Chapter Sixteen

Dreadful Weather

Expectations of a good season in 2007 were soon dashed when it was realised that McMillan had sustained an injury whilst playing for New Zealand in the World Cup just before the Lancashire League season was due to start. McMillan was not able to come to Nelson until the middle of June, by which time Nelson had already lost six of their nine matches and were lying in the lower reaches of the league table. None of the substitute professionals had performed with any distinction and the amateurs struggled to find any consistency.

Just prior to McMillan arriving, a ‘monsoon season’ hit central and northern England with floods being experienced in many parts. There were no floods in Nelson but the heavy rain regularly fell on Nelson’s home fixtures. Nelson had seven home fixtures abandoned and, although three were eventually re-played, the team suffered seven ‘no results’ (four of them at home).

McMillan was only able to go to the crease on 8 occasions but he managed to hit one century in his aggregate of 239. No batsman reached 300 for the season, David Crotty (298) being the nearest.

Top bowler was again Khurrum Nazir and his 27 wickets were gained at a cost of 14.26 each. Martin Heap decided to retire at the end of the season after taking his career total of wickets to 348.

Michael Bradley claimed another league record as his total of ‘scalps’ behind the stumps reached 719 by the end of the season, beating the previous record, held by his father-in-law, Alan Haigh, of 717.

Despite winning the last two matches, Nelson finished the season next to the bottom of the league and had to seek re-election for only the eighth time in the league’s 115 year history.

The dreadful weather of 2007 continued in 2008 and another eight matches were abandoned, six without a ball bowled. When play was possible, however, the Nelson players produced some marvellous cricket and Colne were on the receiving end of the most magnificent batting display at Seedhill in May. Young Shaun Lemon had returned to the fold and, opening the innings, he hit a breath-taking 143 to establish a new amateur batting record. The previous record had been held by Ian Clarkson, who had scored 130 at Todmorden in 1987. Thanks to an equally swash-buckling of 133 from professional Craig McMillan, Nelson’s 50 over score of 336 for 4 easily beat the previous limited over record of 309 for 3, made against Lowerhouse in 1994. Lemon and McMillan put on 203 for the second wicket, recording only the fifth double century partnership in Nelson’s history.

With a regular professional in the side the team flourished and actually led the league table for a while. Winning six of the first seven matches and achieving a tie in the other, Nelson had a double reversal as they slumped to defeat twice in one week-end against Rawtenstall. They never really recovered from that set-back but, nevertheless, did show sufficient improvement to finish the season in third spot.

McMillan led the way with 788 runs and 67 wickets but he had to leave early to attend a family wedding, missing the final six fixtures. His figures could have been even more impressive. Shaun Lemon recorded 426 and was well supported by David Crotty (330) and Neil Thompson (280). Rizwan Hussain hit a memorable 75 not out at home to the eventual champions, Accrington, sharing an unbeaten seventh wicket stand of 95 with Thomas Lord who hammered 59.

The leading wicket-taker amongst the amateurs was up-and-coming Sam Halstead whose 29 wickets included a first ‘five-for’ of 5 for 48 against Haslingden. Farahk Bukhari looked to be a promising swing bowler and, despite a side strain restricting his appearances, he still managed 15 wickets at a cost of a little over 12 runs each.