Wigan Grammar School

Cricket

   

'Five wickets four four runs in five balls'

Until 1937, cricket suffered from lack of playing facilities even more than football, in as much as a level piece of good turf and a reasonable field are essential before cricket can be played at all.  For a long time there were very few fixtures with other schools, as no home games could be played owing to lack of ground, and there were also occasional away games against teams like Norley Hall, Walthew Lane and Ince Parish.  Much more than once arrangements were made by the kindness of the Wigan Cricket Club for practices to take place on Bull Hey and occasionally matches were played there.  Some kind of a pitch was available at Waterworth’s.  It was of a distinctly sporting type, and scores were almost invariably low.

1st X1 1922
When this ground went, the School was once more compelled to play all of its fixtures away, and never once did the team have a practice during the season.  The first and last attempt in 1927 to play a home fixture is thus described in the School Magazine.  “The match against Ormskirk was played on a meadow at Beech Hill and was more in the nature of an acrobatic display than a cricket match.  Ormskirk however found two members of their team who were impervious to blows, and these two knocked of the deficit”. Nor was the position much better when the School ground was leased at Standish in 1928.  There was at first no laid pitch.  On a Saturday morning, if there was to be a School game in the afternoon, the games master with two or three of the team would proceed to the ground, select and mow with a lawn mover a likely-looking piece of the field for a pitch.  If it was not level, it was well softened with water and rolled to a semblance of flatness.  Matches never lasted very long, which was perhaps as well, as there was no tea interval since there were no facilities for tea!  In 1929 the highest batting average was 7, whereas four bowlers had an average of 4 runs per wicket.

Things improved somewhat when the first laid pitch at Standish was made in 1930.  But it was never full of runs.  In 1931, for example, the School scored 15 to which Southport replied with 24 for 8 wickets, and one bowler on each side took 7 wickets for one run!  House matches with scores under double figures were known.  In 1933 nets were provided at Prospect, and the enthusiasts who practised there in the evenings had to erect them first and take them down again afterwards.  All these difficulties however seemed to add zest to the game, and the School bowlers flourished exceedingly.

The Mesnes in the1930's
Border Line Cricket
Until 1937 when the Mesnes was opened the facilities for Cricket were poor.  A small square nearer the soccer pitches was fenced off in winter and became a rather indifferent track in the cricket season.  The bowlers bounced the ball and left the rest to nature and the gods.  Spin imparted by the fingers or wrist was a needless over-elaboration.  A really fast bowler stimulated a demand for stretcher bearers and soon learned ways of getting a man out unknown to MCC members or to the Laws of Cricket.  The length of the game was so short that an interval was only justified by the enforced changing of the teams.  No teas were served except on special occasions such as the Staff Match.

First match on The Mesnes
School v Staff 1937

The opening of the Mesnes in 1937 caused standards to rise quickly and considerably.  A good square under the loving and conscientious care of groundsman Edwin West, aided by intensive and enthusiastic rolling by the teams, allowed pure cricket skills to blossom.  No longer was evasive agility a necessary adjunct to batsmanship.  Perhaps more important is that the Mesnes provided facilities for practice.  Scores of 197 for 6 and 191 for 2 were recorded in 1938.  Individual centuries were not unknown and full day matches became a feature of the post examination period.  Spin bowlers had to develop their craft, fast bowlers learned to use the seam and fielding in the outfield became a pleasure instead of a hazard.  Beneath the clock and the public gaze great deeds were done on days which seemed longer and warmer. J Bradburn 1939