Chapter Fourteen

The End Of An Era

The 1996 season followed the pattern of the previous year with Nelson making a disastrous start. Again they lost seven of the first nine league matches. A good recovery in mid-season lifted the team to sixth place, only 18 points adrift of the league leaders but three defeats in the last four matches meant that the final position was eighth - a placing even below that of Colne!

Joe Scuderi reached a thousand runs again and hit a further two league centuries. A century in the Worsley Cup took his tally to 19 in the six years that he had been club professional but the committee decided not to retain his services for a further period, thinking that a change was in the best interests of the club. Another era in the history of the Nelson club was ending. Scuderi's aggregate of runs in the league was 6698, exactly 300 more than Learie Constantine had made in his nine seasons as professional. Connie's record with the ball was, however, much superior. A total of 778 wickets (an average of 86 per season) against Scuderi's 406 (an average of 68 per season).

Paul Garaghty was the only amateur to show any consistency with either bat or bowl and he managed to achieve a person best of 740 runs at a fantastic average of 41.11. No other batsman averaged above 20 and the pick of the bowlers was 17 year old Danny Kegg who took 30 wickets at just over 20 apiece.

Joe Scuderi was involved in six century partnerships, four of them with Paul Garaghty. The total century stands that these two had made during the six years they played together reached 14, the best being 197, away to Todmorden in 1994 and again at home to Lowerhouse in 1996. Both stands constituted the club record for the third wicket.

The new professional for 1997 was late in arriving due to domestic cricket commitments in South Africa and substitute professionals were required for the first three weeks of the season. Inclement weather, however, meant that Alan Dawson missed only two matches, one of which was covered by Joe Scuderi who was over on holiday. In that particular match Scuderi hit a remarkable 95 not out to steer Nelson to an incredible win.

For the first match of the season, a relatively unknown West Indian, J.B.Grant, was appointed and he contributed little in an overwhelming defeat at the hands of East Lancashire. The poor start left Nelson struggling in the lower reaches of the table for most of the season and, in the circumstances, perhaps ninth place was as good as could be expected.

Alan Dawson managed only 445 runs and, despite some decent bowling performances early on, finished with a disappointing 58 wickets. Paul Garaghty was again the mainstay of the batting line-up and he recorded 691 runs at an average of 32.9. Duncan Spencer produced several innings of note and a century in the last match of the season was the high-light. His total of 612 was his best since transferring to Nelson. Only one other batsman, Marcus Phelan, reached 200 runs for the season and he only just made it - 204!

None of the bowlers produced any outstanding form either, the top wicket taker amongst the amateurs being Trevor Kegg with 29. But those wickets cost him over 31 runs each.

A new innovation was started during the 1997 season whereupon the Lancashire League joined forces with the Central Lancashire League in an "Inter-league Challenge Trophy". Wherever possible, Lancashire League clubs were drawn against Central Lancashire League clubs in each round and Nelson defeated Norden, Stockport and Milnrow to reach the semi-final stage. Rain prevented a result being obtained when Nelson visited Littleborough and the match had to be decided by a "bowl out". Each member of both teams had to bowl at a set of stumps and that finished 1-1. The only successful Nelson bowler was wicket-keeper Michael Bradley! The sudden death bowl-out was won when Littleborough's third bowler hit the stumps. Littleborough went on to beat Werneth in the final.

Nelson went out of the Worsley Cup in the second round, having received a bye in the first. Haslingden beat Nelson comfortably, despite a whirl-wind century from Alan Dawson.

The fortunes of Nelson Cricket Club changed for the better early in 1998 when the committee was successful in obtaining the services of the popular West Indian spinner, Roger Harper. He had taken a year out from League cricket to run a cricket coaching school in Florida. He had spent eight highly successful seasons at Bacup and was looking to play League cricket again. His record at Bacup was:-