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A Geordie All-Rounder: 27 - Cricket With Northampton

...I became known as the "Geordie All-rounder" and there were so many different dialects in the squad somebody suggested it we got any more 'Geordies' I could get another year's contract just to translate for our colleagues from abroad...

Malcolm Scott tells of his first season as a professional with Northampton County Cricket Club,

Shortly after completing National Service I reported for work with Northampton County Cricket Club as a full time professional. My first game was for the county's Second XI against Somerset on my birthday, 8th May 1959.

As well as being one of the oldest county sides, Northampton also had an unfortunate history of being one of the weakest. It never won a championship game between 1934 and 193 8 and rumour suggests that when Yorkshire came down in pre-war days they only booked hotel accommodation for one night as they knew the game would be over in two days.

After the Second World War the county developed a new strategy and recruited widely and wisely from home and abroad. The one time England Captain Freddie Brown came from Surrey; Jock Livingston, George Tribe and Jack Manning were recruited from Australia and Peter Arnold from New Zealand. Opening bat and leg-spinner Raman Subba Row came from Surrey via Cambridge University and Ashes winning fast bowler Frank Tyson from Lancashire. The County had one of the best wicket-keepers in the country in Keith Andrew, another recruit from the red rose county. The captain of this assorted XI was Yorkshire-born stalwart batsman for over 20 years Dennis Brookes. As a result, Northamptonshire had one of the better teams in the country when I joined them in May 1959.

However, my first impressions weren't too favourable. The ground looked very dated and in need of some improvement. The adjoining football ground, where Northampton football club played, had seen better days, as had the ramshackle West Stand. When everybody was present, the dressing rooms and nets were crowded with 26 professionals and a number of amateurs, (or assistant secretaries as I learnt they were called.) The second XI dressing room, to which I was directed, was around the corner of the main pavilion under another stand. It was crowded, often two to a peg, but fortunately I had my former Durham colleague Gordon Williamson to share with me.

I became known as the "Geordie All-rounder" and there were so many different dialects in the squad somebody suggested it we got any more 'Geordies' I could get another year's contract just to translate for our colleagues from abroad.

I found the first year a very competitive one with everybody trying to impress for a regular place in the side. Yet selection for the second XI lacked logic, because even if I scored 50 and took 5 wickets (which I occasionally did) I could be dropped to let the club look at another player.

We finished runners up in the Second XI Championship in 1959 and I had a reasonable season scoring nearly 500 runs with an average of 23 and taking 21 wickets costing 21 runs each. I made my debut for the County First XI against the Indian touring side at Cambridge University. The Indians gave us a good hiding, Umrigar scoring 202 not out, then Gupte, their top class leg spinner and Surendranth bowled us out twice very cheaply. I failed with the bat and managed 2-58 when bowling. Not a very auspicious debut.

If there were no Second XI fixtures, many times I would have to do the 12th man duties for the First XI. This gave me a real close up of first class cricket. I had played against some fast bowlers in my time but watching Frank Tyson bowling for the last 30 minutes after we had declared (or all out) and he had been resting in the pavilion all day made me feel for our opponent's opening batsmen. It was a fairly slow wicket at Northampton, but such was his pace, wicket-keeper Keith Andrew still had to leap feet into the air to stop his bouncers.

It was ironic really; here was the quickest bowler in the country who had helped to win the 1954/5 Ashes in Australia playing on a slow wicket. In 1959 Tyson took 75 wickets compared to spinners Manning's 111 wickets and Tribe's 117 wickets. Goodness knows how many wickets Tyson would have taken if he had played for his native county Lancashire or for a county with quicker wickets.

Being quite' fleet of foot' in those early days at Northampton I was the 12th man on many occasions. I also recall fielding for Essex one day when a member of their team had gone down sick and they didn't have a reserve with them. I fielded quite well and the Essex skipper, the one and only Trevor Bailey, came into our dressing room to thank me and slipped me a five pound note, (which was no small amount of money in those days.)
During this time I saw close up a phenomenal cricketer named George Tribe. He was a left arm wrist spinner who came from Melbourne. George bowled googlies, chinamen and a hard to pick top spinner which we call a flipper today. He did the double, 100 wickets and 1,000 runs seven times for Northants during the 1950s.

In 1958 George bowled the Yorkshire team out twice on a 'turner' at Northampton. The Yorkies couldn't 'pick him' and were bowled out for 65 and 69, with Tribe taking 7 for 22 in the first innings and 8 for 9 in the second. I bet Brian Close and his team got out of Northampton quickly that day! George was not a big man but had huge hands and long fingers that could give a ball a real rip. How could I follow him? With difficulty I thought as I struggled through 17 games for the Second XI in my first season as a professional cricketer.

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