young Peter Varley collected 30 wickets with his spin bowling at a modest cost of 16.37 runs each. Peter's brother, Ken, also did well, scoring 389 runs for an average over 20 whilst Chris Hartley made another 445 runs.

Top of the batting averages was "new boy" Ian Clarkson who had joined the club from neighbours Earby. After doing well in the Ribblesdale League, his first season in the Lancashire League was a triumph. He scored 538 runs in cavalier fashion and was immediately "adopted" by the Nelson public. Two other batsmen combined to create a new record for the fifth wicket on 14 July at home to Church. Ken Bythell (74) and Derek Grandfield (54 not out) put on 123 runs before being parted. So, due to the efforts of the amateurs, the team finished in a respectable sixth position.

After an extremely successful season in the Central Lancashire League where he took well over 100 wickets, Derek Parker became the next Nelson professional. Unfortunately he was unable to reproduce that sort of form for Nelson and took only 66 wickets. In 22 innings Parker scored exactly 200 runs! Ian Clarkson headed the batting averages again but could only muster 396 runs and Chris Hartley's 379 was disappointing. Despite Pat Calderbank achieving a personal best of 65 wickets, the team finished bottom of the league. The one bright spot of the season was in the home fixture with Colne. In a rain affected match, Nelson had declared at 88 for 9 and, with six overs to go, Colne had reached 77 for 5. Twelve minutes later Colne were allout for 77 - Parker had 5 for 36 and Calderbank 4 for 20.

1981 was full of promise with the signing of the Indian opening bowler and hard hitting batsman, Kapil Dev. The team was in contention for honours most of the season, thanks largely to the professional and the talented Ian Clarkson. Kapil Dev hit eight half-centuries and took five wickets on 7 occasions whilst Clarkson passed the 50 mark six times. Dev accumulated 880 runs and took 71 wickets to complete a sound all round performance. Clarkson's 823 was only 12 runs short of Chick Hawkwood's record. After winning 16 matches Nelson was placed fourth.

Kapil Dev was unable to return in 1982 because the Indians were touring England and Neil Radford, released by Lancashire, became the new professional. Radford bowled well and was rewarded with 94 wickets. He took five or more wickets in nine matches with his best performance being at home to Enfield when he took 8 for 43. In the home match with East Lancashire his 8 for 48 included the hat-trick.

Pat Calderbank collected a further 56 wickets, Chris Hartley scored 560 runs and Ian Clarkson hit 768 which included a marvellous unbeaten century at Haslingden. Despite all these successes the team dropped to sixth place.

Alan Haigh received an injury in only the second match of the season and decided to announce his retirement from the game. In all his first team appearances, covering thirty-three seasons, he had succeeded in claiming a League record total of 717 victims - 508 caught and 209 stumped.

Sarfraz Nawaz was signed to return as professional for 1983 but he failed to appear. Even on the day of the first fixture he was still expected to arrive but a professional from a neighbouring league had to stand in at the last minute. The club was faced with the difficult task of obtaining the services of a good class professional when all other clubs had made their arrangements. The signing of Graham Roope, the former England Test player, seemed to be a worthy choice but he only managed to score 466 runs (average 27.41) and take 47 wickets (average 19.45). The amateurs continued to put in some sterling performances and Pat Calderbank was the leading bowler with another 61 wickets and Howard Lonsdale, a transferee from Colne, scored a creditable 479 runs. The success story of the year though was Ian Clarkson's record breaking 888 runs at an incredible average of 49.33. Ian also equalled the club record of scoring three centuries in one season. He scored 106 out of Nelson's total of 147 for 4 at Todmorden (he was third out with the score on 137), made 112 not out at home to Accrington and 106 not out at Lowerhouse.

Nelson signed as professional for 1984 Stephen Gill who hailed from Nelson in New Zealand but, for the second consecutive year, the professional failed to arrive. Tahir Naqqash was quickly lined up for the position and actually played in one match but then it was discovered that there would be a long delay in obtaining a work permit. Barry Wood stepped into the breach and seemed to be the ideal replacement as he played and coached with enthusiasm. After only seven matches, however, personal problems came to the fore and he asked to be released from his contract. Substitute professionals had to be appointed for the next three fixtures before a young Barbadian, Terry Hunte, arrived to complete the remainder of the season. Despite all the set-backs the team managed a mid-table position and four amateurs exceeded 400 runs - Ian Clarkson (699), Chris Hartley (568), Howard Lonsdale (437) and an up-and-coming Paul Garaghty (403).

Terry Hunte was signed for 1985 to see what he could achieve in a full season, having showed some promise in the second half of that 1984 season, but his performances were very disappointing and only two amateurs came out with much distinction. Ian Clarkson again passed the 500 mark and averaged over 30 and Peter Cockell had his best season, taking 44 wickets for only 14.2 runs each. Peter's best single performance was a 7 for 27 return in the home match with Enfield. Clarkson notched another century, remaining unbeaten on 105 as Nelson compiled 161 for 1 in reply to Ramsbottom's 157 for 7. Howard Lonsdale had scored 34 in an opening stand of 139.