Chapter Nine

The Sixties

There was quite an exciting start to the 1961 season despite some atrocious weather. Nelson won the first match at home to Rawtenstall but the match at Ramsbottom was abandoned without a ball being bowled. The following week, with Church as visitors to Seedhill, Chester Watson wrecked the Nelson innings with his devastating fast bowling. In his nine overs he had six maidens and took six wickets for five runs. Nelson could only reach a total of 51 and Church steadily progressed to 30 for the loss of only one wicket. But that soon became 32 for 6 as, in the space of three overs, Wardle took 4 for 1! Even at 48 for 8 Church must still have been favourites to win but the ninth wicket fell at that score and the final wicket went down when number eleven batsman was run out attempting to level the scores. Church were allout for 50 with Johnny Wardle finishing with 5 for 16.

Denis Smith and Bob Warburton were responsible for hitting two century partnerships, both for the second wicket, during the season. Smith was 72 not out and Warburton made 65 in a stand of 122 as Nelson went on to register their highest score at home to Ramsbottom. 229 for 5 was Nelson's reply to Ramsbottom's 228 for 8 declared. Then at Bacup, responding to the home side's 180 for 6 declared, Smith (52) and Warburton (71) converted a score of 9 for 1 to 118 for 2 and Nelson went on to pass their target with the loss of only four wickets.

Nelson eventually tied for second place with Burnley but Accrington were worthy champions, being eight points in the lead. Four points were awarded for a win, the change from three points having been made in 1956.

With Roy Pickles returning from the professional ranks, Nelson were optimistic about their chances for 1962 but four of the first ten matches were lost, the remainder being drawn. But on 16th June fortunes changed. Wardle made 124 in 91 minutes, hitting 4 sixes and 18 fours. His third wicket stand with Denis Smith (76 not out) realised 174 runs and was a club record. Nelson declared at 224 for 3 and Todmorden were bowled out for 143, Wardle claiming 6 for 39.

Wardle was lacking in amateur bowling support and Nelson's inability to bowl teams out resulted in only four victories all season and a rather disappointing twelfth position in the league table. Roy Pickles had not been used as a bowler and his 336 runs was below expectations.

The committee decided that a bowler with genuine pace was the recipe for bowling sides out and Wardle was not re-engaged. In fact, Wardle was promptly signed by Rishton and was to become a thorn in Nelson's side for several seasons. Nelson obtained the services of Australian Des Hoare and half way through the 1963 season he had 56 wickets to his credit and the team was challenging for honours. Unfortunately, Nelson failed to win a single match afterwards and had to settle for seventh place. Hoare's final wicket tally was 91.

1964 was not a particularly successful season either but Colne supporters must have wanted to forget their encounters with the old enemy that season. The first meeting, at Colne, resulted in Colne being dismissed for 55 with Des Hoare recording the marvellous figures of 12.7 overs, 5 maidens, 14 runs, 9 wickets. Nelson replied with 56 for 1. In the return fixture at Nelson, the home side batted first and scored 142 for 8 declared with Frank Taylor, an ex-Colne captain, making 51. Colne were then bowled out for 58 with Des Hoare taking 6 for 8 in 12 overs and Taylor claiming 4 for 9.

Nelson experienced the highest and lowest emotions in the Worsley Cup competition. First of all, Des Hoare saw to it that Lowerhouse had no further interest in the cup as he took 7 for 19 in their all out total of 37. Then, in the Second Round, Rishton made 122 with Hoare and Frank Taylor taking four wickets each. Roy Pickles and David Reeves gave Nelson a sound start with a 53 opening stand but, after Pickles had gone for 33 and Reeves for 23, Johnny Wardle - now professional at Rishton - wreaked havoc with the Nelson batsmen and no-one reached double figures as Nelson crashed to 69 all out!

Saeed Ahmed, the Pakistani Test player, came to Nelson in 1965 and Frank Taylor was elected First Eleven captain. Not only did the League trophy return to Nelson but the Worsley Cup was also captured. Taylor became the first player to lead two clubs to the "double", having captained Colne in 1959 when the "double" was last achieved. Saeed had had a most impressive debut season and headed both the batting and the bowling averages with 637 runs and 99 wickets. Frank Taylor was second in the bowling averages after taking 41 wickets at a cost of 12.44 runs each. The pair of them were also in the news when Saeed (66) and Taylor (57 not out) compiled a century third wicket partnership on the Horsfield, helping Nelson to a six wicket win over Colne.

In the First Round of the Worsley Cup Ramsbottom visited Seedhill and, batting first, made 105 all out. Keith Derbyshire was the pick of the Nelson bowlers, finishing with 5 for 34 from 16 overs. Saeed Ahmed was top scorer with 40 as Nelson replied with 107 for 4. Saeed put in a brilliant all-round performance in the next round as Nelson disposed of Rawtenstall. Saeed took 5 for 50 in 20 overs as Rawtenstall progressed to 162 all out and then he hit 63 to help Nelson to 164 for 4.

The Worsley Cup rules had changed in 1964 and it had become a limited overs competition. Forty eight-ball overs was the limit and, in the semi-final against Todmorden in 1965, Nelson had reached 200 for 7 at the end of their allocation. Roy Pickles had scored 44 as Nelson struggled to 104 for 6 but Bill Oddie (42) and Keith Derbyshire (55 not out) added 92 for the seventh wicket to give Nelson a winning score. Todmorden could only manage 103 all out as, Ken Marsden produced match winning figures of 4 for 16 from 52 balls. Nelson were favoured with a home draw in the final and had little difficulty in bowling East Lancashire out for 105, Saeed Ahmed taking 6 for 42 and Keith Derbyshire 4 for 37. Roy Pickles opened the innings with Denis Smith and he struck the winning boundary as Nelson coasted to victory with 108 for 2. Roy was left unbeaten on 54.

Saeed Ahmed returned in 1966 but was not quite as effective as the previous season despite taking 9 for 18 in the very first fixture at home to Rawtenstall. The amateur batsmen failed to give the professional sufficient support, only Roy Pickles scoring more than 250 runs. Roy, in fact, had a wonderful season and recorded more than 500 runs in a season for the first time. Pat Calderbank began to stake a claim for a regular first team position and took 16 wickets for the modest cost of 10.56 runs each. Saeed finished with 82 wickets for an average of 9.95. Five matches were abandoned, two without a ball being bowled and the team slumped to seventh place in the league table.

The committee then showed great enterprise by going for, and getting, the services of Neil Hawke, the Australian opening bowler. Hawke proved to be, not only a most effective wicket taker, but a wonderful club man. In his speech, at the welcoming party in the club-rooms, he promised that the club would find him to be a willing work-horse in all departments - not just on the field of play. How true that was! Neil made many friends locally and he later made his home, albeit for too short a time, in the town before illness prompted a return to Australia.

The committee's enterprise was rewarded when the Championship flag was regained by the end of that 1967 season. Hawke was instrumental in capturing the league title, his 99 wickets costing only 7.1 runs each. He took 5 wickets or more on no fewer than 11 occasions, his best performance being 9 for 18 at Ramsbottom. Rain prevented Hawke from bowling in six matches which made his feat all the more impressive. It should be noted that, in the last match of the season, with Hawke having taken six wickets to take him to that figure of 99, Russ Cuddihy, the Accrington skipper, declared his side's innings closed on 123 for 9 - thus depriving Hawke of reaching the magical 'ton'. No batsman reached the 500 mark but the bowling power was good enough to make the team into such a successful unit.

Although the league results were so good during that 1967 season the Worsley Cup experience is probably best forgotten. It is part of the history of the club so it should to be recorded! In the first round only Neil Hawke, with an unbeaten 48, was able to master the conditions as Nelson compiled 99 at home to Rawtenstall. But then the visitors really struggled and were dismissed for 69. Hawke took 5 for 25 and Keith Derbyshire 3 for 35.

But 25 June 1967 was the black spot of the season as Nelson went to Turf Moor to face Charlie Griffith. Hawke took 7 for 50 as Burnley were bowled out for 112 but Nelson's reply was abysmal. There were six "ducks" as Nelson fell for 28! Although Griffith took 4 for 16, the main tormentor was amateur Joe Fletcher who took 5 for 11.

Hawke was touring England with the Australians in 1968 so the club had to seek the services of another professional. The young and highly promising Pakistani, Sadiq Mohammed, had submitted an application for the job and he was engaged on a one season contract. His batsmanship was a delight to watch but the team suffered due to a lack of bowling power. Only Pat Calderbank was consistent amongst the bowlers and he claimed 46 wickets at 16.54 runs each. His 8 for 21 haul at home to Colne was rewarded with the first of his Evening Telegraph tankards. Sadiq hit eight half-centuries, his highest being 94 not out at home to Lowerhouse and he totalled 829 runs at the end of the season. He only bowled 107 overs and his 19 wickets was a poor return in comparison with other professional's performances.

Roy Pickles had another good season, recorded more than 500 runs (average 26.0) again and finishing top of the bowling averages with 8 wickets for 84 runs. The team ended the season in 13th place and suffered the indignity of having to apply for re-election to the league - only the second time in the history of the club.

The league rules had seen an innovation in 1968 in an attempt to reduce the number of "boring" draws. In a drawn match, the team having scored the faster run rate were awarded a bonus point. Nelson did not fare too well - out of 13 drawn matches they managed only five bonus points!

Neil Hawke returned in 1969 and promptly helped Nelson win the championship for the seventeenth time. Hawke's contribution was 582 runs (average 36.37) and 112 wickets (average 7.11) plus a tally of 20 catches. He headed both the batting and the bowling averages for the entire Lancashire League. Neil made four half-centuries and took five or more wickets in a match on 11 occasions, his best being 8 for 24 at Haslingden.

Nelson amateurs claimed two of the three tankards offered by the Evening Telegraph newspaper. Mike Chapple, who had joined Nelson after being one of the Ribblesdale League's leading amateurs, was an inspiration with his big hitting and his 50 in 20 minutes at Rawtenstall won the tankard for the fastest fifty. Alan Haigh was his brilliant self and collected 44 victims behind the stumps and was rewarded with the wicket-keepers tankard for most wickets.

Pat Calderbank did not win the bowler's tankard but, nevertheless, he was pretty consistent and passed the 50 wicket mark for the first time in his career. Mike Chapple took 33 wickets as well as scoring 478 runs but his success resulted in the offer of a professional engagement with Darwen in the Northern League for the following season. Hawke and Chapple put together a fifth wicket partnership of 111 at Lowerhouse and Nelson declared at 162 for 5 after only 26 overs. But rain prevented any further play!

Results were disappointing in 1970 despite retaining Hawke as professional. The gap left by Chapple's departure was filled by a very young Roger Tattersall and, under Hawke's guidance, he prospered. Roger claimed 33 wickets at 11.61 to head the club's bowling averages whilst Hawke's tally was 63 wickets at 11.98. Only Hawke scored more than 500 runs and his 621 included a fine century at home to Lowerhouse. On that occasion Nelson had been in trouble at 26 for 4 when Roy Pickles joined Hawke at the wicket. When Pickles was out for 32, the pair had added 113 valuable runs to create a new record for the fifth wicket on Seedhill.