Chapter Twelve

Runs galore

There were many high scores during the 1990 season with totals over 200 being common-place. One of those occasions was when Lowerhouse visited Seedhill on 17 June, and with the weather sunny and hot, Nelson invited Lowerhouse to bat first. The visitors then recorded the highest limited over score ever made against Nelson and Nelson's reply was also a record. The scoreboard read as follows :-

Requiring to score at the rate of 5.43 runs per over, the Nelson innings started badly and 18 overs had gone when Julian joined Garaghty with the score on 50 for 2. The run rate required then had gone up to 7.14. Twenty five overs and 104 minutes later the total had reached 232 for 2. Three overs left but only 18 runs needed for victory. Garaghty was out in the next over but the advantage had been gained and Nelson won with an over to spare. The partnership of 184 between Garaghty and Julian was a club record for the third wicket.

Paul Garaghty was the new first eleven captain and he was scoring runs consistently whilst Ian Clarkson had returned to the fold but the team was struggling in the lower reaches of the league table. The young professional, however, was called back to Australia to take part in an under 21 international tour. So, once again, the committee had the task of seeking a substitute professional but this time the club was fortunate to obtain the services of Eric Simons for the remainder of the season. Whilst Eric could not afford to take time off work for a full English season, he was more than willing to take a two month cricketing holiday. Nelson suddenly started to win more regularly and climbed to the middle of the league table. On 4th August at Rishton, Nelson established a League record limited overs score of 288 for 5 with Colin Heap (88) and Paul Garaghty (93) sharing a second wicket partnership of 164. Eric Simons finished on 61 not out after taking 29 from the final over of the innings which was, incidentally , bowled by the Rishton professional, Peter Sleep. Garaghty finished the season on 730 runs whilst Ian Clarkson celebrated his return to the club with a tremendous 832 runs which included an unbeaten century in the final match of the season at Ramsbottom.

The original choice of professional for 1990 was signed for 1991 and the committee's persistence was rewarded with an amazing succession of big scores. James Brayshaw's records were annihilated as Joe Scuderi struck five centuries and eight half-centuries in a fantastic aggregate of 1,411 runs at an average of 67.19. Scuderi also took 75 wickets to complete a truly great all round performance. Ian Clarkson hit his tenth league century to overtake Sir Learie Constantine's career record of nine Nelson centuries. With Paul Garaghty and Colin Heap both passing the 500 run mark and Clarkson falling just short of 800, Nelson regularly hit the highest score of the day and a respectable fifth position was achieved.

Nelson had a bye in the First Round of the cup and were faced with a home tie against Bacup in the Second Round. Ian Clarkson was again in scintillating form and hammered a quite brilliant 130 as he and Colin Heap, who made 56, shared an opening partnership of exactly 200. Nelson's total of 279 for 5 was always going to be too much for Bacup and they were finally dismissed for 141, Martin Heap taking 4 for 24. The cup run ended in the next round at Enfield when Nelson made only 138 in reply to the home side's 194 for 6.

Joe Scuderi returned in 1992 and continued to thrill the Nelson public with his batsmanship. The club was sorry to lose the services of Ian Clarkson who had decided to return to his home town club, Earby, and the team would surely miss his usual contribution of aggregate runs. Cricket followers were also unfortunate with the weather as it was terrible and four matches were abandoned, two of them without a ball being bowled. This does not include those matches that were abandoned at the beginning of the season and eventually re-scheduled.

Despite the cold, damp conditions, Scuderi scored 882 runs and took 70 wickets. He completed another three centuries and was involved in three century partnerships. On 27 June, at home to Accrington, his partnership of 191 with Paul Garaghty broke the club record for the third wicket. Then on 19 July, at Rishton, Scuderi and Chris Hartley compiled a stand of 210, establishing a new record for the second wicket and, indeed, for any other wicket. Hartley's contribution to that stand was 93, a score which was a personal best. Chris, in fact, had a wonderful season and reached 697 runs, easily beating his best ever season. Phil Pickles passed the 500 run mark for the first time since joining Nelson from Rawtenstall and the team did well and finished in fourth position.

The cold, damp weather of 1992 extended into 1993 and, if anything, was even worse. Five of the 1993 fixtures were abandoned and replayed whilst a further two were abandoned completely. Nevertheless, between the showers, the Nelson supporters were treated to some thrilling cricket. Young Michael Warburton was trusted with the leading role as first change bowler and his slow left arm bowling reaped 39 wickets at the economical rate of 17.31 runs each. Joe Scuderi, returning for a third term as club professional, collected a further 60 wickets and hit 850 runs, including yet another century. Three amateur batsmen passed the 500 run mark; Paul Garaghty making 566 for an average of over 33, Chris Hartley 535 (average 26.75) and Phil Pickles 572, averaging 26. Marcus Phelan, batting in the middle order, averaged almost 30 in compiling 356 runs. Included in those runs was a quite breath-taking 82 not out against Rishton, scored in 73 minutes. The team was in contention for league honours until the final few weeks of the season but had to settle eventually for fourth place again.

The 1994 season began with new optimism as Joe Scuderi returned for a fourth spell as club professional and Nelson were able to include in their amateur ranks a young New Zealander, Jason Smith, who had taken up residence in Fence. Smith was a tall right-arm medium pace bowler who could bat a bit as well, and he had performed with distinction with the second eleven the previous season. The side looked to be better balanced than for many a year. Michael Bradley, having taken on the captaincy during the previous season, was appointed to skipper the side for the 1994 season.

Chris Hartley and Colin Heap were the regular opening batsmen and they put together three century partnerships, showing remarkable consistency. Hartley reached a personal land-mark when he overtook Chick Hawkwood's career aggregate of 8393 runs and he passed the 500 runs for a season for the ninth time.

Nelson made a great start to the season, winning the first five matches which included a victory over the reigning champions, Haslingden. Nelson headed the league table for most of the season but were pushed all the way by Bacup. In fact, the championship was not won until the final day of the season when Nelson won at Rawtenstall and Bacup lost at Church, giving Nelson the title by a clear margin of eight points.

Joe Scuderi hit two more centuries, taking his tally to eleven - the most league centuries completed by a Nelson player. He hit a magnificent 175 not out at Todmorden in Nelson's total of 262 for 4 and then compiled a fantastic 154 to help Nelson reach their highest ever score of 309 for 3. The scorebook is reproduced below :-

Paul Garaghty had another outstanding season and his main contributions were in partnership with Scuderi. In the match at Todmorden, Garaghty hit 52 in a record third wicket stand of 197 and then helped the professional to put on 192 as he made 66 not out against Lowerhouse. The same pairing were also responsible for unbeaten stands of 120, at home to Rishton, and 103, away to Rishton.

Joe Scuderi ended the season on 1,114 runs and 61 wickets, finishing second in the league bowling averages. The club offered him a fifth term as club professional, anticipating continued success, and he gladly accepted.

Nelson actually claimed more bonus points than any other club - 12 in total - suggesting that the team had a good varied attack. The acquisition of these bonus points is all important in the championship stakes and the Nelson bowlers shared the responsibility. Trevor Kegg took 50 wickets in a season for the first time and Peter Cockell claimed 41 at a cost of only 13.83 runs each. Jason Smith and Michael Warburton chipped in with 24 and 20 wickets respectively.

Batsmen and bowlers tend to receive all the accolades but the fielding of Marcus Phelan was so brilliant that it must have been an inspiration to the bowlers and the remainder of his team-mates. Some of his 16 catches were fit for the world stage.

Michael Bradley kept wicket with credit, particularly to the quick bowlers, and he claimed 35 more victims to bring his aggregate to 344. It is no mean feat to captain a championship winning side as well, and Michael Bradley can be proud of his achievement. It was the nineteenth time that the league title had been won by this great club.

In 1995 Nelson began the defence of their championship in disastrous fashion. Winning only two of the first nine matches, they were left trailing potential champions by 21 points. However, a run of twelve consecutive league victories lifted the team into third place - only five points behind league leaders, Rishton. A defeat, then, at the hands of second-placed Ramsbottom virtually ended Nelson's challenge but, nevertheless, a creditable third place was achieved.

The principle success of the 1995 season was the lifting of the Worsley Cup after a gap of thirty years. In the first round Nelson hit a mammoth 265 for 8 in their 50 overs before bowling Burnley out for 190. The Nelson total was thanks largely to a wonderful 112 from Joe Scuderi and an impressive 84 from Duncan Spencer (a transferee from Burnley), as they put on 173 for the fourth wicket.

Nelson then ceremoniously accounted for Colne in the next round. After bowling the old rivals out for 154, Joe Scuderi taking 7 for 32, Nelson romped home with only three wickets down. Bacup were the visitors to Seedhill for the semi-final but their modest 163 for 6 was easily passed. Nelson replied with 164 for 3, Joe Scuderi hitting an unbeaten 83.

Nelson were drawn at home again for the final, the fourth home tie of the season, and Haslingden were the opposition. A bumper crowd sat beneath unrelenting sunshine in anticipation of an exciting encounter. Despite an accomplished 81 from Joe Scuderi, Nelson found themselves in trouble at 148 for 6 but Mick Bradley played a truly captain's innings and made 44 in as many minutes to leave his side on a respectable 210 for 8 at the conclusion of the 50 overs. Although they lost an early wicket, Haslingden were certainly on schedule with the run-rate at 80 for 1 but then their innings dramatically collapsed. Leading amateur batsman, Graham Knowles, and stand-in professional, Neil Johnson, were out in quick succession and Haslingden were suddenly 89 for 4. Haslingden never recovered from this set-back and were eventually all out for 164.

There were creditable individual performances during the season and Joe Scuderi proved his all round ability with 1263 runs at an average above 63 and 84 wickets at a cost of 12.57 each. A further four centuries took his tally to 15 in league matches alone. Including cup-ties, Scuderi's wickets totalled 96.

Paul Garaghty again passed the 500 run mark, finishing on 641 for an average of 35.6, whilst new-comer Duncan Spencer accumulated 471 runs. Jason Smith continued to improve and, once he was given the new ball to bowl with, he revelled in his new role. His final tally of 47 wickets included a devastating 7 for 33 at home to Enfield.

That fixture against Enfield will also be retained in Trevor Kegg's memory for ever. Nelson were reeling at 59 for 7 as Kegg strode to the wicket. The score soon became 60 for 8 and then 79 for 9 before Michael Warburton joined Kegg at the wicket. Not only did Kegg reach his first ever Lancashire League fifty but he went on to smite a maiden century before being caught on the boundary edge. The club's tenth wicket record partnership was easily beaten and the Kegg-Warburton stand finally realised 98 runs, Warburton's share being 5! Nelson totalled 177 but then Enfield suffered under Jason Smith's onslaught, capitulating for a meagre 81.

Sadat Khan hit the League's fastest fifty of the season in the penultimate fixture at Church, taking only 32 balls to reach the target. Khan went on to record 81 and his second wicket partnership with Scuderi amassed 133. Other century stands included 121 for the second wicket between Duncan Spencer and Scuderi and stands of 167, 109, 103 and exactly 100 for the third wicket between Scuderi and Paul Garaghty.

Chris Hartley made his last appearance for the First Eleven during the 1995 season, having accumulated a fantastic 9,027 runs since his debut in 1967. He had scored more than 500 runs in a season on nine occasions and had hit a total of 45 "fifties".