Chapter Ten

The Start Of Overs Cricket

Limited overs were introduced into the Lancashire League rules in 1971 but Nelson were unable to benefit and, in fact, had their worst season ever - finishing at the foot of the league table for the first time since the league began 79 years earlier. Things began to go wrong even before the season had got underway. The professional appointed, Jim Standen, was unable to fulfil his contractual commitments owing to his football engagements and Ghulam Abed, a coloured South African and brother of Enfield's professional, Dik Abed, was signed at the last minute. Ghulam hit 109 in an opening stand of 154 with David Howarth (51 not out) at home to Church and his batting was, in general, quite good - he made 659 runs - but his bowling was not of a professional standard. None of the bowlers were able to dismiss the opposition nor keep the run-rate down and Nelson lost 17 of the 21 matches actually completed. A bonus point was awarded to a team every time they were able to bowl out their opponents but Nelson only managed that feat on two occasions. In the penultimate match of the season, on a dicey wicket at Seedhill, Lowerhouse were shot out for 51 with Frank Taylor taking 7 for 7. Nelson lost 5 wickets before they overtook their target.

Aware that a bowling professional was the requirement, the committee pursued the signature of Sarfraz Nawaz, the Pakistan opening bowler, who had been released by Northants. The Nelson followers in 1972 were pleasantly surprised with the all-round ability of Sarfraz and, in addition to his 79 wickets, he hit 716 runs which included seven half-centuries. Peter Pickup, who had previously represented Barnoldswick in the Ribblesdale League, joined Nelson and earned 61 wickets with his medium paced bowling and a respectable fifth place in the league table was achieved.

Limited overs rules were dropped in 1973 but the change of rules did not bring any change in the fortunes of the Nelson team. Sarfraz returned for a second season and he achieved even greater success with the bat than his first season. He amassed 894 runs at an average of 42.57 but amateur support was not forthcoming. No batsman reached 300 runs for the season and only Calderbank (33 wickets) and Pickup (34 wickets) were able to claim wickets with any regularity. Even Sarfraz struggled to take wickets and had to settle for only 53 when the season came to a close.

Mike Chapple had returned to the fold but a shoulder injury restricted his bowling tremendously and he only collected one wicket all season. Probably the best batting display of the season occurred on 28 July at Bacup when Sarfraz hit 126 and David Howarth (52) helped him put on 147 for the second wicket.

A highly promising young West Indian was the next professional and the cavalier manner in which he played his cricket inspired the amateurs to new heights, the team finishing runners-up in both league and cup competitions. Collis King thrilled the locals with his big hitting and fast scoring and his total of 751 runs included two centuries. Young Chris Hartley had his best season so far, making a total of 311 runs and the two of them were involved in a second wicket partnership of 106 in the home match with Haslingden, King making 102 and Hartley 45. Pat Calderbank also had his best season, recording 57 wickets, and registering the wonderful figures of 7 for 17 at Church and 7 for 16 at home to Colne. Generally, 1974 had been a season for the bowlers with many low scores. The weather had been pretty bad towards the end of the season, five of the last nine fixtures being abandoned - three without a ball being bowled. Six Nelson bowlers finished with an average below 20 :- Calderbank 57 wickets at 10.39; Taylor 26 at 12.31; Alan Roberts 19 at 14.0; Chapple 10 at 15.3; King 43 at 16.16; and John Greenwood 10 at 19.8.

The Worsley Cup competition had started with an easy win at Rishton where the homesters had been restricted to 116 for 9 in their allocation of 36 overs. Derek Grandfield earned himself a collection when he performed the hat-trick but he failed to add to his tally and finished with 3 for 36. The Nelson reply began with an opening stand of 73 before David Reeves went for 42. David Howarth carried his bat for an unbeaten 39 whilst Collis King hit 37 of the last 45 runs to take Nelson to 118 for 1.

Collis King bowled brilliantly in the next round to record figures of 7 for 40 as Rawtenstall were dismissed for 99. Nelson struggled as well but, thanks to a patient 31 not out from Frank Taylor, edged home at 101 for 7. Collis led the way in the semi-final against Lowerhouse but this time with the bat. He opened the innings and was sixth out with the score on 182, his contribution being 125. With overs running out the Nelson tail end took too many risks and the team was all out on the last ball for 189. Lowerhouse were then bowled out for 144, the pick of the Nelson bowlers being young Alan Roberts who took 4 for 30.

The final was a real anti-climax as the Nelson batsmen failed to come to terms with Church's Jack Holdsworth. King and David Reeves opened the innings and scored 15 and 14 respectively but no other batsman reached double figures as Nelson crashed from 29 for 0 to 68 all out. Holdsworth took 6 for 24. Church easily knocked off the runs for the loss of only two wickets

Following that near-miss in 1974, Nelson's experiences in the Worsley Cup were catastrophic for several years. The team went out in the first round each season from 1975 to 1980. The format of the competition was changed in 1981 and the teams were drawn in groups of three or four, which meant that clubs were bound to have at least two cup-ties of which one would be at home. Even then, Nelson failed to win a single match in 1981 and 1982. The Cup competition returned to a straight knock-out system in 1983 but, despite being favoured with a bye in the first round, Nelson lost in the second. Early exits in 1984 and 1985 meant that Nelson had lost fourteen cup-ties in succession. The clubs finances obviously took a severe knock as a good cup run brings in very welcome extra cash.

Collis King returned in 1975 and his enthusiasm spread through the club. The amateurs rallied and four batsmen passed the 300 run mark, Chris Hartley becoming one of the youngest players to total more than 500 runs in a season for Nelson. Pat Calderbank again impressed with 59 wickets and his 8 for 50 feat at home to Rawtenstall won yet another Evening Telegraph tankard. Collis himself recorded 709 runs and 40 wickets. Again six bowlers averaged under 20 runs per wicket and the team were placed fourth in the final reckoning. Limited overs had been re-introduced in another attempt to eradicate the many stale drawn matches. When a full match was played, the spectators seemed to be satisfied with the new rules, but rain affected matches did cause confusion.

Although King was retained for the 1976 campaign, the West Indies called for his services on their tour of England after he had played in Nelson's first three matches. Collis scored 70 in the defeat of Rawtenstall, took 7 for 33 in a drawn match at Ramsbottom and then took 6 for 37 in a win over Church. Things were looking good! But the departure of King was the beginning of the end! The results plummeted alarmingly and the team finished bottom of the league for the second time. A friend of Collis, Harold Gibson, replaced him and, when he hit his first ball into the bowling green for six, fans thought an adequate replacement had been found. Unfortunately Gibson could only acquire 453 runs (average 21.57) all season and, in 47 overs, he took 7 for 237. One bright spot occurred at Church when Ken Bythell hit 67 and Malcolm Bradley 75, their partnership reaping 101 for the fifth wicket.

When Collis King decided to play first-class cricket with Glamorgan, the search was on for an internationally famous cricketer for the 1977 professional. When Middlesex announced that Larry Gomes was to be released from his contract, Nelson quickly stepped in and signed him. Inspite of cold, damp weather for most of the season, runs flowed from Gomes' bat and it was apparent right from the start that Constantine's 44 year old record was in danger. Centuries against Church, Bacup and Rishton and half-centuries in a further six innings enabled Gomes to reach 1,084 by the end of the season. His batting average of 60.22 was the highest average ever achieved by a Nelson professional. His bowling performances were not in Constantine's class but, nevertheless, he did succeed in claiming 39 wickets.

The leading amateur players were Chris Hartley who, in his first year as skipper of the first eleven, scored 613 runs, and Pat Calderbank who earned another 52 wickets. Pat was virtually unplayable on a sticky wicket at Enfield and his figures of 8 for 15 earned him another Evening Telegraph tankard.

Gomes struck up a successful partnership with Derek Grandfield and the pairing was responsible for registering a club record score for the second wicket at home. It was against Church on June 4th that Grandfield (61) and Gomes (115 not out) took the score from 2 for 1 to 175 for 2. They put on 96 for the second wicket at home to Rishton and 113 at home to Ramsbottom. In a rain affected match at Todmorden, Nelson were chasing 129 to win and lost their first wicket when David Reeves was run out, whilst attempting a third run, in the first over with the score on 3. Chris Hartley joined Larry Gomes and they put up the 50 in 35 minutes (9.3 overs). The next 50 came in 21 minutes (4.5 overs) and the winning hit was a six from Hartley after only 16.4 overs. The partnership was worth 128 and had been made in only 68 minutes. Hartley's share was 79 whilst Gomes's was 46.

Frank Taylor, renowned for his unique achievement of leading two clubs to the cup and league double, announced his retirement at the end of the 1977 season. His aggregate of 4,033 runs (average 15.57) and 333 wickets (average 15.77) put him amongst only three players to complete 3,000 runs and 300 wickets for Nelson in league matches.