First the rules. Following the official Twitter poll I thought I’d take a look at the stats and post the best RCC side of all time. It would be a short task then everyone would shut up: five batters, four bowlers a keeper and an all-rounder. Just pick the leaders in each category. Simples. So keeper first and the number seven spot goes to Jack (drum roll please) …….. Isherwood. There might be a problem here. Jack snared 421 victims between 1903 and 1933 but I’m guessing there would be an expectation that the GOAT in this category would be Jack Simpson (402) or Richard Hevingham (386) second and third respectively in the pantheon. That expectation is based on the assumption that the likely audience for this are baby boomers and younger. Mick Everett makes an excellent case for Billy Whitworth (all-time leading league run scorer with 10,715 @ 27.26) but Billy scored his last run in 1957 when Mick was nine years old. Phil Hayes does the same for Harold Monkhouse (325 wickets @ 19.11) but Harold’s last first team game was 1963.
The reality is, unless we impose some sort of cut-off date, then you might not have heard of half the team. Of the eight batsmen who have scored 5,000 league runs four did so before the second world war: Joe Leach (7,468 @ 18.17); Jack Pearson (5,814 @ 18.69); Tommy Barnes (5,509 @ 16.59); Jack Redfern (5,350 @ 25.97). Of the six bowlers with 500 wickets most of you will have heard of the legendary Fred Duerr 1,477 @ 10.08 (How many!?) but fewer may have heard of William Fenwick (512 @ 11.68) and John Olive (511 @ 14.78). Some of the older generation have told me that John Olive was the best left armer spinner they’d ever seen. So when Rob Read broke ranks and confidently said he would pick two left armers the question might have been: John Olive and which other? I’ve drawn the line at 1980 but left out Terry Stewart (595 @ 17.16). Terry took 564 of those before he left in 1976 returning for one last hurrah in 1985.
The second problem is balance. Five batters, four bowlers a keeper and an all-rounder might be the classic line up but there is a problem when you have a plethora of fine all-rounders to analyse. In fact that would be the norm at Ramsbottom and means most sides in the modern era play with a non-batting, non-bowling number nine. A not especially coveted position for players who are either sharp in the field, good at maximising collections or generally a good egg; ideally all three. So, I won’t give away my formation but it will become clear as you read on.
Ian Bell – Ian is Ramsbottom’s second all-time leading league run scorer with 9,014 @ 23.91 and has made it into all the twitter lists published so far. If he’s not in your team you need a very good reason why. Suspect musical taste doesn’t count.
Henry Hall – Although he made it onto the official voting page Henry rarely gets the love his stats deserve. With 6,005 runs at 14.47 he is fourth all-time leading scorer (third post war). He has played more games (538) than anyone else, 55 more than the next man Billy Whitworth (483). If that record is ever beaten then whoever beats it will be ‘bloody tired’ as Fred Trueman once famously said.
Jack Simpson – 5,499 runs at 28.79 (seventh all time, fourth post war). If that doesn’t make him a certainty throw in his 263 catches and 139 stumpings to average a staggering 1.7 dismissals per game (Tom and Sal are 1.3 and Jack Isherwood 1.0).
Tom Parton – It is slightly strange that Tom has not only not made the Poll team (although putting him in against Jack and the keepers didn’t help) but also not made Mick or Dasher’s teams either. If you take Billy Whitworth out of Mick’s and Chris Harris out of Dashers’ I’d like to think they might consider him with the help of a few stats. His 4,358 runs at 24 years of age make him tenth on the all-time leading run scorers list and fifth highest since the second world war. His average of 29.65 is the highest of all players who have scored over 1,000 runs. That’s ALL players including Billy Whitworth. He is one of only three batsmen (Billy Whitworth and Jack Redfern the others) to score four hundreds. On top of that he has 259 dismissals placing him fourth on the all-time keepers list. I know I’ll get some horseshit about how hard it were in them days, how he never faced Michael Holding on a ploughed field but please: look at the freaking numbers!
Steve Dearden – this is where the classic formation ran into trouble. Thirteen players have scored 4,000 league runs for Ramsbottom so Pete Ashworth (4,313 @ 13.15), Brian Taylor (4,039 @ 19.61) and David Bell (4,018 @ 18.95) can feel a little hard done by. It is also the case that once you’ve selected Jack and Tom you probably don’t need a specialist keeper which is also very harsh on Richard Hevingham. Then there’s the hours I spent trying to come up with an algorithm that separates three outstanding all-rounders. The naked truth is I couldn’t so I didn’t; they’re all in. Dasher scored 3,452 runs @ 23.32 plus 183 wickets @ 23.01. He also had a rare ability to field in two positions at the same time, an understated tactical brilliance (‘put Harris on the boundary, I’m gonna bounce Harper out!’), was an acclaimed philosopher and the most talented amateur I ever played with.
Mark Price – The records of Pricey and Pickles are uncannily similar. Mark took 335 wickets @ 17.22 against Nick’s 294 @ 23.21 making them twelfth and fourteenth all time (ninth and eleventh post war) Mark just shades it with the bat too. He scored 2,950 runs @ 15.95 against 2,842 @ 14.57. Pickles leads in the field however. His 106 catches and Mark’s 101 make them two of only fifteen non keepers to take 100 or more. My side isn’t short of characters but these two would take it up a level or two.
Nick Riley – See above
Jonny Fielding – another one sure to be in everyone’s team. Jonny has taken 823 @ 14.16 wickets so far making him Ramsbottom’s leading post war wicket taker by some distance and second only to the mythical Fred Duerr all time. 120 catches too (eighth among non-keepers) Let’s hope this darned virus doesn’t mean that’s it.
Simon Read – 337 wickets @ 19.30. Eleventh all time (eighth post war). 121 catches. Seventh for non-keepers. O what might have been.
Brian Fielding – sixth post war and ninth on the all-time list, Brian took 362 wickets at 19.61. I only saw him play once when he turned out for the stiffs against Todmorden during an injury crisis in the nineties. After some tasty pies were dispatched to the boundary one of Tod’s young shavers felt that sledging the old chap was in order. The next ball brushed his Adam’s apple then parted Whitty’s hair before crashing, first bounce, into the sight screen. Whit and I went back another ten yards then another five. We won and he spent most of the following week in the bath. God knows how sharp he was in his pomp.
Michael Haslam – much like the keepers Twitter poll the number 11 spot is forcing us to choose between two nailed on hall of famers. Spider hunted down Terry Stewart’s mark of 595 and finally finished on 611 @ 24.11 to claim the title of Ramsbottom’s all-time leading wicket taking fast bowler.
So, there it is. A team based on actual achievement. A group of players most of you will have heard of too I hope. Post 1980 it is the four highest run scorers plus the six highest wicket takers. The only exception is Dasher and I just couldn’t leave him out. Picking a captain was not in my statistical remit but good luck to anyone trying to keep that lot in order. Maybe I could sacrifice one and find a place for the gentle off breaks of Kofi Annan.