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Press August 2007 Nostalgic look back from Rob Batiste
Rob Batiste wrote an article on Saturday 4th August 2007 looking back on the history of the inter-insular games. He said that this year  would be the 50th clash but that they were not always as high profile as they are today. It is acknowledged that 1957 could be viewed as the starting point of the Guernsey-Jersey matches but there is evidence outlined elsewhere that it can also be viewed as 1950. If, in fact, the starting date were 1957 then 2007 would be the 51st match, but that is not the focus of the article. It was a nostalgic look back over the many years and trying to pick out the main players who have gone to make this particular game what it is.
’50 years of Guernsey-Jersey cricket: From relaxed beginnings to pressure-cooker days’
Given the palaver and the hype surrounding modern-day inter-island cricket matches, it takes some believing that once Jersey claimed they could not field a team. But it happened, I can assure you , and on another occasion Guernsey arrived at the College Field to take on the might of fifties cricket and the blighters never turned up . ‘Would you believe it?’ exclaimed the GEP cricket correspondent of the time. ‘Jersey had forgotten to pick a team.’ Now did the International Cricket Council know that when they gave Jersey associate membership and the key to the bank of the ICC earlier in the summer?
Seriously, it’s fair to say, the game in both Guernsey and Jersey has come a long way since the annual series was inaugurated with a draw in 1957. It was only a year earlier when Jersey had neglected to show, but we forgave them sufficiently to enter into a fixture which has flourished since the powers that be agreed to get rid of the draw 30 years ago.
Back in 1949 in the days when the nearest thing to an inter-insular game were the two annual GICC-JICC clashed, Sarnian cricket was deemed not to be up to scratch and those were the thoughts of the Guernsey Press correspondent, not some blind-eyed crapaud. The man wrote: ‘Unfortunately from a local point of view cricket is far more popular in Jersey than in this island. Over here baseball is the favourite summer game and quite candidly I think it will remain so for a long time.’ But just one year later, an unofficial Guernsey-Jersey series got under way between the aristocrats from the sister island and their supposed inferiors. At Jersey’s instigation one of the two JICC-GICC games per season was substituted by a Jersey v GICC game.
After three early draws, Jersey were the first to draw blood in 1960. Guernsey then won three times on the bounce with a team based upon the excellence of former Gloucestershire second-teamer Warren Barrett, young all-rounder Pierre Le Cocq and an accomplished trio of batsmen in Robin Roussel, Alan Bisson ad PV Sarre. For the mid and latter part of the sixties, Jersey either won or the game was drawn. Seven games were to end in stalemate, many of them such non-affairs that John Le Poidevin, a star player of the time as well as Press cricket correspondent, was stirred to write; ‘It won’t take many yawns like this to end the series.’
Not that all draws were dull. In 1971, for example, Guernsey’s Mick Wherry strode out at number 11 needing to score three off the last ball for a one-wicket victory. In 1965, Guernsey raced to 251 for three declared (Bisson 75, Le Cocq 85 and Roussel 51 not out) and only Brian Le Marquand’s superb undefeated 85 stood in the Sarnian’s was. In1967, Jersey were 134 for eight at stumps in reply to 174 and were again eight down five years later. In 1973, the Caesareans were even more desperate- but with nine wickets down hung on at the College Field thanks to the skill and doggedness of Philip Le Cras (69 not out) and last man Micky Weedon.
It would be another five years before the game became limited overs with 45 per side the original number. Jersey, though, would not budge on restricting bowlers and even as the 1980s came to an end Jersey all-rounder Colin Graham was sending down 22 in one game.
Down the tears fine cricketers have been made to look ordinary by the pressures of an event which has not only steadily risen in the public consciousness but also that of the players themselves. I have known a few players obsessed with merely retaining their island spot, playing for himself as opposed to the team in the weeks leading up to selection. Others just seem to take the occasion in their stride, their class and temperament seeing them through time and again. Great players such as Barrett, the best spinner the fixture has ever seen, Le Cocq with bat and ball and strike bowler Miles Dobson, purveyor of booming inswingers at close on 80mph. There were Jerseymen too who you wish were born in the prettier island. Players such as Barry Middleton delivering fire and brimstone from 20 yards, all-rounder good egg Steve Carlyon and fellow all-rounder Colin Graham. Then of course there was ‘Wardie’. In the 1990s Ward Jenner, a fine Jersey captain became a leader of the greens, to demonstrate that once and for all we do have a soft spot for the other lot whatever is said out there in the heat of battle and drunkenly blurted from the boundary’s edge.
This was followed up by an article about the best 5 matches that Rob Batiste had witnessed.
‘Five decades: Great wins and droughts’
The year was 1974 and the Guernsey press headline was one to make every local cricket fan burst with pride. John Le Poidevin wrote the account of the game played at the FB Fields as well as the headline:
‘THE FINEST HOUR – Might of Jersey cricket humbled.’ And he was right to make the most of it for two very good reasons. For a start, it had ended a period of Caesarean domination. Jersey, with the aid of a few lucky draws, had not lost in a decade and to beat them by 10 wickets on their home patch was as sweet as it gets. Guernsey skipper Ricky Mills had predicted as much the day before: ‘There is no way we can lose,’ said the Rovers legend and with an outstanding team of youth and experience, he was dead right. Guernsey named three new caps in Harlequins’ tyro fast bowler Mike de Haaff and batsmen Alan Lewis (St Martins)m and John Mountford (Rovers). There was also a recall for Pessimists’ Bryan Preston, who was to get better with age but, like Mountford, was not required such was the humiliating domination of the Guernsey openers, Lewis and Tony Taylor.
After Warren Barrett had taken five for 20 from 17 overs and de Haaff chipped in with two for 33 from 15, Jersey were back in the antiquated but charming FB Fields pavilion, chins on their chests wondering how on earth they could defend 103. Simply they couldn’t. Lewis and Taylor, a classic right and left-handed combination and indisputably the best opening pair we have ever fielded, stroked the visitors home with 42 and 52 respectively and with 27 overs to spare.
Le Poidevin, on the wrong end of a few Jersey defeats himself, was happy to ram the result down Caesarean throats, noting that the previous evening the home team had been boasting that their cricket was; a – of a higher standard, b – better organised, c – more frequent.
Guernsey won again a year late but were denied a hat-trick in a marvellously entertaining draw at a sun-drenched Victoria College ground in 1976. In conditions so reminiscent of that wonderful summer and with the Guernsey fans taking a leaf out of the West Indian fans by using empty beer cans to add musical atmosphere, the supporters were treated to 487 runs in the day. Mike Weaver’s Jersey, determined not to lose, declared at 273 for five and allowed the visitors just 95 minutes and 20 overs to extend their winning sequence. Guernsey, to their credit, gave it a go and under a blistering hot sun eased to 110 for two at the start of the last 20. Barrett and Mills were set and when the former took all 18 from one Barry Middletoin over, the target was a gettable 97 off the last 12.Ironically, a spinner half the slow bowler Barrett was , and the best the CI has seen – struck for Jersey. Norman Fage got rid of both the third-wicket men and despite the thirst for runs from the vocal visiting crowd, Guernsey settled for a draw.
The 1982 game brought another away win for the greens and their second successive one on the still relatively new inter-island venue at Grainville. The bouncy, rock-hard Bill Blampied track suited Middleton to a tee, but Jersey did not reckon on our new joker, the quietly-spoken Taverner and then Tortevites Julian Wood. The northerner stroked a cultured undefeated 54 as Guernsey eased to an eight-wicket win, this after Miles Dobson had ripped the heart out of the Jersey batting with a superb 15-over spell of swing at speed, which realised figures of six for 37. All out for 112, Jersey were swept away with more than 20 overs to spare.
The rest of the eighties were fairly even-steven and the decade ended with a fantastic debut by Guernsey’s then wonder-boy. Stuart Mackay, just 18 and the star of the best Elizabeth College team since the Howick-Webber years of the early seventies, became only the third batsman to score a century in the fixture. He had already hit a hundred in the inter-collegiate game and won the under-19 and under-23 games virtually off his own bat. On his home ground at the College Field, he marked his senior debut with another ton as Guernsey reached 208 for seven from their 45 overs. With three balls of the innings remaining Mackay still needed six for three-figures. Next ball he planted his left-foot well forward and caressed a glorious cover drive to the boundary and off the penultimate delivery an inside edge past leg stump brought him the two required. Guernsey’s spin twins, Barrett (17-4-52-4) and Ralph Anthony (20-7-31-3), completed the job and Jersey trudged off well short of their target at 151 for none, the Rue a l’Or end ‘hill’ chirping cheerfully all the way.
Guernsey’s ever-present support retained boisterous throughout the nineties but it never did their team any good. Jersey were untouchable in that period and reeled off 11 wins on the bounce. There were occasions we got close but, mentally, the red caps with Ward Jenner at the helm were always that bit stronger.
By the time the 2002 game came around, the greens had simply forgotten how to win but the change of luck so desperately required came with the combined arrival on these shores of an Indian who once had Sachin Tendulkar as a teammate, a New Zealander with a first-class ton  to his name and an Englishman who might so easily have made it in first-class county cricket. Ami Banerjee, Glenn Milnes and Jeremy Frith gave Guernsey the required leg-up and with the likes of Stuart Le Prevost maturing into an island-class player in his own right, Andy Biggins skippering skilfully and Gary Rich finally at home in this pressure-cooker arena, the drought was gloriously ended at Grainville. Chasing 253 for the win after a man-of-the-match 88 not out from Frith, 50 from Banerjee and a clattering 37 by Le Prevost, Jersey could not get close as Milnes (3 for 41) and Rich (4 for 79) spun their very different webs. Peter Vidamour, the Guernsey manager, was euphoric in his praise for Frith in particular. ‘That was probably the best knock I’ve seen in local cricket – it was so unorthodox,’ said Vidamour, a man who played the odd masterful innings himself at this level.
It certainly got the Guernsey ball rolling. The summers of 2003,4,5 and 6 brought further Sarnian victories and on the grounds that out foreigners are better than theirs we should be hopeful of another win next week. There can be no doubt, the depth of quality in both sides has risen markedly in the past decade, mush of it due to the influx of overseas talent. There are those who would rather see 11 Guernseymen play 11 Jerseymen but were that the case I can assure you it would be a whole lot less entertaining. Winning is one thing, but the game is everything. Watching quality cricket played in the right spirit and with not a jelly-bean or shoulder-barge in sight is what it should all be about. Why, it’s even good for the fixture that Jersey should sometimes win.
In his third article he comes up with a few selections of his own.
‘Mills my man to lead the island’s all-star XI
Apologies to everyone left out. You are all decent fellows, were/are very good cricketers, but I could only XI. You can buy me a drink next time we meet or simply refrain from giving me a mouthful.
Choosing Guernsey’s finest all-time inter-insular team has been huge fun and brought back many memories long forgotten. Those of similar vintage to me may choose to disagree vehemently with some of the selections but, I hazard a guess, most of the XI I have plumped for will form the basis of most cricket follower’s fantasy teams. The near misses would form a fairly useful side themselves. For instance, I found it difficult to ignore the talents of players such as Alan Lewis, Robin Roussel and that modern-day legend Gary Rich. The truth is I had the Cobo stalwart lined up to play and bat at number nine when I was overcome with guilt for ignoring the talents of the island’s most capped player, Ralph Anthony, who I had hesitated to choose because of the presence of Jeremy Frith perfectly able to bowl left-arm spin. It was a toss-up decision which went the Salemite’s way. I have even had the gall to eliminate the last Guernseyman and one of only two in the history of the series to score a century against Jersey. Stuart Mackay was one very fine player but cannot be accommodated on this occasion, nor can the only player to pull on a Guernsey cap with a first-class hundred to his name, the New Zealander Glenn Milnes.
Of my final XI, seven were born and raise here, the other four from England or overseas. And talking of overseas, on this page you will find an all-time XI of overseas players who have graced our pitches, a best of England team and because they have been the team we have strived to beat for the last half century, one to represent the cream of Jersey.
Tony Taylor – Brought to Guernsey to succeed Jack Reddish as head of sport at Elizabeth College, this multi-talented sportsman quickly made his mark on the cricket fields. For five years at the start of the seventies the left-hander topped the order and scored heavily for the dominant Rovers side and his adopted island. More of an accumulator than a strokemaker, but so difficult to prise out. Also a hard-man footballer for St Martin’s and decent basketballer.
Lee Savident – On his inter-insular record alone – just three games from 1993 – the former Rover would come nowhere near a best Guernsey XI. But as the island’s one and only graduate onto the professional scene and a fine track record in club cricket in his adopted country, the all-rounder cannot be ignored. In this side he would not only open the batting but also possibly take the new ball.
Ami Banerjee – The amiable Indian has made a huge impact on the Guernsey cricketing scene since arriving in 2002. An underrated skiddy quick bowler his real prowess lies with the bat where his well-honed technique and strong powers of concentration make him a formidable opponent. It’s not by coincidence that his arrival in the island has seen Guernsey enjoy their best-ever spell in the inter-insular series. Fine close catcher too.
Jeremy Frith – Then Guernsey team manager Peter Vidamour described Frithy’s match-winning 88 in 2002 as the finest inter-insular innings he had ever seen. ‘It was just so unorthodox,’ said Vidamour of a player who, arguably is the finest of the modern generation. Frith deals in big scores and is a man for all situations. His underrated left-arm spin and superb fielding make him a formidable player.
Warren Barrett – Burst onto the inter-insular scene in 1961 when he took a teaching job at the Boys’ Grammar and was an institution in the island side for more than two decades. A wonderful all-rounder, but it was his spin which worried Jersey most. For a long while his appearance in the Guernsey attack would induce mild panic in the Jersey batting, the Caesareans simply being not used to high-class spin which, until he reached ‘senior’ veteran status, fizzed through the air. Capable of prodigious turn and a high-class bat too with as good a hook/pull as the local game has seen.
Stuart Le Prevost – Perhaps a contentious choice, but just the type of player needed to bully a Jersey attack after the top order has produced the base for a big score. A bludgeoner, [particularly off his legs and straight, the current island captain is improving with age. Produced a man-of-the-match fifty in 2004 and has made a habit of caning the Jersey bowling in the dying overs.
Pierre Le Cocq – What a player, arguably the finest locally-raised not to play professional cricket. First appeared in 1961 as a medium-fast bowler but by 1965 he was making big scores as well as taking wickets. That year he stroked an unbeaten 85 in Guernsey’s 251 for three declared and before the end of his career had opened the batting for the island as well as occasionally the bowling. One such year was 1974 when, sharing the new ball with the speedy Mike de Haaff, he took two for six from 12 overs. I cannot believe he ever bowled rubbish and as a batsman he would always gently play himself in before moving up through the gears in the latter overs. A Rovers stalwart in their vintage period.
Ricky Mills – My captain, standing at slip alongside Barrett, and directing operations as the Rovers all-rounder did so proficiently for years. Astute and well-respected, there is surely nobody better to bring the most out of an all-star XI such as this. A fine right-hand batsman in his own right – 61 not out against Jersey in 1976 – Millsy could also swing the ball prodigiously with his left arm and turn his hand to spin.
Mike Webber – Not the best out-and-out gloveman to pull on a green cap, but certainly the best keeper-batsman in my book. Fiercely brave, he would think nothing of taking a leaf out of Brian Close’s copybook and allow short-pitched balls from the likes of Barry Middleton clatter into his ribcage. A fierce square-cutter, he was capable of digging in against the new ball or forcing the pace.
Ralph Anthony – Guernsey’s most capped player and nobody was more anxious to beat Jersey than the left-arm spinner. Ultimately formed a deadly spin combination with Barrett and at number 10 in the order, a very handy bat.
Miles Dobson – Exactly 30 years ago a young Rovers bowler with a Zapata moustache took on Jersey for the first time. His strength was the ability to bowl very fast, aggressively, for long periods and swing the ball, on occasion, with devastating affect. Took stacks of Jersey wickets in the series and also the then annual inter-league game. Even when he began to lose some of his early fire the accuracy remained. Along with Andy Creed formed the most fearsome new-ball attack in league cricket, before swapping Rovers for Optimists.
12th man (best fielder) – Alastair Tapp
Best Overseas XI – Ward Jenner (Captain, Jersey), Glenn Milnes (NZ), Ami Banerjee (India), GH Smit (SA), Howard Taylor (SA), Paul Butler (Aus), Justin Meades (Aus), Mark Wright (wkt, SA), Divan van den Heever (SA)), Andre van Rooyen (SA), Bruce Ricketts (SA)
Best of England XI – John Appleyard (captain), Alan Lewis, Tony Taylor, John Beasley, John Mountford, Bryan Preston, Paul Smith (wkt), Robin Winstone, Andrew Croft, Mike Kinder, Tim Duke.
Best of Jersey XI – Matt Hague, Steve Carlyon, Paul Robson, Mike Weaver (captain), Derek Breed, Ward Jenner, Steve Burrow, Simon Short (wkt), Tony Carlyon, Barry Middleton, Richard Allot.
Rob Batiste’s next article was to choose a Jersey side, seeking help from Jersey’s finest ever fast bowler.
‘Scourge of Guernsey’s batting still going strong’
Many summers have passed since Barry Middleton last tore into the Guernsey batting, peppering Sarnian rib cages and offering batsmen little to hit. But the former Jersey spearhead is still going strong, regularly turning out for the Channel Islands over-50s and St Ouen.
It was with St Ouen that he played at the King George V Field last weekend and, while much younger men were struggling to contain the Cobo batsmen, Middleton came to the rescue with a spell that shows he still has much to offer the game although closer to 60 than 50. While we reminisced about cricketers and inter-insulars past, I pressed him into naming his all-time Jersey XI with the proviso he must name himself. Simply no Jersey team would look right without the man who was the scourge of Guernsey batsmen for years. This is the side he came up with and his reasons why;
Steve Carlyon, Matt Hague, John Holmes, Derek Breed, Ward Jenner, Paul Robson, Mike Weaver (captain), Steve Burrow, Richard Allot, Simon Short (wicketkeeper), Barry Middleton.
‘As Jersey have never had a quality spin bowler, none is included, concentrating as usual on pace and movement. The team selected includes eight possible bowlers , that is if I include Ward, who tries to do an impression of one on occasions …
The main attack features pace through myself and Allot with Robson a decent foil bowling up hill and into the wind. Breed and Borrow would then provide more traditional medium pace seam and swing with Hague and Carlyon able to be called on if needed. Strange possibly to see two wicketkeepers in my select XI in the fro of John Holmes and Simon Short. But in this team Simon gets the nod behind the sticks being by far the best wicketkeeper I have seen in either island with Holmes selected as a batsman and a big match player who hardly ever failed in an inter-insular.
In the XI selected there are a number of potential skippers; Hague, Jenner, Robson and Weaver. I played under all except Hague and the most tactically sound in Jersey was Weaver. He was also as very capable middle order bat. It would be an interesting contest on the captaincy front between him and Ricky Mills, whom I rate as probably the best ever skipper from either island.
Carlyon and Hague are the most prolific openers I have seen for some time, complementing each other perfectly and having the advantage of being a left/right partnership. At number three is Holmes as Mr Dependable followed by Breed who was one of Jersey’s most technically correct batsmen.
Jenner, Robson and Weaver would provide some solidarity in the middle order, each having that all important ‘big match’ temperament. Burrow and Allot are both very capable batsmen in the own right with the ability to provide some quick runs from the late order. The side bats down to 10 with short on his day also being very useful with the willow. I would have to confess to being a more traditional number 11 but still remember with great affection scoring two to win off the last ball when facing Dobson at Elizabeth College Field in Guernsey.’
Stan Cleal – Former Guernsey batsman and century-maker in 1962 wrote; ‘Nice articles but as you say, so many left out. I consider the best wicket-keeper that Guernsey ever had was Bill Robilliard. Another good one was Bill Druce who also captained the island side. A good forcing batsman was Roger Self, not to mention the Blanchford brothers (Roger and Gary) and Gerve Brazier. An old opener was Knobby Clarke (also an island captain).’
Rob Turville – Another former island star who has played with or against most of the modern generation wrote; ‘Can’t argue with the selection of Guernsey’s finest. Played with/against 10 of them. Never saw Tony Taylor but have heard how good he was. No Stu Mackay? But he wasn’t around long enough – despite his ton – to make a massive impression, and Lee [Savident] was a far stronger bowler. Very strong batting line-up but how would you handle the bowlers? Dobbo and Savs to open, I suppose, then Ami, Pierre, Ricky to scrap over first change. the Warren, Ralph and Frithy to ‘share’ the spinning duties …? Good luck getting the ball out of any of their hands.’
In his concluding article Rob Batiste compares a player from the early days and one now.
‘Rich pickings nothing new, as ’57 card reveals.’
Four letters – RICH link the very first inter-insular cricket match with 50 years on, today’s big game at KGV. On Thursday 8th August 1957, Guernsey fielded two Richs, Hilary and Peter, Today, Gary, a cousin to both men, plays hism16th inter-insular at the age of 43. His Cobo mates regularly rib him of his relatively new veteran status and even the player admits the sands of time are catching up on his Guernsey career.
‘I think it will be my last in Guernsey,’ said the all-rounder who will be 45 the next time the match is in his home island. But 16 games is a very decent haul for a product of the Le Beaucamps Secondary cricket academy of Bryan Preston. Rich, the modern one that is, says there is no game quite like the inter-insular. ‘There is nothing like an island game. You can play them [Jersey] in an ICC game but it’s never the same,’ said a player who has made more out of his natural ability than anyone could have expected. He has come a long way since joining Cobo as a 15-year-old promising seam-bowling all-rounder. Made aware of the possible family link with the first game in 1957, Gary was soon checking the family tree and, lo and behold, he found himself to be a second cousin of HF Rich and a first cousin to Gary’s father, Les.
Born in 1913 Hilary would have been 43 or 44 at the time of the inaugural Jersey match and, like his modern-day namesake, was a right-arm spinner. Peter Rich is also linked but much younger than Hilary, born in 1934. It is understood he lives in Australia and is still alive. Alan Hunter, now 80, is one of the few survivors of the first Guernsey side and recalls Hilary as an off-break bowler ad a ‘cunning’ one too. ‘Hilary lived in King’s Road and Peter in Mount Row,’ said Hunter. The proximity of their homes to the College Field was certainly ideal in days when the GICC took over the ground for the whole of the summer.
The Guernsey Evening Press account of the first game shows that Jersey scored 177 and Guernsey were hanging on for the draw at 106 for seven when rain arrived at six o’clock, 15 minutes before the scheduled end. It was a game significant for both sets of top-order batting failing. With Rich ‘playing havoc’ with the Jersey middle-order the Caesareans were 92 for eight shortly before one o’clock. ‘Rich was able to turn the ball both ways, just enough to have the batsmen in difficulty and also bowled the occasional one that left the bat,’ reported the paper. ‘His slower ball was also very well disguised,’ it continued.
Jersey were saved by a ninth wicket stand of 66 by Bob Treagus and Doug Pitman. Treagus was eventually bowled by Hilary for 73 and Pitman went in the same manner for 13. The spinner walked off with fine figures of six for 64 from 20.1 overs. ‘I’d definitely settle for six,’ said his younger second cousin. ‘I’ve been denied five-fors twice,’ he added. ‘I just want to out on a high.’ The Jersey innings featured a rare, possibly unique, moment in the history of the fixture; an all-run five. And by all accounts it was very nearly a nine, as these original paragraphs show. ‘On one occasion Treagus hit a ball just short of the cover boundary, he and Pitman ran five and it nearly resulted in a nine. The batsmen were just completing their fifth run when Offen threw the ball hard at the wicket-keeper [Bill Robilliard]. The keeper jumped into the air and just managed to stop the ball, but had he missed it then it would have certainly gone for four overthrows.’
The 1957 visitors were all out just before three leaving Guernsey three-and-a-quarter hours to get the runs. After a slow start they lost wickets and with only Hunter of the top six reaching double figures, saving the match was soon the priority. Thankfully for Guernsey the tail wagged with skipper ‘Nobby’ Clark hitting 29 and Johnny Martel an undefeated 30 at number eight to save the day. So the series was off to an exciting start and has not looked back. It was, though, still some way off becoming the big event it is now. In the late fifties, GICC ruled the roost and not all the top players were in action in what was then called the Commercial League. It was still the says of two-day games between the GICC and JICC, the King George V Field had only just been renovated after the damage caused by the Occupation and there was no Memorial Field as yet.