1976 LEAGUE CHAMPIONS FOR THE FIRST TIME

             League Champions_76

                          Brentwood 2nd XI - 1976 League Winners.

Back row: John Neil, Maurice Cole, John Escott, Chris Vander, Malcolm Webb, John Davey, Rob Gibbens; Front row: Alan Waddington, Phil Dew, Jon Coote (Capt.), Martin Pether, Charlie Sale, Robin Coote (Scorer).

I joined Brentwood CC as a 15 year old in 1967 and by the time I went off to college in 1971 I was a fringe player in the Saturday 1st XI and a regular Sunday 1st XI player. I did not play a great deal of cricket for Brentwood during my 3 years at college as exploring the USA and the Greek Islands offered alternatives which I simply could not forgo.

My first full season back at Brentwood was 1975 and the Club had not been in great shape in the intervening years. A number of senior players had left or retired and colts cricket had been dropped a few years earlier. My recollection is that in the early 1970s there were times when we struggled to put out 2 Saturday sides. There was certainly no regular 3rd XI.

By 1975 there was greater room for optimism. We had an influx of 1st XI cricketers join us with Andy Johnson, Bill Bateman, Jeff Burnell, Ian Norton and Peter Brown springing readily to mind. Bernard Potter had reintroduced colts cricket to Brentwood and I was cutting my captaincy teeth in the Sunday 1st XI. The Saturday 1st XI finished 3rd in the league but my recollection is that the 2nd XI struggled due to the Club having no real strength in depth.

By 1976 this weakness was being eradicated. There was a further influx of good players not least because a local side - South Essex - had disbanded. We got Malcolm Webb, Dave Shand and Mike Eastman from that source. Jeff Salt I seem to recall came from a bit further north!  Our reintroduction of colts cricket was beginning to pay dividends with Dave Cantor, John Hayto, Martin Pether, Tim Potter, Tim Riley all beginning to make their mark within the Club .. and by the way I was the new captain of the Saturday 2nd XI.

1976 for those old enough to remember was that long hot summer when Tony Greig promised to make the West Indies grovel. England 0 West Indies 3! Viv Richards the best part of 800 runs in the series. It was a long hot summer in Brentwood as well. I've never seen the outfield as parched and brown as it was that summer. Looking back at the 2nd XI scorebook for that season I expected to see much higher scores than there actually was. The reason for relatively modest scoring was in my view twofold: The standard of bowling was higher and Brentwood was in between losing a full time groundsman and getting Chris Boniface. During that period we either had a part time, unqualified groundsman or players did the ground.

The same scorebook shows that we won our first two league games of the season and thereafter were always in contention for the title. Our bowling was our strength - we seemed to have a bowler for every occasion and it was a skipper's delight. It helped that for all season we could call on a first team quality bowler. In the first half of the season it was Keith Goodman who was in his first full season's conversion to off spin. In the second half of the season it was Tom Davey's dad, John. In support of them there was Chris Vander, Dave Shand and Alan ' Popeye ' Waddington ( he did get upset when players put banana in his pipe, almost as upset as when I took him off ) - all good bowlers which helped me when I came on usually to mop up the tail. Our batting line up was equally well balanced. We had some blockers and some bashers and, like South Africa, we had strength in depth. Malcolm Webb opened the batting and another very steady player, John Neil, often opened with him. We quite often had some young dashers in the middle order particularly during the school holidays. Maurice Cole, Dave Shand and Alan Waddington were all excellent all rounders and our front line bowlers could all bat. Sixteen year old Martin Pether was our keeper. My brother Rob was our scorer and the late Rob Gibben our umpire. We seemed to have it all.

We entered the last league game of the season at the top of the table a few points ahead of Gidea Park & Romford and guess who we were playing! Remember I mentioned the long hot summer, well Havering had introduced a hosepipe ban which applied to cricket pitches as well. Gidea Park & Romford could not prepare a wicket so they switched the game to North Ockendon. A draw would have given us the championship but by the time the game was played the weather had broken and we arrived at North Ockendon to find a wet, under prepared pitch. No chance of a draw.

I won the toss and batted - it was the norm in those days. At 9 for 3 it did not look a great decision but six of our remaining eight players made double figures and we struggled to 128 all out from 44 overs. Extras top scored with 26 of which 21 were no balls. The GP&R opening bowlers bowled unchanged, one of them being Andy Jenner who took 4 for 49. GP&R's start was no better than our own and the first two wickets stick vividly in my mind. Jack Clifford a top player in his day - he'd just left Brentwood to return to GP&R- was bowled by John Davey shouldering arms and his opening partner, Ray Sammons, was caught by Martin Pether diving full length in front of first slip off the bowling of Davey. John was on fire. He took the first five wickets as the home side crashed to 38 for 5. There was no recovery. 'Popeye' chipped in with a couple of wickets and JD bowled unchanged to finish with 8 for 27 from 18 overs. Fittingly the final wicket was that of Alan Collier who later joined Brentwood. Caught Coote at short leg bowled Davey. Gidea Park & Romford all out 79. Brentwood won by 49 runs to give the club their first ever league championship.

Jon Coote

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