Are You Shaw?

This page is dedicated to the musings and observations of Neil Shaw. Hopefully he will keep us fully up to date with his unique view of the “Goings on” of Whaley Bridge Cricket Club.
To walk or not to walk.

That is the question

“There are two teams out there, but only one is playing cricket (Bill Woodfull 1934 Bodyline Tour)

“I thought you were better than that” (Rob Jones to Darren Crompton 2009)

The Sheps Beer Garden was a cauldron of friction and rising tension. The apologies were spectacularly half baked and with Roy Clayton swapping sides more times than an afghan rebel the potential for anarchy could only be measured in tribal insults. Matt Baldwin and Dave Cartledge were adding their proverbial two pennies worth and the strong pedigree was merely adding fuel to the fire as the aggression reached boiling point.

Naturally I didn’t get involved.

Thankfully “Mr Dove Holes” had overcome his bout of anorexia. Meanwhile Mr Crompton was adopting his traditional debating technique of making the same point, but a little bit louder.

Ironically, the catalyst for the tension was someone who hasn’t played cricket since the early 80s and is technically a Compstall player. However, despite retiring at the age of Seventeen, Alistair Shaw has still won more medals than Eddie Ford.

Jonesy had been claiming the high moral ground ever since a dubious umpiring decision that had benefitted Crompton in 2009. Indeed it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest that a group of deaf Mongolian Monks could hear the nick to the keeper, even if a certain official from Chapel en le Frith thought otherwise.

Crompy had stood his ground and in time honoured tradition he eventually emerged as the match winner with a slightly tainted century.

Later in the season, a Dove Holes game clashed with the Special reunion concert at the Apollo. Jonesy sold me his ticket and I caught the train to Manchester with Alistair and the boy Crompton. It was during this journey when Alistair casually mentioned that Jonesy hadn’t slept a wink since the infamous incident. All those years of personal sacrifice had been thrown in his face by the actions of an opponent who had clearly placed his selfish greed over the honour of playing the game in the right spirit.

Students of the Crompton mindset will recognise that his rare moments of anger are usually preceded by moments of silence. For the next two minutes he didn’t say a word.

Fast forward to 2011 and Dove were defending a disappointing score of 140 on a decent wicket with a lightning fast outfield. Crompton was looking good and with Declan playing aggressively, the opening partnership was reaping the dividends.

At roughly 5:30pm the Gods of Village Cricket Justice parked their vehicle behind the pavilion and entered the field of play. Simultaneously, Crompton nicked a leg side delivery onto his pads and allowed himself a wry smile as the Dove lads appealed in unison for LBW.

Upon the twin horrors of receiving the dreaded index finger and witnessing the understandable glee of the Dove fielders Crompton was faced with two options.

1/ Exit stage left. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.

2/ Threaten the whole Dove team with an embarrassing act of bottled-up petulance.

Crompton chose the latter despite most of the Whaley player siding with their Dove opponents. Later in the Sheps he contrived a mysterious apology that included the revealing phrase “But you’ve been slagging me off to Shawy’s brother for two years”.

Unfortunately Jonesy will still basking in the pleasure of the view from the high moral ground.

The wheel turns….

Things that make you go hmm

Conjugate the verb, to irritate Milly

I irritate Milly

You irritate Milly

Pete Crowley irritates Milly

At roughly 6:35, the Good ship Whaley had struck the proverbial iceberg with the women and children manning the lifeboats and Captain Milner searching desperately for inspiration. Meanwhile the Second Team Captain’s transparent line of thinking was betrayed by his casual observation that Birch Vale’s U16’s had recently been dismissed for an embarrassing 6 all out

The game had only reached its second over, but at 1-4 the contest was effectively over. All it required was a slice of damage limitation and more importantly, a hint of cricket nous from the officials.

At this point I should clarify that I actually offered to Umpire this game. I work close to Newby Road, but unbelievably, I was turned down in favour of Whaley Bridge’s answer to Michael Bentine’s Potty Time.

The bizarre nature of the game was reflected in the fact that despite the perilous scoreline, the opening batsman Dan Mulholland was still waiting to take guard. However, wickets were literally tumbling and at WW.WW the scorebook resembled a website address rather than a game of cricket.

I’m sure the Hazel Grove non-playing captain is a lovely bloke, but the silliness was becoming infectious. Even Stevie Wonder could see that the Whaley team was considerably younger and smaller than their Cheshire opponents, but at 1-4 and the approaching new batsman no bigger than Colin Wild’s cricket bag, he persisted with his attacking field and made no attempt whatsoever to ask his opening bowler to slow down.

In his defence, the bowler was on a hat trick, but with an over- pitched drifter meandering harmlessly down the leg side and a sensible Whaley Umpire taking control, there wasn’t a cat in hells chance of his half hearted appeal receiving a positive response.

Did I say sensible umpire?

Up went the finger and at 1-5, seven of the home team were still waiting to touch the ball. Meanwhile the GMP were using sniffer dogs in a vain search for Peter Crowley’s lack of common sense.

The third over witnessed Dan Mulholland despatching his first ball for a leg side boundary and then a blistering smash that landed on the pavilion clock. 11-5 and even crusty old cynics like me were beginning to enjoy themselves.

Sadly, it couldn’t last and after a brilliant gulley catch and a host of potential run-outs and fielding mishaps, the Whaley innings eventually retired at 39 all out.

Of course the undeserved hat-trick was merely the hors d’oeuvre for an outrageous incident that followed during the Grove reply.

JJ and John Stanway were both tidy and economical, but defending 39 was always going to be an uphill battle, especially with thick edges flying towards the third man and fine leg boundaries.

John deserved a wicket and after tempting one of the Grove openers into chasing a wide delivery, the ball flew towards point and the waiting hands of a Whaley fielder. 30-1, but as the batsman aimed for the pavilion he was stopped in his tracks by an almost apologetic Pete Crowley and a bizarre explanation that the delivery had actually been followed by the quietest “No Ball” shout ever recorded in the history of cricket.

The batsmen had crossed, but as they continued walking to their respective ends, there was general confusion amongst the spectators and players.

Strictly speaking the ball was dead. However the batters were now gaining a run, so a quick thinking Whaley fielder could easily have thrown down the stumps and appealed legitimately for a run out.

Milly wasn’t happy and Councillor Goldfinch was asking me to explain why the batsman wasn’t out. However, the Grove spectators were technically correct with their assertion that the home team should be awarded a single from a no ball.

Resisting the strong urge to punch a certain Umpire’s lights out I made my excuses and left.

Whaley Bridge v High Lane: Second Hour’s Play

Decisions, decisions: Whaley Water Weekend or Fall of the Roman Empire on BBC2?

James Mason was fighting a losing battle so after overcoming a bout of lethargy I aimed for New Horwich Park hoping for a decent Cricket Tea and a strong batting performance from the home team. The buffet was lovely

Upon arrival, the good ship Whaley was drifting on 52-3 with Luke and Milly at the crease and Crompton indulging in the Mother of all sulks. There were also a number of dark allegations concerning the High Lane sledging, but considering the spate of recently witnessed tantrums, it was a bit like John Inman suggesting that Graham Norton bats for the other team.

On a similar theme, Eddie Izzard and the rest of the batting order appeared subdued and disinterested. Indeed despite, or maybe due, to the previous victory at Dinting, there was a general anti-climatic sense to the proceedings. One day the penny will drop that it’s precisely this type of game that determines the outcome of the season.

Luke survived a couple of close LBW shouts, but Milly was looking solid until a slight misjudgement saw him shoulder arms to a straight ball.

Judging the sense of his mood II resisted the temptation to offer my assistance for the upcoming junior fixture at Hazel Grove.

Dale soon followed with an uppish drive to a slower ball resulting in a simple return catch for the opening bowler. Things were looking grim, especially for a depressed Crompton as he declared himself too cold for further conversation and promptly withdrew to the home dressing room.

Elliot played a lovely backward defensive shot on his return to the pavilion. If only he had played the same shot to the previous ball instead of attempting to launch it into Elnor Lane.

At this point my day took a turn for the worse as my concentration was briefly interrupted by a shout from the batting crease.

I can cope with divorce and the hypocritical nonsense from the great unwashed at the Swamp, but the sound of Luke Schofield ordering me to organise drinks was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

I presume that Whaley lost, but I’d Sky -Plussed the Brian Clough tribute night.

Caught Crompton Bowled Shaw

Bissenden Cup Winners 1995

As Onion Head bypassed the leg side field with a firm on drive towards the tennis courts, the travelling Whaley support invaded the New Mills outfield with an emotional outpouring of uncontrollable joy coupled with frightening intimidation. Colin Spicer had lost the ability to speak, but on reflection the late Dave Longden probably chose the wrong moment to launch into a rugby tackle on one of the Birch Vale fielders. Thankfully John Bradshaw was too petrified to retaliate.

Ironically, for such a glorious summer, the 1995 cricket season was kick-started by an abandoned game on the opening day against the same opponents. An early run of victories boosted confidence and with most players contributing with either bat or ball, the good ship Whaley Bridge never left the top four for the rest of the campaign.

After receiving a bye, the Bissenden Second Round draw paired us with the mighty Hayfield on their own patch. It was around this time that Messrs Shaw and Crompton were both invited on Hayfield’s tour of the Oxford Universities. It was also our first encounter with the Bard of Birch Vale.

Not only was Chris Reid a William Shakespeare lookalike, he was also the rarest of rare breeds, a cultured Australian and a cricketing purist. Little did we know, as Crompy threw up outside the Yoxall rendezvous that our paths would later cross in such dramatic fashion.

Hayfield beat Brasenose College with Crompton scoring 70 and Shaw taking 5-21. Shakespeare wanted to talk cricket, but we were too busy bickering over a mysterious wet patch that had appeared on our hotel room floor the previous morning. Obviously Crompton was guilty, but he was equally convinced of his innocence.

I knew I wouldn’t be invited again after Billy Higginbotham caught me relieving myself whist umpiring at Square Leg. Crompton was never sober and our tour mood was captured perfectly by the local loon swallow diving into a wheelie bin whilst quoting Greek poetry.

Hayfield were obviously seduced by complacency as Crompton’s century helped Whaley achieve a formidable Bissenden score of 240-8. Hayfield needed a solid start, but Davies and Chinniah were soon snared by the aggressive, foul mouthing Shaw on a one way ticket to oblivion. Not quite a cunning plan, but I can’t ever recall an easier victory against such overwhelming favourites.

By now the former whipping boys were growing in confidence and rapidly emerging as genuine title contenders. Availabilities improved almost overnight and thanks mainly to the manic encouragement of “Tink” Taylor, the Wednesday evening practice was serious and virtually compulsory.

Tink was a firm believer in fighting talk and on more than one occasion he quite literally took the fight to the opposition. Damien Weatherhead was taught a valuable, if trifle harsh lesson in cricket etiquette, whilst Stockport will always rue the day they brought a football to Horwich Park.

In all fairness, Tink’s ferocious influence was positively transparent, especially on the never-say-die attitude of those players normally on the periphery of first Team action.

Incredibly Birch Vale were beaten after Nick Latham and Phil Leadbetter had rescued Whaley from 29-8; Mike Madden was a major catalyst in the defeat of Tintwistle; My best ever bowling performance was saved for the legendary tied match in the top of the table clash against Compstall.

Our only weakness was a bowling attack that relied more on accuracy than penetration. Subsequently, our lack of maximum bowling points left us tantalizingly close to the eventual champions.

Sadly, the final piece in the jigsaw was also a keen drummer in a local band. David Booth was a talented opening bowler, but after irritating Tink by expressing a desire to be nearer to the Manchester music scene, he promptly packed his bags and moved to Furness Vale. Presumably his ability to read music was more qualified than his ability to read maps.

Given the benefit of hindsight the League Champions flag was only a few Boothy appearances away from flying over the Whaley pavilion. However, second place was no disgrace and as Whaley were drawn to play on Tink’s favourite cabbage patch we approached the Semi Final at Stockport with unrelenting confidence.

Despite Charlie Holden’s holiday absence and Steve Woolley’s first over dismissal, it was still a routine stroll for Whaley, with all the bowlers performing admirably and Crompy and Tink standing firm against the slingers and sledgers from Nangreave Road. An eight wicket victory spoke volumes for our confidence as we awaited the outcome of the other Semi final.

The only major concern was the identity of our eleventh man as due to holiday commitments, a number of fringe players had played in the important games. Ten players were certain starters, but the choice between Jon Prior, Jason Tatton and Mike Madden was too close to call.

It certainly didn’t help matters when a Hazel Grove wedding the following week provided Whaley with a virtual walkover. Jason could hardly cement his place with only 60 runs to chase, whilst Jon was helping himself to a Second X1 century against the old men and little boys that featured for the Grove. Eventually Jon was selected, but after featuring in the Semi final, Jason was desperately unlucky.

Birch Vale had won the trophy for the previous three seasons and arrived at New Mills splendidly attired in club blazers and matching slacks. I had spent the previous night with a certain girl from a certain village and arrived at New Mills unshaven and splendidly attired with my “Uwe’s Grandad bombed Old Trafford” tee shirt.

The Whaley team for the final was Steve Woolley, Darren Crompton, Tink Taylor, Charlie Holden, Phil “Absolutely” Crick, Nick Latham, Phil Leadbetter, Tim Arnfield, Jon Prior, David Booth, and Neil Shaw.

Birch were immensely unpopular, but in all honesty, I never knew why. They were simply too good for most of their opponents and I could name plenty of other individuals, at least two of whom played for Whaley Bridge, who would walk into an obnoxious Derbyshire and Cheshire League X1.

I can’t remember who won the toss, but after four overs I was bowling from the pavilion end, knowing that Ledder had declared himself unfit to bowl, after damaging his shoulder during an epic innings the previous day against Compstall. In other words there was nowhere to hide.

Shakespeare was opening with Billy Hyde and after the Oxford experience he was well aware that I had no intention of speaking to him until after the game. This was serious cricket with a huge expectant crowd and Ian Bowers on the PA announcing the bowling change.

Birch made a slow start but Shakespeare soon spotted a gap and stroked me through extra cover for a boundary in front of the bowling green. He repeated the shot, but this time to a slower delivery and the ball floated to Crompy at wide mid on. The moment took an eternity before Crompy swooped and caught the ball inches from the turf.

Shakespeare stood his ground so I offered him a compass. Lloyd Hayes confirmed that the catch was clean and the Bard of Birch was on his way to the pavilion. Caught Crompton bowled Shaw and shove your vegemite sandwich where the sun doesn’t shine.

Boothy soon trapped the dangerous Rick Johnson and with Tim, Steve and Charlie all bowling aggressively, Birch were always on the back foot. A late surge witnessed a final score of 160, but everyone knew that Whaley were now the favourites.

The concentration was intense as Steve and Crompy constructed a slow, but solid start before Steve was eventually trapped LBW with Whaley on 60-1. Tink and Charlie both supported Crompy, but Birch were bowling tight and giving nothing away. The tension was almost unbearable, but as Whaley inched closer, the frustration was beginning to show in a couple of uncharacteristic fielding errors. A few more boundaries and Whaley were on the home straight.

With six wickers and less than twenty runs remaining, Tim Johnson threw the ball to the occasional slow bowler Steven Burns. It was an inspired decision as Crompy immediately smashed the ball down Square leg’s throat. Ledder was stumped first ball and Rigger soon perished at the other end. Cue bedlam amongst the Birch fielders and utter panic in the Whaley dressing room.

Arnie and Onion Head restored order, but every single and scrambled leg bye was greeted with pure emotion. We all dream of being the hero, but Boothy was white as a sheet and I couldn’t get off the toilet. God help us if we lost another wicket.

Cometh the hour, cometh the onion and with Roy Cartledge adjudicating Crompy as the deserved Man of the Match, every player from Birch entered our changing room to offer their congratulations. A touch of class from worthy opponents and certainly a gesture that we would never have offered.

The celebrations went on through the night with virtually the whole Birch team appearing in the Sheps. Shakespeare sung Waltzing Matilda and an old codger from New Mills gave me a slap for singing George Formby. It was a memorable occasion with Tink leading the infectious Boy Scout classic, “We are the boys…bobbing up and down like this..”

Happy Days!

Tonight Mathew I’m going to be the Whaley Bridge Second Team Captain.

From the sublime to the ridiculous in ten minutes, May 28th 2011 will forever be remembered as the day when the gods of village farce descended upon the Jodrell Arms car park.

At 12:45 it slowly transpired that there were only nine players amongst the assembled throng. Not for the first time, Anthony Rowntree had found an alternative source of Saturday afternoon entertainment, whilst rumours were surfacing that Trumpton Fire Brigade had deprived us of the dubious cricketing talent of Nick Howe. Meanwhile Gibbo was picking the wrong moment to inform his team mates that the deadline for payment of subs was imminent. The punchline to this remarkable joke was that anybody who hadn’t paid their subs by 31st May would not be considered for future games.

T R Wild was allocated the difficult task of tracking down the elusive John fiddler and soon found himself trading small talk with a mysterious eccentric old lady who had been receiving two phone calls per week for Fid ever since she had changed her mobile phone at Christmas. Bizarrely, despite receiving so many strange phone calls, she appeared to be a huge admirer of Mr Fidler and wished to pass on her regards.

Cars were stopped and innocent bystanders refused to be press ganged into a game of cricket. Stewart Weston was mentioned, but it would have been more appropriate if Simon Weston had donned his whites. The good ship Whaley Bridge was sinking rapidly in a minefield of indifference to the Derbyshire and Cheshire Cricket League.

At this point I wasn’t even captain, but as the clock was ticking I tentatively suggested that my car should aim for Derbyshire’s answer to Jurassic Park.

We arrived at Hollingworth with the umpire placing the bails and at least two players from the opposition exaggerating the action of checking their watches. All very transparent, but little did they realise that the man in the blue fiesta doesn’t take orders from anybody.

The umpire followed me into the changing room and was greeted with an outrageous lie concerning the volume of traffic at Hayfield Carnival. I don’t even know if Hayfield celebrates a Carnival, but it was the first thing I could think of. Thankfully, he was a trifle gullible and within minutes we were comparing experiences of recent games involving unexpected delays. I can’t speak for him, but there wasn’t an ounce of truth in any of my experiences.

Eventually my delaying tactics were rumbled and I was summoned to the obligatory toss of the coin. Rather worryingly, there was still no sign of Gibbo and TR Wild, or the two mystery guests.

The umpire was delightfully pompous as he explained the rules of tossing a coin. Apparently, one of us would toss the coin and the other would either shout “Heads” or “Tails”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but equally after passing me a 2p coin he probably wasn’t aware that the temporary captain of Whaley Bridge was also the Patron Saint of Stupidity.

For the first time in my life I launched into a run-up to toss the coin. Totally childish, but absolutely brilliant, as the coin rebounded off the clouds and drifted with the breeze. Eventually it bounced and rolled down the slope towards the sightscreen with the umpire and opposition skipper in hot pursuit.

The call was correct, but remarkably their captain deliberated for thirty seconds before making the obvious decision of inviting Whaley Bridge to take first knock. Thankfully it also prevented the embarrassing scenario of Whaley fielding first without a ball or wicket keeping gloves.

As I returned to the changing room I felt like the Garrison Commander at Rorke’s Drift with Colin Wild singing Men of Harlech and Matt Morten manning the barricades with Sam Slack. I had used every stalling tactic in the book, but the game was about to commence.

Still no sign of back-up from Whaley and with the Umpire requesting assistance at square leg, my options were limited. Eventually I presented our batting order to the opposition scorer.

1/ Matt Morten

2/ Sam Slack

3/ Neil Shaw

4/Colin Wild at Square Leg

My fears were finally eased by the pleasing sound of car engines in low gears and car exhausts hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Not quite the 7th Cavalry, but I don’t ever recall being so pleased to see Gibbo in my life. It was around this time that I was nominated captain.

I was so excited I immediately forgot the rules and shouted “No Ball” from Square leg. The patience of the Hollingworth captain was beginning to wane as I tried to meander my way out of the embarrassment.

Eventually the afternoon began to resemble a game of cricket, but there was still one more surprise in the shape of our tenth and eleventh players. Strictly speaking we were still two players short, but Lydia Slack was due to return from a shopping expedition in Macclesfield at around 2:45pm and the original intention was for the injured Peter Crowley to field at slip, but not bat. John Crowley suggested that he should play rather than Peter and given all the previous stress, nobody was going to argue otherwise.

The opposition were obviously confident of victory, but their bowling attack was nothing spectacular. The Whaley batting resembled Wendy Richards rather than Viv Richards, but on more than one occasion, the home team were beginning to get rattled. Matt Morten bludgeoned a quick thirty, but the highlight of the innings was the eighth wicket partnership between Lydia and the highly promising Callum Mcllveen, both of whom played some delightful cricket strokes and thus guaranteed a more than respectable final score, given the circumstances, of 133.

Our chances of victory rested largely on the accuracy of our opening bowlers, Colin and Gibbo. Sadly, a few loose deliveries diluted the impact of an attacking field, but refreshingly Callum bowled well and the ground fielding was excellent. Eight bowlers were used and it would have been nine if Slacky had not bowled a rank long hop at their opening batsmen with the resulting smash preventing me from holding a pen, never mind a cricket ball. Lydia wasn’t keen on bowling and T R Wild wasn’t keen on John Crowley bowling. A Six wicket defeat doesn’t really tell the full story, but then again I’ve experienced bigger humiliations in far stronger teams.