|Moddershall 1999: five of this lot make it|
One of my most recent (and shortest) contributions to the Moddershall monthly (ish) newsletter, Barnfields Buzz, was a select XI of the best 'local' players I'd played with: that is, either amateurs, or English professionals I played an extended period with, thus excluding those who deputised here and there, such as Samit Patel or Chris Lewis.
I also excluded players from my university days, and those I played with in Staffordshire age-group cricket or in my handful of games for the North Staffs & South Cheshire League XI.
There were a few names that came into consideration – Wayne Stones, Scott Elstone, Hamza Siddique, James Cornford, Chris Beech, Phil Hawkins, and a few more – but in the end there could only be XI. One or two might quibble with the batting order, but such is life.
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I was thinking not long ago about the excellent overseas professionals Moddershall have had, and wondered how many internationals I’ve played with at Barnfields. Then I got to thinking about who’d feature in the best homegrown XI I’d played with at club level. This is my team:
1. Karl Glendenning
Opening batsman for Wollaton, where I played in 2006 and 2007, Karl was (and might still be) the leading century maker in Notts Premier League history. Glendo didn’t leave too many balls, so gave the bowler a sniff, but he was possessed of a dreamy cover drive as well as having plenty of other shots in his repertoire, and thus could wrest the initiative in games very quickly. Once he’d done so, he quite often came down the gears, a typical Yorkshireman ruthlessly focused on making a score. And in a team of excellent catchers, he would be the first-choice grabber.
2. Roger Shaw (wk)
It’s a close call for the wicketkeeper’s spot between Rog and Phil Hawkins. Phil shades it standing up, and Rog probably had the edge standing back. They were both effective, if markedly different batsmen – Phil a rock-solid accumulator who played square of the wicket, Rog quite likely to hit the first ball of the game over extra cover for six – and it’s this game-changing ability that just sees him shade it.
3. Jon Addison
An inspirational figure who transformed Moddershall from a small, ‘provincial’ club to arguably the best in the area for a three- or four-year period at the end of the 1990s, principally by making us all feel ten feet tall when we took the pitch. Put simply, he knew his way around league cricket and understood exactly how to make runs on club pitches, particularly when they were most needed. An effective left-arm spinner on a worn or damp pitch, he also caught several incredible slip catches, and would sneak in a three-man cordon in this team (mainly because he wasn’t the most mobile elsewhere, hence the nickname ‘Agile’).
4. Richard Harvey
A slightly unorthodox though highly gifted strokeplayer with lightening fast hands and a tennis player’s ability for swatting the low full-toss as far as anyone I’ve set eyes on. Harv left Moddershall at 21 to play top-flight cricket, joining Longton, who would become our arch-rivals for the next ten years. He went on to skipper Staffordshire for six seasons, and was the decisive factor in converting Longton from under-achieving show ponies into hardnosed winners (a league ‘three-peat’ from 2003 to 2005), selling his wicket as dearly as almost anyone I’ve seen. Also, he had bucket hands and moved well, so would field pretty much where he wanted in this team.
5. Sam Kelsall
I only played one season with him as a 15-year-old (him, not me), but aside from his obvious talent he had an exceptional attitude and bone-deep appetite for the battle, not taking a backward step against the likes of Tino Best and Lonwabo Tsotsobe. His medium-pacers were also useful at covering gaps in our team, and it’s good to see them doing such a steady job these days.
6. Iain Carr
A superb cricketer who, in this era of open payments, could probably command close to £10,000 per season (as could No7 in our team) but who never took a single penny out of club cricket. Happier against high pace than spin or dibbly-dobbly seam, Iain would muscle away bouncers whatever their speed, and was the first man to make a NSSCL double-hundred. Bowling lively seam up with a hint of out-swing from a high action, when he was free of shin splints he was capable of destroying batting line-ups, as attested by three nine-fers, including one in a famous win at Longton. Fields slip for the spinners.
7. Andy Hawkins
In his pomp, Hawk was arguably the best pace bowler in the league, if not the county, swinging the ball away at good pace and getting awkward bounce. A Guyanese pro and former Windies ODI player at Audley once compared him to facing Curtly Ambrose – not bad for a part-timer! He was also a very positive and hugely talented batsman, one capable of making telling contributions against high-class bowling. With a bit more drive and/or self-belief, and perhaps a more forgiving left knee, Andy could easily have made a good career playing county cricket for a decade. Mr Moddershall.
8. Tom Savill
Another teammate at Wollaton, the enigmatic former Cambridge University captain and Notts Academy member was a new-ball bowler who, if he clicked, could hurry it through in the mid-to-high eighties from a slingy action that might also send down the odd unintentional flattie. An absolute nightmare to face indoors! Tall and technically correct, he was also a very accomplished batsman, good enough to get a couple of first-class fifties against Warwickshire and Northants. When he was hot...
9. John Myatt
‘Mauler’ may not have made too many friends in the opposition ranks, and occasionally caused ructions in his own dressing room, but he was an out-and-out winner who was harder for the opposition to get rid of than Alien or Predator. Good at smashing average bowling, super-courageous against high pace, with a method that worked against spinners, John was also an aggressive, skiddy line bowler with a sharp bouncer who later morphed into an excellent dobber as the hair grew more silver. Despite being a fixture at first slip, he’d get nowhere near this team’s cordon – but might not be that easy to tell as much.
10. Paul McMahon (c)
Skipper of Oxford University, England Under-19s (with Tim Bresnan, Samit Patel, Liam Plunkett and others), Nottinghamshire 2nd XI (where he was contracted for six years), Wollaton, and now Cambridgeshire CCC, Macca is the most astute tactician and best communicator of his ideas that I’ve played with or against. An excellent off-spinner and an initially limited, though gritty batsman who has continued to improve as he’s got older, it’s no accident that his spell as pro at both his current club, Peterborough, and Cambridgeshire has coincided with their most successful ever periods.
11. Glenn Heywood
‘The Ten to Two from Crewe’ was signed from now-defunct Crewe Rolls-Royce on the back of a blistering performance on a hard, green pitch in our promotion year of 1996, when he put Hawk on his bum, Harv in hospital, and Addo back in the hutch by flattening his stumps – the latter then making a bee-line for him in the bar that evening to tap him up. He brought raw pace and x-factor to our side, and was a hugely important if hot-and-cold component of our historic league title success in 1997. He also owned no kit whatsoever and if he turned up ten minutes before the start (his nickname referred to both his arrival time and duck-footedness) you thought yourself lucky. Might be batting one place too high in this side, mind.