Accrington Cricket Club

The Worsick Era (1974 - 1983)

After his tremendous success at Read, Alan Worsick was engaged as professional for the 1974 season. This arrangement would continue until the end of the 1978 season and would cover one of Accrington's most successful periods in their history.

The club didn't have a good season as far as results were concerned in the league, finishing in 11th place. After a slow start, things picked up in the second half of the season for both the team and the new professional. In the Worsley Cup, Accrington reached the semi final, losing to Church, inspite of Alan Worsick taking a hat-trick in his 7-37. Left handed middle order batsman Alan Richardson had his best season, scoring 460 runs at 21.9. Malcolm Taylor (411 runs), Graeme Fowler (386) and Peter West (325 runs) had good seasons as did bowlers Ian Birtwistle (39 wickets) and Tony Gallagher (28 wickets).

Alan Worsick's first season as professional yielded 69 wickets and 328 runs, which almost doubled his previous total of runs for Accrington in his eight previous seasons. Graeme Fowler was one of three school friends who had joined the club in the 1960s and progressed together through the junior teams, the Town Team and also Lancashire Schoolboys. The second was John Swanney, who had made his 1st team debut in 1973 and had played regularly in 1974. The last young man to break through into the senior team was Graham Beech, who would cement his plaace in the first match of 1975 at Colne, two seasons after he first played.

Geoff Hayhurst, after three seasons at Rishton and Alan Kennedy, after a season with Whalley Road in the Accrington League, both rejoined the club for the 1975 season. The pieces of the jigsaw were once again beginning to fit together. Limited overs matches were reintroduced on a permanent basis from the start of the 1975 season. Each side was allowed to bat for a maximum of 34, 8 ball overs.

Close finish
Accrington won the first match of the season at Colne with some ease. New opening batsman Graham Beech batted through the innings for 55 not out. The second match featured a close finish against East Lancs. Chasing only 83 for victory, 8 wickets were down with 14 runs still needed. Geoff Hayhurst (36) was the only player to make double figures, as Terry Neville hooked Jim Kenyon for four to earn a 2 wicket win. The following week at Rawtenstall, saw an even closer finish which Accrington won chasing a large total. Requiring 171 to win, Accrington were 70-5 with only 14 overs to go. Alan Worsick, now capable of playing big innings using his broad shoulders to good effect, scored 65 as the lower order responded to the challenge. Neville hit the winning six in the last over to earn a 1 wicket victory. Old rivals Burnley were the next opponents in yet another close finish. Needing 138 to win, Accrington were 53-5. This time Malcolm Taylor (46) and Alan Kennedy (23) began to pull things round. Ian Birtwistle (26 not out) and Tony Gallagher (20 not out) put on 37 to win the match in the last over for the third successive week. Who needs Terry Neville?

Joint leaders
An easy win over Enfield the following day, meant that Accrington were joint leaders with Ramsbottom, having taken 24 points from five matches. Another close finish at Burnley went the wrong way as the reverse fixtures of the previous weeks double header saw the reverse results. Accrington were now 9 points adrift of leaders Ramsbottom. Wins over Rishton and Lowerhouse got the team back on course. The match against Lowerhouse was to be Graeme Fowler's last for Accrington. Graeme was unavailable for the start of the season and had difficulty regaining his place due to the form of Hayhurst and Beech. Graeme joined Great Harwood and later Rawtenstall before progressing on to Lancashire whom he played for from 1979 until 1992 and Durham where he played in 1993 and 1994. Fowler scored 13,453 runs for Lancashire in First Class cricket. In 1982, Graeme made his debut in the Test arena, looking set for a century in his first appearance against Pakistan, until he was out for 86. He played in 21 Tests for England, scoring three centuries in his 1,307 runs at 35.3. Graeme was the first England player to score a double hundred in a Test in India when he scored 201 at Madras in the 1984-5 series.

Against the odds
Exciting finishes were following Accrington around. Todmorden was the next stop. Needing 160 to win, the early order had failed again at 51-5. This time Alan Richardson came to the rescue with 64 not out, again supported by Kennedy, Birtwistle and Gallagher for another victory in the last over against the odds. Malcolm Taylor scored 81 as the team made their highest score of the season, 203-6 in an easy victory over Haslingden. Accrington were now third behind Burnley and Ramsbottom. Defeat at Bacup was followed by two easy victories over Church with both Alan Worsick and Ian Birtwistle claiming 6 wicket hauls in low scoring wins. Worsick claimed his 50th wicket of the season in the revenge win over Bacup at home and the following match saw his best bowling of the season as he claimed 8-35 in the conquest of Haslingden. Accrington were now 1 point behind leaders Burnley. Two more straight forward wins over Todmorden and Lowerhouse put Accrington back on top of the table, 3 points ahead of Enfield with eight games to go.

After defeating Rishton and Nelson with two steady team performances, Accrington met last years champions, old foes Ramsbottom. Alan Worsick took his weekends total to 13 as the visitors were dismissed for what seemed a modest score of 108. Ramsbottom's three pronged attack of Terry Stewart, Brian Fielding and Pakistani Test star Wasim Raja, soon made inroads into the Accrington early order. Fielding in particular extracted plenty of life from the wicket to have the home side 63-5. Alan Kennedy joined Richardson at the crease as tempers flared. Short pitched balls greeted the batsmen as Kennedy and Birtwistle fell to Fielding. The umpire stepped in as one short ball too many was sent down. Tony Gallagher bravely hung around for a short while as 25 runs were needed in six overs. Alan Richardson took charge as he hooked Fielding for 6 to win the game in the 33rd over, much to the relief of the home supporters. The win set a new club record of nine successive league wins. The victory was repeated at Acre Bottom the following Sunday with John Swanney scoring 66 not out in a much easier win. Three games to go, 9 points ahead. After defeating Rawtenstall on the Saturday, Accrington travelled to East Lancs the following day hoping to clinch the title, but good bowling by professional Kerry O'Keefe and Jim Kenyon put the celebrations on hold.

The final match was at home to Colne with Accrington 4 points ahead of Burnley. Peter West won the toss and elected to field. Colne were soon in trouble at 7-3 and eventually they were bowled out for 77 with Alan Worsick taking 5-43 to finish with 99 wickets at 10.8 each. Alan was top of the Lancashire League bowling averages. It was fitting that the leading batsman Geoff Hayhurst and Alan Worsick should be at the crease, as the professional made the winning hit to seal the championship with a 9 wicket win. It was the first time in history that a team had won the Lancashire League title with every member of the team being born in the town.

Alan Worsick put the success down to a tremendous team and club effort. 'The season had started way back in December when the players started training, including five a side football and cross country running.' He also gave Peter West credit for getting the team to play for him.

The team were worthy champions. Defeat became a strange word in the sudden death world of limited overs cricket. Many times the team had come back from hopeless situations with a tremendous will to win. Every player in the side, including John Swanney who came good late in the season and Dave Parsons, who although a regular had only limited opportunities, played their part in the triumph.

Wonderful catch
In 1976, Accrington were runners up to Rawtenstall in both the league and the Worsley Cup. The final was played at Rawtenstall. The home side batted first and made 137. The feature of the innings being a wonderful catch by Alan Worsick at long off to dismiss professional Abid Ali. After Geoff Hayhurst (32) and Peter West (38) had given Accrington a solid start, young spin bowler Chris Flood took 7-40 to bowl the visitors out for 120. The league title race went to the final game with Accrington finishing 1 point adrift on 74 points. Accrington got off to a disastrous, start winning just once in the first six matches. Two of the early defeats were to leaders East Lancs. Accrington's record over the last 20 games was better than Rawtenstall's with 69 points with 15 wins and 9 bonus points against 65 points by the new champions who had 4 fewer bonus points. The two matches against Bacup stand out. The match at Lanehead saw Accrington lose by 1,000th of a run. The return at Accrington saw an incredible come from behind win with 40 runs scored from the final three overs to achieve a memorable victory. John Swanney (469 runs) had a great season scoring 95 not out in the win at Ramsbottom and picking up the league prize for most runs by a batsman under 23. Three other batsmen - Malcolm Taylor (423 at 23.5), Peter West (452 at 18.1) and Geoff Hayhurst (421 at 16.8) also scored over 400 runs. Alan Kennedy chipped in with 196 at 21.8, including his maiden senior half century, new captain Ian Birtwistle 180 at 22.5, Graham Beech 218 at 14.5 and Alan Richardson 305 at 14.5, including a career best unbeaten 84 against Church. Ian Birtwistle took 40 wickets at 18.6, Tony Gallagher 30 at 21.3 and Dave Parsons 23 at 27.7. Professional Alan Worsick finished with 85 wickets at 15.5 and 395 runs at 18.8 in a long hot summer of glorious sunshine.

Graham Beech
Accrington were again 1 point adrift of the champions in 1977, this time being runners up to Enfield with a total of 67 points. The main feature of the season were the achievements of two of the younger players. Twenty year-old Graham Beech broke Billy Ormerod's 1904 club batting record by scoring 677 runs and Dave Parsons finally fulfilled his promise by taking 58 wickets at 15.8 each, including 6-8 against Burnley on April 30th at Accrington. Alan Worsick (81 wickets and 411 runs) and John Swanney (479 runs) also enjoyed themselves.

1978 was Alan Worsick's last season as professional at Accrington. He took 56 wickets as the club finished in 4th place with 65 points. Alan was signed by Rawtenstall as professional for 1979. Dave Parsons also took 56 wickets and was signed as professional by Blackburn Northern. John Swanney (567 runs) and Graham Beech (500 runs) had outstanding seasons. Ian Birtwistle topped the league bowling averages with 49 wickets at 10.5 each. 1978 was also the year that the club amalgamated with the Tennis Club to become Accrington Cricket and Tennis Club.

Last season
Pakistani Test player Mohsin Khan was the club's professional for the next two seasons. A 24 year-old right handed opening batsman and medium fast bowler, Mohsin had played in six of his 48 Tests prior to the 1979 season. In his Test career he would score 2,709 runs at an average of 37.1 including seven centuries. His highest Test score was a memorable 200 against England in 1982. Mohsin was professional for Todmorden in 1976, 1977 and 1981. In his two seasons at Accrington, he scored 711 runs at 37.4 and took 55 wickets at 16.9 in 1979 and in 1980 he scored 945 runs at 47.3 and took 59 wickets at 18.9. The club finished in 12th place in 1979 and rose to 8th in 1980. Graham Beech was the leading amateur batsman at the club in 1979 with 585 runs and Mick Galpin, a medium fast bowler in his one season at Accrington, took 47 wickets. Players emerging were Trevor Hatch, Neil Jones and Mark Aspin. Paul Graham was established as wicketkeeper. During the 1980 season, Ian Birtwistle reached a personal milestone when he took his 500th league wicket on August 23rd at Burnley. Ian finished the season with 36 wickets, two behind Trevor Hatch, who took 38 wickets at 25.0 each. Captain John Swanney scored 537 runs in his last season at Accrington before joining Rawtenstall. Graham Beech also had a good season, scoring 452 runs.

1981 was a memorable season for Accrington and for the Lancashire League in general. Playing in the league this year were the famous West Indies fast bowling duo Andy Roberts and Michael (Whispering Death) Holding at Haslingden and Rishton respectively. Top Indian all rounder Kapil Dev was at Nelson, Enfield had his colleague Madan Lal and giant West Indian fast bowler Franklyn Stephenson played for eventual champions Rawtenstall. Accrington had much trouble in engaging a professional and had to settle for a New Zealander who was the club's fourth choice. Left handed middle order batsman and right arm leg spin bowler David Stead turned out to be one of the best professionals in the league. He scored 821 runs at an average of 43.2 and he took 79 wickets at 14.8 each as Accrington finished in 9th place with a total of 47 points. David was a marvellous worker for the club both on and off the field and it was a great disappointment at the club when he announced that he would not be able to return for the following season.
Photograph of 1981 team

The 1981 campaign began in snow and was frequently interrupted by rain. In spite of the weather and the World Class bowlers operating in the league, Graham Beech had a magnificent season in destroying his own amateur batting record as well as many opposition attacks, Test stars or not. Graham raised his own record to 938 runs at an average of 46.9. He scored his first league century and nine other half centuries to create another club amateur record of 10 half centuries in a season. Beech's season began rather quietly. By the end of May, he had only scored one half century, against East Lancs (56). In June he added another four, against East Lancs (51 not out), Ramsbottom (54 not out), Kapil Dev's Nelson (61) and Church (59). In July, Graham came up against Andy Roberts and emerged on top, scoring 67 at Accrington. In the next home game, he scored his maiden league century, 111 not out against Bacup. The week after, Graham's encounter with Roberts saw him break his own amateur record of 677 runs, in his fine innings of 87. After scoring 68 against Lowerhouse, Graham faced Michael Holding at Rishton and emerged with 45 runs to his name. With five games remaining it looked odds on that Graham would become only the third amateur in league history to score 1,000 runs in a season. Graham now had 826 runs, but only managed to score 112 more, including 54 not out against Todmorden. Bryan Knowles of Haslingden did in fact score 1,050 runs in the season. Other players to emerge with credit in 1981 were Neil Jones (36 wickets), Ian Birtwistle (33 wickets) and Geoff Hayhurst (330 runs).

Poor season
Professional for the 1982 season was 21 year-old Darryl Smith, a right arm medium fast bowler and right handed batsman from Western Australia. Smith had a poor season, taking 50 wickets at 22.1 and scoring 384 runs at 16.7. Graham Beech missed almost half of the matches through injury, but still managed to score 426 runs at 30.4. Accrington finished bottom of the league with 27 points. The bright spots of the season were the form of the young amateurs. Trevor Hatch (431 runs and 31 wickets), Adrian Varley (483 runs), Neil Jones (446 runs and 15 wickets) and Mark Aspin (377 runs) all made great strides as did Billy Rawstron, who took over as wicketkeeper and claimed 24 victims in his first season.

Shoulder injury
Old boy Dave (Percy) Parsons was signed as professional for the 1983 season after enjoying success with Blackburn Northern, Netherfield and Cumberland in the Minor Counties. Graham Beech left the club, but two more former players from the 1975 championship winning side returned; Malcolm Taylor and Alan Worsick. Alan was tempted out of retirement to captain the team and to help to try and restore some of the former glory. Not helped by a shoulder injury, Percy only took 40 wickets at 24.9 each as Accrington again held up the rest of the table. Billy Rawstron topped the batting averages with 439 runs at 25.8, Peter West scored 494 runs and Malcolm Taylor (345 runs) and Adrian Varley (303 runs) also did well. Ian Birtwistle took 36 wickets and Alan Worsick took 37 wickets. The club would now turn to another old boy in an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes.

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