1st XI 1978
Back row: Mr J Shepperd, David De Silva, Andy Brown, Keith Davey, Bob Barringer, Tim Prouty, Richard Chalk
Front: James Catchpole, Andrew Lincoln, Justin Edrich (Captain), Michael Lincoln, Peter Hargreaves
There may have been teams from the Andy Seeley era which were better - indeed Andy Seeley would probably be able to give the definitive answer to that question since his ample frame was still very much in evidence in 1978 - but it was nonetheless a superb collection of talent which gathered together for winter nets in the sports hall in January of that year.
This was John (Noddy) "Don't you know???" Shepherd's final year as coach and the culmination of many, many years of under-appreciated service to the school. It was a colossal insult that a man of such cricketing knowledge and wisdom was paid such a pittance for his trouble and consigned to live in the "Siberia" of the chalets adjacent to Sick Bay. He wasn't to everybody's taste. He could, and often would, eviscerate you with words and the aforementioned look. He was often hard on those of less than perfect execution, but never hard on anyone who gave their all.
The team posted a formidable record in cricketing terms. W6 D3 and L1. The loss was to the worst team we played all year, Woolverstone Hall. We bowled them out for 76, were cruising to a comfortable 7 wicket victory at 66 for 3 and then before anyone had a chance, it seemed, to realise what was going on, we were all out for 72! It was as freak an occurrence as you're ever likely to see on a cricket pitch where better teams overcome those of lesser talent 99.9 times out of 100, but there it stands as irrefutable evidence that you have to play every game to the end. John Shepherd was unable to speak to anyone for what seemed like weeks. The loss must have devastated him.
The team's make-up varied little from week to week in spite of "O" levels and "A" Levels. Not only was this testament to the fact we all sensed we were a part of something special but also to the respect and reverence everybody held for John Shepherd. By the way; can't use the "O" and "A" Level excuse for the Woolverstone Hall debacle. We fielded just about our strongest possible side that day.
The batting order for the 1978 1st XI was mostly as follows:
1. Tim Prouty
2. Peter Hargreaves
3. Justin Edrich (Capt.)
4. David de Silva
5. Andrew Lincoln
6. Keith Davey
7. James Byron Dean Catchpole
8. Richard Hugh Charles Chalk
9. Michael Lincoln
10. Bob Barringer/Neil Carruthers (R.I.P.)
11. Andy Brown
Honourable mention should also be made of Mark Jefferies and C.J. Burton; constant presences in the scorer's box and Teas Person, Angharad Perkins, who was forced to put out sausage rolls with an atomic half life for each game, yet handled the abuse received with great applomb.
A brief description of each team member follows:
Justin Edrich (Capt.) - If Bob Barringer was "Pull-on-sight," then Justin was pull on the lack of it i.e. They must have been bloody well blind! Since gorgeous Wycol. girls were apparently only too eager to thrust themselves upon him like out-of-control cement mixers. At one time he was going out with Su Cox, one of the school's undisputed "Beautiful People" while at the same time wresting the gorgeous Kim Emmitt from the not insignificant clutches of Guy Griffiths. Guy was probably one of, if not, the best looking bloke(s) at School in the late '70s and most definitely, "Pull-on-sight!" If Justin's "animal" magnetism was (and still is) a mystery, then his qualities as captain most definitely were not. He was without a doubt, in my opinion, the best captain the school ever had at any sport. Tactically astute, perhaps even brilliant, he was an even better man manager. He was also a formidable batsman. If not blessed with the flourishing stroke play of his immortal father, Bill, he certainly had all the uncompromising grit of his uncle, John. After leaving Wymondham, Justin went on to a highly successful cricketing career in the minor counties playing 10 years for Suffolk.
Peter Hargreaves - Peter was the other opening batsman. A solid, stylish player with some accomplished shots which didn't always get to see the light of day because he was unselfishly playing foil to one of the other batting juggernauts on the team. Peter was as good an all around athlete as ever attended the school. As well as being a handy cricketer, he was a brutally hard and skilful footballer and rugby player. He was also an excellent long distance runner. A quiet introvert by nature; he had a wickedly sly sense of humour. It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that he was running a fish farm somewhere. Either that or a "Death Camp" for S.A.S. wannabees in Outer Mongolia.
David de Silva - David was quite simply the best player in the history of Wymondham College cricket. Marcus Dunne was a great, great player who could dominate at the schoolboy level. Alan Rutherford was a quality batsman. David Thomas and Jerry Youngman were stars but David de Silva was from another planet!
As well as coaching the college side, John Shepherd also captained the Norfolk equivalent of the Rugby Barbarians called "The Barleycorns." One Sunday, David, Justin and I were chosen to play for The Barleycorns against The Ealing Cricket Club in Ealing, West London. This was one of the stellar fixtures on the Barleycorns fixture list since Ealing in those days provided a significant talent artery for the Middlesex County side. On the Ealing team that day was an obnoxious young fast bowler called Simon Hughes who went on to play several seasons for Middlesex. The Ealing ground staff had prepared the pitch so it was like a green trampoline! Therefore instead of facing Simon Hughes which would have been bad enough, it was like facing Michael-flipping-Holding! I opened the batting that day with another chap from Barleycorns. After taking my guard I shot a brief glance over my shoulder and saw that the wicket keeper and slips had taken up their positions about 40 yards behind me! The sight of that hadn't really registered as Hughes sauntered up off a shortish run for his first delivery. The ball, or at least I think it was the ball, pitched just short of a good length and whistled passed my ears like an Exocet. I looked back to see it slap into the wicket keeper's gloves about two feet above his head with a loud thwack! I think the best way to describe my brief occupation of the crease that day was that of a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming Space Shuttle. Mercifully, I was put out of my misery 4 balls later when, holding out my bat as though it was a used condom, the ball caught the edge and landed with a strangely subdued whomp in the wicket keeper's grasp. Stumbling, still a bit shell-shocked, back towards the pavilion, I met David who was coming in at number 3. He greeted me with that wonderfully compassionate look of his and said softly, "Bad luck, Tim. There was nothing anyone could have done with that."
I made it up to the balcony just in time to see Hughes' first delivery to him. From where I was sitting, the ball appeared to hit the pitch around the same place as the previous delivery to me. This ball: A ball that, "Nobody could have done anything with," was sent crashing to the extra cover boundary for four! Hughes just stood there, rooted to the spot. Not believing the rude message his eyes had just transmitted to his arrogant little brain. David went on to take Hughes and the rest of the Ealing attack apart with a majestic 58. Unfortunately no one else made it into double figures so we were soundly beaten. But all that seemed secondary to the batting display we had just had the privilege of witnessing.
Justin told me the other day, as we exchanged e-mails, what a class act he thought David was. That if he (Justin) was an adequate minor counties player, then he (David), at a minimum, should have been a good county player. "He was perhaps just too much of a gentleman for the 'dog-eat-dog' world of 2nd XI (county) cricket."
The Lincoln Twins (Andrew & Michael) - The Adonis-like "Greens" as they came to be known were the physical embodiment of what Michael Jackson has unsuccessfully tried to accomplish with countless surgeries over many years. They were also gifted all-rounders; cultured stroke players displaying the economy of effort of all the great ones and Andrew in particular was a highly effective spin bowler. Making the jump from being the stars of their year team to a 1st XI loaded with talent and egos was not going to be easy yet they both effected the transition seamlessly. They slipped into their rolls as integral parts of the team without the slightest fuss. A tribute not only to their maturity but the fact that they were simply a couple of good blokes. Unfortunately the school didn't get to see the best of them as they both left at the end of their fifth year.
Keith Davey a.k.a. Henry 'Opper "The Man From Atlantis," like David, was a transplant to the Sixth Form system at Wymondham. His body apeared to have been sculpted out of granite, coming to the perfect "V" at something like a 12" waist! At the time, apart from being a peerless proponent of "The butterfly" as his original nickname would indicate, he was probably the best schoolboy goalkeeper in Norfolk. The (Grass) Hopper moniker was added as a result of several ridiculously acrobatic catches he made as a member of the slip cordon. Keith, modest and unassuming despite possessing enough raw sporting talent for about 30 people, like The Greens, fitted seamlessly into the fabric of the team.
James Byron Dean Catchpole - Jim Catchpole was a tremendously talented cricketer, who, at the tender age of 12 had his position as heir apparent to the throne of Wymondham College cricket usurped by the son of an English sporting legend when Justin Edrich arrived from Culford. This cannot have been an easy adjustment for a highly-strung 12 year-old with oodles of cricketing talent in his own right to make. It is to Jim's great credit that he assumed the role of "the second best cricketer the school had seen in years" with nary a grumble. He was a lethal bowler with the new ball and goodness knows where cricket would have taken him if he'd been about 5" taller. He was also an above average batsmen who suffered a bit in that area because of the attention allotted the so-called "Thoroughbreds" on the team.
Richard Hugh Charles Chalk - Richard is today possibly one of the top 50 most influential lawyers in the U.K. Yet even someone of his estimable acumen, integrity and talent would be hard-pressed, in good conscience, to make a case for his inclusion in the 1978 1st XI. He was not a great cricketer. He was not even a good cricketer. Unless gambolling around in the general area of mid on trying to immitate the sound of a strangled seagull can somehow be put forward as a qualification. As a bowler, he had a curiously undeceptive, ionospherically dispatchable stock delivery. He was like this strangely demented WWI biplane coming in to land, at the last minute ejecting the ball like some sort of errant Mills Bomb. A bomb, unfortunately, that would explode regularly off the bat of the opposing team to all corners of the field.
The Americans have a term for that elusive ingredient which is common to all successful sporting teams. They call it "Team Chemistry." More than anyone else, Richard Chalk was responsible for the successful team chemistry of the 1978 Wymondham College 1st XI Cricket Team. Richard and his wife Cathy, also a notable college alumnus, have recently been blessed with a 5th addition to their family. In his Christmas Letter last year, Richard finished up by describing son Jonathan as, "Such a happy little chap." Like father like son.
Bob Barringer - What can possibly be said about "His Royal Bobness" which hasn't already been applied to this piece with such despicable malevolence? Well, plenty actually. Bob was a highly intelligent slow bowler who could be relied upon to shut down one end and reduce the flow of runs to a trickle if an opposing batsman had gotten after the attack a bit. He picked up a lot of wickets by frustrating opposing batsmen. He also may have picked up a lot of wickets because of the bizarre hitch in his delivery stride as he was about to deliver the ball. As much as I would like to promulgate the idea that it was largely the result of a mis-spent youth as a Las Vegas Showgirl, it was, unfortunately, more likely the result of his proficiency as a javelin thrower where that hiccup in stride became a powerful launch pad. And could he ever launch the cricket ball from deep third man!
Neil Carruthers (R.I.P.) - As a left arm spinner, Neil provided much needed variety and unpredictability to the bowling attack. As a human being no one's behavior pattern could have been more reliably predictable. If they ever want to do a remake of "The Cruel Sea" in Heaven and Jack Hawkins is not available then Neil would be perfectly cast as his replacement.
Richard Chalk shared a wonderful story the other day which typified "The Vulture."
"My abiding memory of Neil," said Richard, "In particular his no nonsense approach to life, was when we were all staying with Derek Shipley down in London when Derek was a motorcycle courier and we decided to watch the England v Australia test at the Oval. The next day we were playing cricket in the park, when some kids came over to us and said they had found a pigeon with its insides hanging out but which was still alive. Neil immediately rushed over and picked up the pigeon and smashed its head against a park bench killing it instantly. It really left an impression on the kids who I am sure thought initially that Neil was going to treat it."
Andrew Brown If I had had to face Andy Brown each week as an opening batsman my batting average would probably have required a microscope to find it! Andy was just about unplayable with the new ball. He had everything you look for in a quick bowler; pace, movement and a stare that would penetrate sheet metal! I never ever saw him give less than 100%. I hear that today he's rather comfortably upholstered, but nothing could replace the fearsome image in my mind of a fired-up Andy Brown, replete with full head of steam, charging in with the new ball in his hand. Eat your heart out, Bob Willis!
The 1978 First XI was an exceptional team. It was the happy coincidence of a group of players with abnormal talent appearing at the same time that the College was fortunate to have the superb coaching talents of John Shepherd, a top coach and a top bloke who was held in high esteem in the cricket world far beyond Wymondham. Tim Prouty has said his bit about the side (my lawyers are currently scrutinising the text) and so I think that it is appropriate for me to offer a few words about him.
Tim was one of the sporting heroes of the College, someone that you would always want on your side when the pressure was on. Despite the gruff exterior he has a sensitive and romantic nature and passed much of his leisure time in his room listening to Bob Dylan and wistfully writing poetry to the mysterious "sad-eyed lady" . He spent five years in the cricket team and four in the football and rugby sides, probably playing more first team games in total than anyone before or since. As a cricketer he was a high quality opening batsman, good enough to score 100 for Norfolk Schools against Norfolk Club & Ground, and possessed a well organised defensive technique allied to a powerful array of shots. What set Tim apart as a sportsman was the most ferocious competitive instinct that I have ever come across in sport (even playing Scalextrix against him was like spending a month in the Somme), he was desperate to win and expected the same commitment from those around him. The Sports Hall boot room used to need regular redecorating after his exhortations to psyche up the rugby 1st XV had stripped the paint from the walls, they would then take to the pitch in a state of mind that would have terrified the average Zulu warrior. I imagine that when the current 1st XV are 16-12 down to Greshams with five minutes to go that they feel the spirits of players past urging them on from the touchline, the most strident being TJ Prouty, no-one gave more of his soul on a sports field.
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