‘Three days of glory for the Greens on the cricket field’      by Rob Batiste

Published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 1st August 2009

HELEN SHAPIRO was number one with You Don’t Know, Sir Charles Mills was Guernsey’s Lt-Governor and William Arnold our Bailiff Jack Reddish was head of cricket at the college and Mac Allen was still creating immaculate cricket wickets at the College Field. And on a Thursday afternoon in mid-August 1961, Guernsey won the full inter-island cricket match for the first time. The Channel Islands best cricketers had been clashing annually for decades under the guises of the Guernsey Island and Jersey Island Cricket Clubs. But, in 1957 (sic), the biggest game in the Cl cricket calendar finally went open and, as so often they did in those days, the two teams battled out a draw, And again in 1958, and again in 1959. Jersey finally broke the sequence of tedium when they won by two wickets in 1960 and Guernsey got off the mark a year later with Vernon Collenette, perhaps the era’s ‘Mr Sport’, skippering the side. It was a Guernsey team much changed from the first one in 1957, Collenette being one of only four survivors along with Alan Hunter, Robin Roussel and Alan Bisson. The game was also significant as being the first to feature two men who, over the next quarter-century, would go down in Guernsey cricket folklore as greats: Warren Barrett and Pierre Le Cocq. And both men played their part in a 38-run win for the Sarnians on a wicket that helped the bowlers all day but also enabled the batsmen to play their strokes. Having won the toss, Collenette opted to bat and, in a shade under 59 overs, the home side scored 178 before being bowled out. Alan Bisson made a cultured 35 at the top of the order, Ian Lloyd a useful 26 at first wicket down, Roger Self, who years later would coach Britain to Olympic glory on the hockey field, 31 and Alan Hunter a brisk 35, hitting the ball in the manner his son Neil was to copy in Guernsey colours many years later. All told, Guernsey stretched their innings out for 200 minutes and Jersey were left with 145 to get the runs. Thanks to Barrett and Le Cocq they never looked like getting close. Once the breakthrough had been made by Martin Hart, Le Cocq’s seamers and Barrett’s spin swept up the middle order and from 83 for seven there was no way back for the Caesareans. So comfortable was it that the captain had no need to turn to his leg-spinners. It was certainly a talented
Guernsey side and, over the next two summers, it arguably became stronger, with the likes of Phil Sarre, Micky Mechem, Stan Cleal and John Deri-Bowen emerging.

But three wins on the bounce seemed a distant memory as the rest of the swinging sixties and into the seventies saw a succession of draws and several defeats. The Greens’ blackest day came in 1969 when they were bowled out for a pathetic 47_

The ignominy of that loss will have stuck in the minds of the handful of Guernsey players who hung around to experience most probably the island’s most memorable win in 1974. And what made it sweeter for the likes of Le Cocq, Barrett, Mechem, Ricky Mills and Brian Preston, who had been part of the ’47’ team, was that the glory came in Jersey’s own backyard, or FB Fields to be precise.

By now Tony Taylor and Alan Lewis had arrived on the scene from the UK to forge the best opening combination we have ever enjoyed, and a young, wild-looking Mike Webber was established as an inter-insular batsman of real quality, Meanwhile, the Elizabeth College talent treadmill threw up a new fast bowler in the shape of Mike de Haaff and an off-spinning all-rounder in John Le Lievre.

THE FINEST HOUR’ rang out the Monday Press headline – ‘might of Jersey cricket humbled’ read the second decker.

Humbled they were too. On a usual perfect FB Fields batting track Dave Billingham’s Jersey side were bowled out for 103 in 54 overs as they desperately tried to get going against the craft of Barrett, who had them tied in knots with figures of five for 20 from 17 overs. Young Le Lievre weighed in with a wicket of his own and the seamers, Le Cocq and de Haaff, claimed two victims apiece. Lewis and Taylor then raced to the target in 27.5 overs. A decade of pain has been forgotten in a few hours. There were joyous scenes on the return boat home aboard the Sarnia and John Le Poidevin wrote that the man most responsible for the change around in fortunes was new skipper Mills. ‘It is certainly a good all-round side but nothing should detract from the captain’s own contribution. He has, over the season, brought out a fine team spirit which has played together a number of times for the GCA.’

Sadly, Guernsey’s new left-right opening combination wasn’t to last. Taylor left the island soon after and a new partner had to be found for the extremely popular Londoner Lewis. ‘We all knew about Taylor’s class. We were all a little uncertain about Lewis,’ wrote the Press’s main cricket man in the knowledge that Lewis could be unpredictable. Here was a player who when he first arrived on the local scene seemingly wore all, the colours of the rainbow and little of it white. He was also banned from wearing shorts, which he insisted he had the right to do. But he was very good, very likeable and a modern-day Guernsey team could do with him as they now travel the world. Nobody knew ‘Big Al’ better on the cricket field than Henry Davey, his former opening partner at St Martin’s. ‘Technically, he was one of the most complete batsmen I’ve seen. ‘Taylor was good but was more of a grinder out of runs. ‘But Alan could score fluently and if he didn’t want to get out he’d stick his long leg down the wicket and you couldn’t get past his bat’, Davey chuckled as he recalled Lewis’ early adventures on the cricket scene. ‘He turned up for the JCL [Jersey Cricket League] game in shorts and pretended he didn’t have any trousers, only shorts. ‘But he showed me that he did have some in the bottom of his bag and he was just winding them up. ‘One of the best innings I saw him play was at the Grammar School pitch on an awful wicket. ‘ITS, basically the Saints side, were all out for 134 and he scored 104 of them and was the only one who could control the wicket.

For the next seven seasons honours were generally even but, in 1982, Guernsey scored another momentous and commanding victory over the old enemy. What made the eight-wicket win at Grainville more impressive was that it was achieved despite the loss of strike bowler Andy Creed in only his second over. The big man limped off with a pulled thigh and was replaced by one half his size – me. The 12th man contributed little more than as much enthusiasm as he could muster, but stood back and watched Miles Dobson enjoy one of his finest moments in inter-island cricket. The fast bowler returned figures of six for 37 from 15.3 overs to limit the impact of Creed’s loss, and if the Jersey batsmen could not hit him they succeeded no better against the spin-twins, Barrett and Ralph Anthony, who took two wickets apiece and conceded just 41 runs from 28 overs. Creed, meanwhile, hobbled around the boundary groaning: ‘I would have loved to have bowled on that track. It was almost as hard as the KGV [matting] and would have suited me.’

Jersey crawled to 112 all out and after a solid platform provided by openers Webber and Le Cocq, debutant Julian Wood from the north of England smashed an unbeaten 54 at three to take the visitors to victory despite the presence of the fearsome Barry Middleton in the Jersey attack. As a common factor in each of
these fine wins over the old enemy, Warren Barrett is as good as anyone to talk about them and the early players. What about his captains? ‘As a cricket captain he [Vernon] reminded me of Douglas Jardine – tall, very elegant and he had a confidence about him. ‘He had a kind of aura which made us all pretty confident’.

Barrett, indisputably the finest slow-bowling all-rounder Guernsey cricket has seen, remembers Stan Cleal’s inter-insular 100 of 1962: ‘a gritty innings scored with a Harrow [size] bat’. Phil Sarre made his island debut in 1962 and he was ‘an outstanding batsman … a class act’, said Barrett. Roger Self he described as
‘Bothamesque’ in character and a ‘swashbuckler’ in that he went out and just hit the ball. ‘He was a left-handed batsman and had a great eye’. And, as a captain, there was nobody better than Mills, said his former Rovers colleague. ‘Ricky
had an aura of confidence about him that spread through the team. I liked him for that. ‘He was a pretty shrewd captain, but had an obstinate streak about him’. He was, recalled the all-rounder, not always willing to give in to a bowler’s demands, which few dared to Warren.