25 Top cricketer

25 – John A Martel

THE fourth and highest-placed islander to appear in both the cricket and football Top 100s, here was a cricketer whose career spanned both sides of the Second World War and not far short of 40 years.  He played his final game in late summer 1967 when, at the age of 53, he played a key role as Cobo won their first ever Evening League title. During the 1940s, when Pilgrims won three straight Division One titles after the Occupation, schoolmaster Johnny was renowned for an impregnable defence. He scored fairly heavily and although regarded mainly as a batsman, he also took a lot of wickets. In 1949 he took nine against Banks, and 4 for 39 against GlCC. A year later he finished with figures of 5 for 28 while playing for the GCL against GlCC.

But as a batsman he was arguably the most consistent in the first seven years from 1948. That particular summer his unbeaten 67 and stands with Hilary Rich and George Sandercock rescued GlCC from a low score.

Five years on, in a glorious month he amassed 78 for GCL against the Elizabeth College, 84 against Jersey BEA and 74 for GCL against the strong Incogniti tourists. That day GCL, close to a full Island side, were in big trouble at 23 for 6 replying to 217 for 6 declared. Fast bowler Lawton had run through the top order, but coming in at seven, Martel got his head down to score 74 and along with policeman John Holland restore some respectability.

One cricket opinion column of the early 1950s referred to Martel nearly scoring three successive centuries, but sparse use of scorecards at the time sadly does not elaborate. His final full representative games were in the latter half of the 195Os. In 1955 he batted at No. 6 and contributed a second-best 31 in a drawn affair. Two years later he top-scored with an unbeaten 30 as Guernsey held on for a draw, Martel and skipper ‘Nobby’ Clark getting their heads down to stave off what looked a certain defeat. Then, in August 1967 and having come out of retirement to help Cobo close the gap on Rovers, he bowed out to ‘thunderous applause’ in the failing light at KGV.

In a remarkably tense, low- scoring game, Cobo were set just 50 to win by St Saviour’s. What a struggle it was to get them. Cobo were quickly in trouble against the testing attack of Paul Le Cocq and Geoff Callaway on the old bitumen track and when the title challengers had lost five wickets in 12 balls Cobo were in danger of throwing it all away. But veterans Martel and captain Maurice Le Huray stopped the rot and with the score moving very slowly, they inched towards their target. Martel was caught behind with just nine runs needed and although his knock was no classic the heavy applause was in recognition for ‘the many years of outstanding service he has given the local game’. Prior to the game Martel had announced it would be his very final one and he highlighted it ‘with a cover drive which has all the grace and timing which had made him one of the best batsmen to emerge in Guernsey’ wrote the Press the following day. In 2015 he was nominated as one of the eight Island cricketing greats who were to be honoured with stone benches at the revamped KGV.

Notable scores:

1948 –          80* GICC v Cryptics; 8-4-6-4 Pilgrims v EC; 4-22 Pilgrims v Optimists; 67* GICC v JICC

1949 –          6-35 Pilgrims v EC; 67 OE v EC; 23 & 4-39 Pilgrims v GICC

1950 –          5-28 GCL v GICC; 72 GICC v Jsy Springfield; 51* GICC v Wine Trade

1951 –          56* GICC v Cryptics

1952 –          63 GICC v EC; 88 GICC v Jsy BEA; 61* GICC v Jsy Sylvans

1953 –          78 GCL v EC; 63 GICC v Pedagogues

1954 –          5-30 Pilgrims v Rovers; 4-5 Pilgrims v Post Office; 86 GICC v Jsy BEA

1955 –          74* GICC v Incogniti; 79 GICC v Wine Trade

1956 –          68* OE v EC

1958             58* Pilgrims v Post Office

1962 –          71* GICC v EC; 47* GICC v GCL