24 December 2020
2020 is a year that we will all remember. Sadly, those memories will be forever marked by frustration, fear and sadness. For Thornham Cricket Club, this wretched year marked the end of an era, in the passing of the legendary Doctor A. J. Crook.
No brief comment can possibly do justice to the contribution made by Tony, and his ever-present and much-loved wife Barbara, to the history of Thornham Cricket Club. It is surely beyond discussion that no other single individual has done as much to ensure our little club passed its 150th anniversary in robust health. All who played with and under Tony have a fund of anecdotes which will be recounted fondly for some years to come. The restrictions placed on the nation in general, and this district in particular, prevent our paying appropriate tribute to Tony, but that time will come and we will ensure that Tony is remembered as long as cricket is played at Thornham. At this time, in this of all years, our thoughts go out to Barbara and all the family. Had we been able to gather in our traditional Annual General Meeting, we would have begun with a short reflective silence to remember Tony, and all other members associated with Thornham, who are no longer with us. I would ask you now to pause as you read this, and in a quiet moment, remember them and their loved ones.
The weather during the Spring was, ironically, perfect for cricket, and the ground was immaculate. This was due in large part to the care and attention it received from the Ground and Buildings team. Louise and I completed over 150 miles of early morning laps of the ground through April, May and June, and the circuits were the highlight of the day, with the ground looking so perfect. It is completely appropriate that Nicole Chadderton's efforts in maintaining it - along with all her other volunteer roles - were rewarded by the Clubperson of the Year Award for 2020. Thank you to Nicole, Ian and all who gave hours of selfless work to keep the ground and buildings in such good order.
The volunteers of the Club also surpassed themselves once the prospect of opening the bar arose, with many hours of work dedicated to ensuring we would be compliant with regulations, and, more importantly, safe for staff and customers alike. It is disappointing to hear that criticisms were levelled at those managing in such difficult constraints, for being too restrictive; I am absolutely certain that such views do not represent anything other than a tiny minority of members.
The belated opening of the season saw cricket played from July - and predictably the weather turned more unsettled. That cricket was played at all owes much to the Greater Manchester Cricket League Management Committee and Sub-Committees, and I think we should pay tribute to them.
The resumption of cricket finally gave us something to celebrate, with Thornham's 1st XI being crowned champions of their division. How Tony Crook would have rejoiced at that, and what a fitting on-field tribute to him! Huge congratulations are due to Andy Micklethwaite, as Chairman and 1st XI captain, for guiding the team through the many hoops required, before they even set foot over the rope, and for instilling an excellent team spirit. Individual performances of Thornham players set the highest of standards, and we must congratulate Joe Pattison, who stepped up from the 2nd XI and admirably led the attack, with 25 league wickets which made him the leading wicket-taker in the division. A very worthy Player of the Year.
Reflecting the balance of youth and experience which characterises every successful club, Joe's exploits with the ball were well matched by Alec McClure's customary belligerence with the bat. Taking on the unenviable position of 2nd XI captain, Alec led from the front, plundering over 400 runs from just eight innings! With two centuries, and another innings falling just three short of a third, Alec comfortably surpassed any batsman in the league. He also assisted in protecting the outfield, by scoring over 75 per cent of his runs in boundaries. Many of us gave up when our knees stopped working: the ever-dependable Alec just stopped having to run!
There were other outstanding individual performances, all marked in the excellent, remotely streamed awards ceremony, but I think the thanks of all members should go to every player who made himself available to represent the Club in such unprecedented conditions.
It was not just on the field that things had to be done differently. New challenges brought new resourcefulness; for example in the Lockdown Quizzes, so ably set and administered by Erin and Andy Rudkin, which showed the Club reaching out to its members and the wider community.
Work off the field continued, with the construction of a new garage, which will assist in the housing of equipment, but also the experience of those batting in the nets. Thank you to Marie and all who have volunteered on that project. I would also like to thank Stan Kenyon, who, dressed in a white haz-mat suit, like some ghost of seasons past, has done such sterling work, in all weathers, on and around the ground.
We all hope for an end to this cursed virus, and safety for our vulnerable friends and family. But we hope too for a resumption of some of the “old normal” - the banter and wit of the dressing rooms; the dissection of games late into the evening; the sociable contact instead of the social distance; the chance to pay tribute to our heritage and heroes; the marathon of a full season, rather than the sprint of a curtailed competition. There will be challenges ahead, but once again, I'm proud to say that Thornham Cricket Club has shown itself more than capable of dealing with whatever 2021 and beyond can throw at it.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our members, those they love, and those who love them, a very happy, healthy Christmas, and a better New Year.