November 2005

Nottinghamshire's cult heroes

Richard Hobson
The Wisden Cricketer celebrates the forgotten greats of Nottinghamshire cricket

Harold Larwood (pictured) and Bill Voce formed an irresistible combination for Notts in the 1930s © Getty Images
Kevin Saxelby
A farmer from the north of the county, Saxelby was at the club through the successful spell in the 1980s without ever appearing to be a regular in the side. He was one of those bowlers who would spray it around to widespread exasperation only to produce a gem. But he did find a role as a late-innings one-day bowler and set a record by taking five wickets in four successive Sunday League innings in 1989. Long-on was a busy man. People liked Saxelby because he was a journeyman in a team of stars. He also took time to talk to members. This is what worried officials when he decided to stand for the committee on a policy of greater openness at a time when certain decisions were dubiously justified. But it was hard to imagine the mild-mannered Saxelby leading a revolt and he thought too much of the club's image to ferment change.

Harold Larwood and Bill Voce
It is hard to have one without the other; even the stand and pub at Trent Bridge are named after them both. Supporters love nothing more than a conspiracy, so they were bound to get behind this pair when the Establishment dropped them following Bodyline. Larwood did not play for England after the 1932-33 series while Voce was omitted for the subsequent 1934 campaign. But Voce did play for Notts against the touring Australians that year and caused a minor outrage by reprising the infamous tactic in the first innings. He took eight wickets but after a complaint by Australia bowled only two overs in the second. Voce was a strapping six-footer who was reckoned to be a nastier, though slower, bowler than Larwood. Like his partner, he enjoyed a beer, arguing that there had to be something in the body to sweat out.

Paul Johnson
Someone who names Dominic Cork as his favourite actor will be popular in Nottinghamshire. As a boy Johnson would sit in the old Hound Road stand and dream of being old enough to play for the county. He didn't have to wait long. The debut arrived at 17 and he went on to succeed Tim Robinson as captain. At his best there was no more destructive batsman in the country. Some of his assaults as an opener in the old Sunday League were mind-blowing. He could pulverise good attacks - just ask Angus Fraser - and under more enlightened selectors would have played one-day cricket for England. He became the lost man of the `lost' generation, because if contemporaries like John Morris, Rob Bailey and James Whitaker deserved more opportunities, they at least received a call in the first place.

David Pennett
For a period in the mid-1990s the sound of Trent Bridge was not so much the thwack of leather on willow as the thud of `Dasher' Dave Pennett against advertising board. No cause was ever lost to this archetypal 100-percenter who would sprint around the boundary in chase of the most improbable stop, usually for a final, fearless dive to end in pain and in vain. With an attitude like that Pennett was always likely to endear himself to supporters. A male model out of season, he arrived from Yorkshire and showed early promise under the tutelage of Mike Hendrick during a period the club described euphemistically as "transitional". His striking bowling action would finish with his left arm rigid behind his back like a shark's fin. But, to the regret of everyone, the flow of wickets was not commensurate to the effort expounded to get them.

Bashar Hassan
Nearly 40 years after arriving as a talented player from Nairobi, Basher can still be found around Trent Bridge, trim, dressed immaculately and usually trying to promote some golf day or dinner. As the ground has been redeveloped and the fortunes of the team veered sharply he has been one of the few constants. He played alongside Sobers, Rice and Hadlee and then, almost as reward for service to the game, as 12th man for England in the 1985 Trent Bridge Ashes Test. In his day Basher was a genuine allrounder who could bat, bowl, field and keep wicket. Even late in his career he would field under the helmet - if he was unhappy he never let on. His unselfishness won so many friends that it was said a senior figure lost his place on the committee simply because he was rude to Basher in front of members during a club tour.

This article was first published in the November issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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