Seventh time lucky for Wellswood

Torbay Weekly

Early in July 1974, I was sitting in the pavilion, at Torquay Recreation Ground, with the rest of the Wellswood cricket team, and I was biting my nails.

The semi-final of the Brockman Cup was on a knife-edge.

Kingskerswell had posted 89 for 7, and, with one ball left, we were level on 89 for 9!

Harry Lowe, Kingskerswell’s hefty fast bowler was vastly experienced and, as he stood at the end of his long run-up, he looked straight into the eyes of our number eleven, Pete Walsh.

Pete was a lovely, softly-spoken, Welsh school-teacher who seemed too gentle for the task that confronted him. Although I had shut my eyes, I could still hear the sound of Harry’s boots as they pounded towards the stumps.

Then, in an instant, the sound of willow on leather, and I opened my eyes as the ball flew to the long-on boundary!

We had done it!!  Pete had just put us into the Brockman Cup Final.

In the bar afterwards, the celebrations began. Someone bought a bottle of champagne, and the laughter and back-slapping got louder and louder. But, over in the corner, my brother Tony, our captain this year, was drinking by himself, so I went over to join him.

“Cheer up mate! We won!” I said, as I sat down, but I knew what was on his mind.

Today, we had just qualified for our SEVENTH Brockman Cup Final in eleven years, and, up to now, had lost EVERY SINGLE ONE!  Another heartbreak was just weeks away!

In the days that followed, our worst fears were realised when we found out that we would be playing St. Marychurch who had beaten us in the 1972 final, and would start as strong favourites!

On the day of the Final, my brother walked into my office, and sat down. Tony was two years younger than me, but a lot more intelligent.

He was a Classical Greek scholar, and a quiet, unassuming, person who always avoided the limelight. I wondered whatever was on his mind.

“Rog, have you ever heard of Themistocles?” he began “Nope!” I replied.

He, then, went on to tell me how Themistocles had led the Greeks in the sea battle of Salamis, against the Persians, in 480b.c.

Knowing that the Greeks were hopelessly outnumbered, Themistocles told his captains that they should go to war knowing that they would certainly lose and die.

He reasoned that by adopting this attitude, they would have no further fears, and would fight freely.

Tony ended by telling me that he would open the batting, and I would bat at number three, and open the bowling.

“We know we will lose, so I think that you and I should go out like those sailors at Salamis!”

I smiled to myself and told him it was all Greek to me, but that I would go along with the plan.

At 6.30 that night, Tony won the toss at the Recreation Ground, and chose to bat. After one over, we lost Barry Page-Dove, and I walked out to join my brother.

For the next hour we fought the battle of Salamis together, and threw caution to the wind. The innings ended on 101 for one!

As we walked off, I whispered to Tony “Themistocles would have enjoyed that”

It was our turn to bowl now, and I couldn’t have chosen a better sea captain to open the bowling with than Dave Street. Big Dave was always a smiling, winking, joking, happy-go-lucky partner.

Feeling we had nothing to lose, Dave and I tore into the opposition. That night, reputations meant nothing to us, and we seemed to get stronger as each over passed by.

One by one the St. Marychurch batsmen failed, and, by the end, only their captain, Geoff Lang was undefeated in a total of 89 for 6.

We had done the impossible and won the Brockman Cup at the seventh attempt!

The Brockman Cup was the junior competition in South Devon whilst the senior clubs competed for the Narracott Cup.

As we downed our pints in the pavilion that night, we all knew that our season was not yet over. The Brockman Cup winners had to play the Narracott winners for the Kendall Meek Trophy.

Surely not even Themistocles could save us from slaughter then!

(More next week!)