...And into League Cricket
Programme of events, 1981 Centenery season.
I suppose that asking for random judgements from sundry league captains about Brentwood would be akin to asking the unemployed their opinions of Conservative job preservations schemes. However, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a number of kind and amusing anecdotes concerning our Club. Fears of "publish and be damned" diminished with each successive letter and many thanks are accorded to all enlightened souls who contributed.
Pride of place must go to "Father Time" Rex Toomey who rambled away in his letter, much as he is wont to do in the bar after games. Using a diluted version of Cardus, Rex extolled the virtues of Brentwood when, as a lad, he played for Ongar against us which entailed riding a bike from Epping. He must have had a hard life. Rex's age is an imponderable but when he talks of Cutmore etc., he must indeed be venerable. Like most old-stagers, he has memory of an "incident" when playing for Buckhurst Hill against Brentwood. It appears that Buckhurst Hill managed to bowl the last over (before the law relating to 20 in the last hour) in the unbelievable time of 12 minutes. The bowler was one R. Anderton who Rex maintains was "not normally the one to arrange this". Heated discussions were led by the aforesaid bowler and one P. J. Whitcombe. The mountain and Mohammed? This incident must surely have rivalled the occasion that marked the Brentwood v Ilford game twelve years ago. This was, of course, pre Greg/Trevor Chappell times, but Bill Morris of Ilford bowled underarm to Gwyn Harries as a protest against slow play. (One J. K. Lever was bowling at the other end!) Gwyn's answer was to lay his bat on its side across the wicket. All good stuff!
The flippant theme was continued by other contributors which I shall try to precis without detracting from their wit.
Howard Shaw remembers in his younger days (were there any?) that the team secretary of Orsett was one "Prayer-mat Johnson" who bought a second-hand hearse for Club transport. I refrain from any puns. The "master tactician" Bernie Blows figures in one humorous incident concerning "H", David Heywood and Doug Foster of flighted-filth fame. For those who know these players "H" was fielding at silly mid-on. After the first two balls whistled over his head for 6, the gimlet-eyed Foster was heard to mutter, "I've got him - he's having a go - try 5 yards deeper "H". The next ball was put over the pavilion into the tennis court. "H" then decided to slap a self-preservation order on himself and retreated much further back. "Batting-wise" (I like that euphemism), "H" preferred "the shallow end, it wasn't so far to walk back" - he should know.
Paddy Long of Hadleigh was in the type of dilemma that befitted his Christian name. "Actually I'm not sure whether centenary' means that your club is one hundred years old or that a side managed to score 100 on your wicket". I think Paddy is still shell-shocked from the game 2 years ago when Brentwood totalled 87 and Hadleigh were at one time 35 for 7 before eventually winning. I think our wicket lost total credibility when John Davey took 8 wickets in this match, and we also lost our hearing in the bar because Warren Old took 9! Joking aside, this was typical of the excellent games enjoyed against Hadleigh over the years.
Martin Oliver of South Woodford continued his humorous theme when he was obviously speaking with a gut reaction. I quote - "It is, for certain, the only ground in Essex where you cannot go to the toilet without evidence of it later appearing in an embarrassing position on your cricket whites. We think a most magnanimous gesture by Brentwood would be to put toilet paper, although not on the roller itself, in a hiding place. You could then leave clues in the toilet, and as a reward the finder could keep a couple of sheets and give them to his grandchildren as a memento of 100 years of Brentwood Cricket". Martin also remembers one incident concerning the mayhem batting of Lionel Cole who hit his first and only ball out of the ground at 2.00. By the time the ball was eventually found it was 2.30 and Lionel was promptly bowled by the second ball of the game. Martin concluded that six in half an hour thereby "set a trend which has been common among Brentwood batsmen ever since".
The lavatorial context reminded me of the incident that occurred in the final death throes of a boring draw with the Metropolitan Police a few years ago. As the game dragged to its painful conclusion, a huge St. Bernard appeared from nowhere. The defenders of peace, hardened veterans of riot and demonstration etc. were shifting nervously and flat-footed and wondering what action was to be taken, when the colossus squatted on the square, left his calling card, and then stalked off defiantly to the boundary. As the Chinese proverb states "A picture is worth a thousand words".
Mike Rogers of Woodford Wells mentioned in his missive that the wicket was "still excellent on most occasions, and to match it the cricket is rarely without runs - often centuries". I know that Mike usually scores runs against us but I can't help feeling that the Abbot Ale sold in the bar has clouded his memory, even though he ruefully remembers the Brentwood revenge of splinters from the wooden floor that attack with impunity.
Peter Marshall of Chelmsford pointed out the fact that "the County adjudged Brentwood's as one ground they no longer needed and moved to Chelmsford", which necessitated their own move to the semi-tundra of Galleywood. It is hardly surprising that Peter remembers Brentwood with affection as he has scored heavily against us over the last decade, indeed his first century for Chelmsford was against us. He neglected to mention the famous incident concerning a match between the two sides when Gwyn Harries exercised the right of veto over both umpires and refused to be given out. The true story has now faded into folk-lore but I do remember even Alan Jerman was speechless.
The most unusual reply came from Tom Ford due entirely to the total lack of what the Western heroes call "cussing". Despite this he still managed to convey his own brand of competitiveness with his compliments usually being followed by a sly, humorous dig. I quote - "Scoring runs with the departure of your excellent groundsman became more difficult for both sides. I am sure that bowling on previous good wickets helped those mean bowlers, Harries and Goodman. As captain of a league side, I am grateful that Bobby Mayes and Brian Baker have been kind enough to give my bowlers a much better chance of getting them out than John Whitcombe ever did!!" I am sure that his acknowledgement that Brentwood have gained the upper hand in later years between the two sides was made through clenched teeth. He concludes with a demand for "Harries to pitch it up and Goodman to give it some air".
Thanks to all the clubs who have wished us a good centenary and their sentiments can be encapsulated in the letter sent from Ron Lynch, the League Chairman:
Congratulations to Brentwood Cricket Club on reaching their maiden ton, which in itself is a rare occurrence on this lovely ground. In this time they have managed to retain a high standard of hospitality and sportsmanship. May the next hundred be as worthy".
KEITH GOODMAN is now fast approaching the veteran stage in terms of length of membership of Brentwood C.C., having joined way back in 1970. He skippered the Club from 1976-79 and has been vice-captain since that time. Any serious doubts about his advancing age and stamina are laid to rest by his ability to bowl seemingly endlessly (despite an inability at the same time to turn and chase a ball hit past him in the field) and his similar ability to yap just as endlessly in the bar afterwards. There is, regrettably, little truth in the suggestion that he undertook this article simply to prove that he could indeed communicate with at least one person from all the other Truman League clubs, but it makes a nice rumour anyway.