Tag Archives: Brian Close

“Yes Chef!” or All Hales and the Humidor

The Hooters Chef

The Squire wished to go to Lord’s on Saturday to watch Nottinghamshire play Surrey in the old B & H mid-summer Final, now thankfully re–insured by Royal London – Life Insurance + Pensions + Investments neatly inscribed on the boundary markers. Players used to find a twenty pack carton under their peg awaiting them on B & H match days. Now there’s a financial adviser sitting there ready to offer independent advice.  The game has changed.

Third Man left the Squire with the McCartney’s swapping tales of Desert Island Disk selections. Went down to Macca’s shed and took the trusty old aluminium ladder to the bottom of the road and shimmied over the wall into the ground before a Steward could shout ‘What?!’

He made his way to Dressing Room 6 to see whether any of the old Pros were there. Many of the dressing rooms that once adorned the Pavilion’s higher echelons have been turned into video analysis rooms and places that offer comfort to fourth umpires and referees.  But Dressing Room 6 remains well disguised as a Lift marked ‘Out of Order’.  Three or four of the old boys were there and cards were spread on an old coffin (from the relatively modern age of the game).

Lord’s is famed for its catering. Less well known is its reputation for fine cigars, a supply of which are kept in a jury rigged humidor – an adaption of the climatic control machine purchased for the Indoor Nets and transported to Dressing Room 6 by Pip Edmonds in what are called the Botham Days.

At 10.50 in walked young Hales. “Hail Hales”, we all said.  “Any of those Cohiba Behikes left, TM?” asked the six-foot-five Hillingdonian. “The Squire instructed me to issue you with two, Titch. One for your innings and one for afters.”

Surrey’s innings took off at a rate of knots. Notts seemed generally languid and unperturbed, dropping a catch or two to demonstrate their confidence – a lot of psychology in the game now. The Lord’s outfield was like glass – emerald green glass. The fielders sauntered. The batsmen drove. But the truth was that Surrey batsmen kept losing their wickets at the most inopportune moments.

The last time TM had seen Surrey play in a Lord’s Cup Final was in 1965 when Brian Close dropped Boycott a couple of Dextros in his morning Horlicks.  Surrey wilted that day. “Seeing you here again does not bode well, TM,” said dear old Horse ( from a corner of Dressing Room 6.

Notts and Pattinson in particular (34 dots in his 10 overs) got a little reverse going as Surrey entered the last 10 overs and ground to a halt. Their final score of 297 was disappointing. “If only it had been 347,” the Notts supporters on top of the Compton were later to moan. Fletcher did his impression of a lad up from pit for day, but rumour has it he was rescued from a life as a chef at Hooters of Nottingham.  He’ll be OK in Dressing Room 6 in the years to come will that Fletch.

As Hales skipped down the stairs to the Long Room on his way to the wicket, TM stretched out a hand containing a lighter. “There you are Titch.”

The stewards have strangely become a friendly lot in recent years and not a word was said as the scent of fine Habana filled the Long Room, members’ noses turning towards the sweet smell. Such a forgiving scent.

At the wicket, Hales handed the smouldering cigar to the square leg umpire and took guard.

Few who were there will ever forget the following 200 minutes. Lord’s bathed in divine light. The scent of cigar drifting across the ground, reaching all parts of the field like the ball off Hales’ Grey Nick’s bat. Sublime drives. Powerful pulls to balls shortened by the anxiety of bowlers fearing to give him any length. Width punished, not with an admonishment, but with a neatly  inscribed note of thanks, that the time which this master of the drive has at his disposal allowed him to pen. The ash flicked nonchalantly towards the Media Centre at 50, 100 and 150.

At one point, a bewitched opponent, yet England team mate, Jason Roy, ran fully twenty yards to offer the palm of his hand, rather than to allow that foul ash to sully the batsman’s gloved hand; the burning glow at each leisured inhalation never once threatening to outshine the batsman’s brilliance.

Look at the book, if you want the details, oh foolish prizer of data. For all your counting and calculating you will have missed the essence of a cigar appropriately humidified, of batting as leisure, in a match that mattered.


(Special thanks to Michael Vaughan who smelt it first.)

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Painting a Portrait of a Cricketer

“Time to get more paint, Third Man!”

It was the Squire’s voice yelling from one end of the Long Gallery.  Incessant rain had obliged him to take his daily practice there; the portraits of his cricketing heroes looking down on him (examples above and below), as, without pause, he began his run up in a fine impersonation of Michael Holding.

The green aero-ball, half covered in sticky tape to make it swing late, reared up as if it had struck an Elizabethan nail head in the oak boards. 

Third Man, without flinching, took the blow on the right side of his rib cage.  Hiding the pain, he sauntered down the wicket, head held as high as his time-taut neck would allow, regaining his composure with a spot of gardening.  

Jasper, his batting partner, strolled towards him; in his left hand a County bat also prodded down imaginary nails.  Both lefties chewed gum resolutely and, like two spies managing a dead letter drop in St James Park, tried to suggest that nothing untoward was going on between them,

The Squire was back at the end of his long run.  Jasper returned to the bowler’s end.  Third Man stood at the crease as upright as a man of nearly 300 years of age could before another delivery passed his nose, his head jerking backwards as if he’d been electrocuted.

More displacement gardening followed before, in response to the next delivery, his whole body swung round in one reflex action that left him facing fine leg. 

Meanwhile the ball continued to rear above the keeper’s grasp before crashing into that epic painting of Decline and Fall at the SCG which adorns the Grand Staircase at the east end of the LG.

“Very satisfactory, both of you,” said the Squire when he had finished with them.  “I particularly liked your Edrich, Jasper.  The details were most convincing.  And Third Man, what can I say, your Close … very close.”

“We shall be seeing young Dennis Brian Close tomorrow TM.  As I said, there’s paint to be got from him.”

It was of course J.M.W. who had mixed the original estate paint for the Squire, (now by his generous licence, available from Windsor and Newton in watercolour tubes as No 649, Turner’s Yellow  ) but he’d taken a great liking to the misunderstood Yorkshireman and paint producer.

His sympathies had been kindled by the story of how, as an eighteen year old and playing for the Players against the Gentlemen, Close on reaching his half-century had been congratulated by the Gentleman wicket keeper Griffith.

Alert to condescension like a heat-seeking missile was to an English Electric Lightning, young Close turned and replied, “Thank you Billy.” 

Griffith was so offended by the unwarranted familiarity that he complained to Yorkshire about him.

“Silly middle-class ass,” said the Squire who, from that moment, never let go a chance to champion ‘young Close’.  And from that time ‘til today, the Squire has always bought his paint from Brian Close (Paints) Ltd even if that now entails skidding back to the ‘Sixties once a year in the old Type III.  Not a hardship.

The scene being recreated in the Long Gallery can also be enjoyed here.


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Bowman of Bowland, Oxford and Lancashire

Not as old as it looks - 1964 match to celebrate Lancashire's Centenary. Sir Frank Worrell, Brian Close, Dennis Compton and other immortals can just be made out from this snap taken on a phone in the Gentleman's Lavatory of the Inn at Whitewell - the Queen's Pub

Hurrah!  The rain has stopped.  Clitheroe’s match on Saturday was uninterrupted and often played in that rare commodity, sunshine.  The wicket was more like one to be found in April, though there is still a hosepipe ban imposed by United Utilities.  Clitheroe won and remain on the top of the Ribblesdale League, which still seems a strange thing to say after their pitiful performance last year – plus ca meme chose plus c’est la difference ?  

Third Man’s son made his debut as an opener and posted 60.  Here is the result of the cap taken round for him by the shy but affable Josh Marquet.   £22 pounds or so.  Hard work against a Kewi pro and a Derby IIs tweaker with a ‘modern’ action.

The sun shone yesterday (Sunday) and the grass was cut.  Strangely dressed persons started arriving at the Cottage at 7.00pm.  All was explained when Third Man was ushered out of his home so as not to get in the way of a Murder Detective dinner being held by his daughter and her friends, who are trying desperately to distract themselves from the inevitability of Thursday’s A level results.

He was persuaded by the promise of a portion of fish pie at The Inn at Whitewell which would tempt anyone out on a sunny Sunday evening – orders until 9.30 pm.

The Inn is on the other side of Longridge Fell (the most southerly use of the word fell in the country) which is ‘traversed’ by way of Jeffery Hill and which offers spectacular views stretching from the Fylde coast to the Trough of Bowland.   The Bowland Fells fill the view.

Farmers in the Trough were taking advantage of the sun and contractors’ tractors mowed the small fields into those familiar striated patterns.  The drone of their machinery had filled the day and would continue through the night.

Down from the fell, the lanes to the Inn follow the course of the Hodder which eventually passes through a narrow gap (the gullet of the trough) at Whitewell which is therefore overlooked on all sides by uplands.

The Inn itself and the surrounding estate is part of the Duchy of Lancaster, which means that this is the Queen’s pub.  She is the Landlord, though Gore Smith manage it for her.  Speculation surfaces now and then that somewhere around here will one day become a very special Retirement Home, but that is usually when someone else wants to sell their nearby home whose value they believe could be enhanced by the quality of the neighbours.  But think of the security, dear.

Whilst waiting a while at the summit of Jeffery Hill and taking in the whole panorama it occurred to Third Man that the Trough is a trough indeed for cricket.  He knows of no cricket team in Dunsop Bridge, Slaidburn or Newton-in-Bowland.  

Then he remembered that the Inn at Whitewell had been the “mission to eradicate pomposity and pretension from fine living while taking care not to sacrifice style, comfort and, above all, humour.” of Richard (Dick) Bowman who played 26 first class matches principally in 1957 when he received his Blue for Oxford.

The Inn is exactly as Third Man imagines Squire Weston’s pile to have been.  It sits on a sweep kink of the Hodder and there is a terrace on which the intrepid can eat outside.  Inside are a myriad of rooms each with their own personality and each with their own open wood fires.  The floors are stone and dogs are welcome.  In fact a dog can be provided for those who forgot to bring their own – you know the type of place.

The Bowman humour is still in evidence five years after his death.  The rear end of a fox disappears through a cupboard door high above a passageway that leads to the lavatories.

The Gentleman’s Lavatory has alas been modernised in recent times but was once a homage to the Sixties, to Bowman’s cricketing and school activities and indirectly and, in a way that TM cannot explain, to James Bond.   He seems to remember that the walls were pasted not with wall paper but with newspapers from that decade.

The best of the cricketing and other ephemera remain:  a photograph and scorecard of a match to celebrate the Centenary of Lancashire CCC in which Bowman sits with Sir Frank Worrell, Brian Close, Denis Compton and other immortals;  the scorecard of Essex v Oxford University (probably 1957) in which Bowman, coming in at number 9, made 75, having previously taken 7 for 60 in the Essex innings.

He must therefore have been in good form as he went on from Chelmsford to Lord’s and the ‘Varsity Match’ where he toiled through 39 overs and defeat by an innings.

Bowman used to patrol the Inn and light the place up with his smile, good humour, infectious welcome and a rhubarb and custard tie.  It is therefore odd to find this one photograph of him at Cricinfo with only a trace of that smile.

As TM returned home to creep up and spook the dinner party like a real murderer, the contractors were still going strong, the headlights on their tractors lighting up the fields and an exactly half moon hanging above the Irish Sea directly over the Isle of Man.

(more photographs later – what a promise!)


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They called tails

Yesterday, Third Man was able to change every clock in the cottage except the one that really matters, his own body clock.  So he is wide awake at 5 am.

The thought with which he woke was the realisation that many of the favourite cricketers of the late 1950s and early 1960s all had one thing in common.

On the list are Butch White, Colin Milburn and Fred Trueman.  As TM mulls the theme others coming to mind include Brian Close.  Can you guess?

Yes, they all had trouble with the tails of their shirts.

Butch would leave the pavilion spruce and well groomed.  Within six balls his hair would be out of control, his shirt drenched in sweat and at least one his shirt tails would be refusing to stay tucked in.

Trueman, despite a heavy smearing of Brylcream and a very tight trouser waistband had the same problem. Colin Milburn’s shirt tails were on the move after walking one single down to third man.

I seem to remember that when Brian Close was playing the fastest West Indian bowling ever seen, stopping each ball in the middle of his unprotected chest, he was between overs spending his free time tucking his shirt tails back in and chatting idly to Edrich.

Third Man once had one of Tom Graveney’s cricket shirts.  A very large white Clydella.  For many years it was his favourite possession and first choice batting shirt.  Sorry Tom, but it was a tent with tails like the genoa jibs on a tea clipper.

Third Man’s mother was an excellent judge of a cricketer, but the highest marks in her ratings were reserved for those with a neat appearance rather than a good average.  She insisted that TM wore Vyella perhaps having rapped him in Dayella swaddling clothes at birth.  [Note for the young: these had a high woollen content, would shrink to half their size in the laundry and so had to be carefully hand washed and required a process known as ironing.]

The arrival of the elasticated waist band may have eliminated the problem.  (Were these first sported by that great innovator Tony Gregg?)  Fittness, dietry care and overall weight loss may also have contributed.  The arrival of today’s nylon cricket, shirt perhaps modelled on the old Surrey Smock favoured by shepherds, brings its own difficulties but when dishevelled still lacks Truemanesque character.

What did Dexter wear, boys?  Turnball and Asser of course.


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