A constant source of pride throughout Lymington’s recent history has been its continued achievements in youth cricket. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a small band of coaches and helpers, the name of Lymington has become synonymous in the New Forest for the success of its colts’ section.
Organised youth cricket in the town is a relatively recent development, although there are reports of junior matches as long ago as 1865 when a ‘Juvenile cricket club of Lymington’ beat a Solent House team.
Reports of colts activity were rather thin on the ground for the next 90 years or so, although it is clear that the club understood the need to train its youngsters well if they were to develop into proficient players. In 1871 a club member wisely commented: “It is understood that a professional is engaged to instruct the younger hands, and improve the older ones – a wise step, and one sure to pay.”
But for many years the nearest the town came to organised junior cricket was the odd school match arranged by Mr Leonard Hoare – a teacher at Lymington Church of England School and also Lymington’s Honourary Secretary for 35 years. Matches were played against school teams from Boldre and Pennington, amongst others.
Records show that during the late 1950s and early 1960s Lymington Juniors (as they were then called) played a number of matches. In 1959 the Juniors won two of their three fixtures, with 15 year old David Chadwick making 60 in Lymington’s 29 run defeat of Lawrence Boys Club. Chadwick would later play professional football for Southampton and Middlesbrough.
In 1964 Lymington played home and away fixtures against Calmore, and there were two wins over Pennington, as well as a substantial victory over Hordle who were bowled out twice for just 18 (Barry Hallett 6 for 4) and 12 in reply to Lymington’s 128 for 9 declared. The team was organised by Tim Colwell who, although a cricket enthusiast, was better known for his jazz music.
The captain of the 1964 side, Adrian Poole, recalls some of his fellow players from that team, “myself and Gordon Warry opened the batting, and there was also Richard Lavis, Barry Hallett, Des Coxon, Richard Lavis, Nigel Warry, Paul Ladbrook and my cousin John Jennings. We also had Phil Hoare who was an excellent seam bowler who went on to play for Pennington in later years and Mike Race who later played for Lymington Fourth XI.”
Adrian can’t recall there being any rules on age limits back then, “It was generally a case of trying to make up the numbers with whoever was available regardless of age. We didn’t have a specific practice night, although we would go to the Sports Ground on a senior training night and if we were lucky we might get invited to bat at the end of the evening.”
The club’s ability to run a colts side basically depended on whether there was anyone willing to run it, and for many years there was little or no organised cricket for the youngsters.
A league of their own
In 1976 the club decided to enter a team in the recently established New Forest Club Cricket Association Youth Evening League. As a result, Lymington advertised for young players, and in a portent of things to come, the club was overwhelmed by the response. On one training night 40 or so youngsters descended on the Sports Ground, almost overwhelming the small band of helpers. Gradually, the club sorted itself out and a nucleus of a squad was formed. As in 1964, there were no age groups as such, just one team catering for 11 to 15 year olds.
Players included David Gregory and Gary Webb who shared the captaincy, Dale Warren, Mark Lavis, Simon Vincent, James Lowe, Gary Whitlock, Graham Burt, Michael Blandford Newson, Stuart Davis, Timothy Davies, Frances Gregory and Tim Mapes. Chief organisers were George Hollobone, Tony Webb, Lew Gregory and David Rogers.
In an article in the club programme ten years later George Hollobone recalled the problems of setting up a colts team. “We had very little kit – a few leftovers from the senior sides, an old holdall, some donated kit; and I well remember a fairly serious committee debate as to whether we could afford to buy six 43⁄4oz cricket balls!”
In their nine league fixtures, the youngsters failed to register a single win, and it was only the tremendous enthusiasm shown by the players and helpers that carried them through that difficult first season. At the end of the year a report at the club AGM acknowledged how tough it had been to take a group of individuals and weld them into a team from scratch. But, as the report concluded, “If one accepts that you have to make mistakes to learn anything at all, then 1976 must be the year of apprenticeship.”
In time the New Forest CCA arranged the colts leagues into separate age groups, and in 1979 the Under 14s clinched the first of Lymington’s many subsequent New Forest trophies.
As the club continued to thrive, Tony Game struck the first century in the history of New Forest colts cricket, and Dale Warren and Glenn Whitehouse were selected to represent Hampshire Colts. Tony Thorp – who would later become one of the club’s most successful colts managers – was voted as the most improved colt of 1980 by the New Forest representative side.
A new colts cup – the HC Heppenstall Trophy – was introduced in 1982 in memory of the club’s former captain and president. To be competed for by four local colts teams, the inaugural season saw Ringwood win the trophy. In later years the trophy would be contested by Lymington and Addiscombe Colts –
a South London side managed by Chris Whitehouse who was, as we are about to hear, one of Lymington’s most succesful colts coaches.
The Whitehouse Wonders
Arguably, the most successful of all Lymington’s colts sides was Chris Whitehouse’s team of the early 1980s. Virtually the entire team – with the exception of Les Browning – were members of the Priestlands School side. In both schools and club cricket the team were almost unbeatable and players such as David Coles, Clive Kitcher, Colin Kitcher, Barry Gregory, Neil Perrett and Chris Cooper would go on to play successful senior cricket with Lymington and other local clubs. Ably assisted by the expert coaching of former Surrey and England player Arthur McIntyre, the team swept all before them, winning the Hampshire Cup and reaching the last 16 of the Lords Taverners Cup. Colts manager Colin Cooper was in no doubt about the team’s quality: “It was probably the best colts team we ever had at Lymington. They won the Hampshire Cup and then beat the best team in Kent. They also won the Under 16 league when the team were all just 15”.
After a comparatively barren spell, the late 1980s saw the colts section reap more trophies. In 1987 the Under 12 team including the likes of Charles Craft, Paul Coles and Simon Naylor (all of whom would go on to play senior cricket for Lymington) won every one of its 13 matches in clamanagersiming the league title. Two years later much of that squad would win the Under 14 title. The Under 16s, meanwhile, beat Calmore by 42 runs in their cup final with Steve Jobber and Jason Andrew both scoring 39.
The highlight of the 1990 colts season was a brilliant 107 not out by Adam Darbyshire against Hythe & Dibden. Darbyshire smashed 38 runs from the final two overs before coming on to bowl and taking 4 for 7. There were also hat-tricks during the season for Paul Coles and Dale Middleton.
In 1993 Lymington introduced a school of excellence to coincide with its annual cricket week. Around 25 youngsters were given expert coaching by the club’s South African player Grant Van Heerden, with the best and most improved students receiving prizes at the end of the week.
The latter half of the 1990s were a golden period for Lymington colts. Under the watchful eyes of Tony Jenkin, Terry Cooper, Syed Shirazi and Anne Craft, the club generally dominated the New Forest competitions. In 1996 alone the Under 17s and 15s both recorded the league and cup double, while the Under 13s won their league. But the most prestigious achievement of all was reaching the final of the Europa Cup (effectively the Southern League’s colts competition) three seasons in a row, winning the trophy in 1996 and 1998. In the first of those finals Lymington hammered Basingstoke by 10 wickets thanks to 12 year old Damian Shirazi and Australian Dan Rutherford who both scored 52 not out. But Shirazi’s finest hour came two years later in the 102 run demolition of South Wilts. Not content with a brilliant century and figures of 1 for 9, Damo even then donned the wicky’s gloves after regular keeper Matt Miller had damaged a finger.
Shirazi was unquestionably one of Lymington’s best ever colts players. While he was with the club he captained England at Under 14,15,17, and 18 levels, and later earned a place on the Lord’s groundstaff where he subsequently became the highest ever runscorer in a single season for the MCC Young Cricketers.
Several other Lymington colts have had the honour of representing Hampshire. These include Ben Craft who scored more than 700 runs for Hampshire Under 16s in 1996, Dan Rutherford, Lloyd Scott, Craig Tapper and Tommy Carter.
Into the new Millennium
2000 saw the Under 17s win their league again, while there was a dramatic conclusion to the Under 13 cup final when Joe Rodway, who had earlier scored an unbeaten 45, ran out New Milton’s last batsman with the scores level – giving Lymington victory on wickets lost.
Lymington definitely possessed one of the best-dressed colts sections in 2001 thanks to a shirt sponsorship deal with Gates of Brockenhurst. Meanwhile, such were the growing numbers of local youngsters wishing to play cricket, Anne Craft had the idea of introducing an Under 11B team in 2002. Although wins were hard to come by in the early stages, over the years the quality of the B team steadily improved, and in 2006, under Mark Gannaway’s guidance, the side came within a whisker of winning the New Forest Under 11 Second Division. In 2003 the club also introduced a second Under 13 team.
Also during 2003 Tom Thorp, Scott Tapper and Tim Noble all came close to scoring 300 runs as Lymington Under 13s achieved the league and cup double. Two years later the Under 13s again lifted the cup and finished runners-up in the league with Aidan Lindsay-Wood scoring 280 runs and taking 17 wickets.
2006 could arguably be described as the most successful season of all for Lymington colts. Under 11 manager Jim Lowe, who was there at the very start of organised colts cricket at Lymington some 30 years earlier, proudly led his Under 11 team to the New Forest League title. The team also reached the final of the Hampshire Cup at the Rose Bowl where it was defeated by St Cross, and there was the added bonus of success in the inaugural Bashley six-a-side tournament. Tony Thorp, in his last year before retiring as a colts manager, guided the Under 13s to victory in the league play-offs, narrowly beating Cadnam in the final at Wellow thanks to vital contributions from Aidan Lindsay-Wood. Later in the day, Aidan’s brother Elliott inspired the Under 15s to a 48 run win over Hyde in their play-off final. The talented all rounder scored an unbeaten 40 in a Lymington total of 128 for 4, earning himself the man of the match award.
The winter of 2006-07 saw Lymington launch an indoor colts league, kindly sponsored by Lynx Sports Management, at Lymington Sports Centre. The Under 11 and 13 league titles were won by New Milton and Lymington respectively, while the cup competitions were won by Bashley and Langley Manor.
2007 proved to be one of the best yet for Lymington Colts section. The Under 9s were pipped for the league title, but the Under 11A team, under Jim Lowe’s tutorage, completed a league and cup double. The Under 13As won their league title, remaining unbeaten all season. The Under 15s lost just twice, one of those being a last ball thriller at Totton.
The Under 9s and 11As won their respective divisions in 2008, while the Under 15s finished runners-up. The club could also boast two county colts in Oscar Marshall and Felix Ambrose, and numerous New Forest representatives. At the club’s November AGM the coaches, especially Morgan Rushbrook, were praised for their hard work with the youngsters while the meeting also gave thanks to Jim Lowe who had recently emigrated to New Zealand. Jim¹s tireless work over the past few years had not only helped bring success on the field of play, but had also been instrumental in the club¹s recent awarding of Focus Club status.
2009 saw Lymington Under 13s win the NFCCA Cup, defeating Totton & Eling by 57 runs in the final. The 13As also recorded one of the largest ever victories in the club’s history in an 18 over colts match when they defeated Pylewell Park B by a massive 184 runs.
The colts section once again had a successful year in 2010 with the Under 11As and Bs and Under 13s all winning their leagues and all the other various age groups losing just a handful of matches between them all season. The Under 11s also reached the Hampshire Cup Final at the Rose Bowl where they were sadly defeated by St Cross. The club was blessed with more qualified coaches than ever before on training nights, and this was evident in the good performances on the field.
Lymington’s Under 13As were unbeaten throughout 2011 and completed a league and cup double. They defeated Paultons by 47 runs in the league play-off final with Oscar Marshall being named man of the match for his 25no and 2 wickets for just 2 runs. Felix Ambrose, meanwhile, was named as man of the match in the cup final for his superb bowling figures of 4-8 and 26no as Lymington beat Hythe & Dibden.
2012 proved to be another successful season with the Under 15s beating Cadnam by 77 runs to win the cup competition, the Under 13s completing a league play-off and cup double by defeating Calmore and New Milton respectively, and the Under 11As securing a league title. Under 15 Felix Ambrose (pictured right) represented Hampshire, as did younger brother Finn. There were also county call-ups during the season for Poppy Gillings, Henry Simmonds, Cameron Robertson, India Shakespeare, Francesca Robertson, and Thomas Sykes.
The end product…
Of course, cups and shields are good for filling trophy cabinets, but the ultimate goal for any club is to develop its young players into successful First XI regulars. In the 2006 season Lymington often fielded as many as seven former colts in its Southern Premier League team, which, as local cricket clubs go, is a pretty high success rate.
For some young players, turning out for the senior sides for the first time can sometimes be a nervewracking experience. David Coles, now 40, remembers his first team debut at Waterlooville. “I was only about 15 at the time. Steve Malone was bowling for Waterlooville – he was the fastest bowler I had ever seen. I was in the dressing room as Andy Jones and Peter Williams put on their chest pads, helmets, etc. My basic kit was in a Tesco bag! Me and Peter Tapper were the only ones who didn’t have a thigh pad. Taps then promptly hooked and pulled Malone for numerous sixes to win the game. I’m sure Taps will be able to tell you more!”
The Coca Cola Kid
The aforementioned Damian Shirazi was one of the youngest colts to play for the men’s side. He made his colts debut at the age of 8 (for the Under 17s!), and his senior debut just a couple of years later.
One of Damian’s first adult matches was for the Sunday 3rd XI (more popularly known as the Woodside Wanderers). On the purple astroturf wicket at Enichem, Damian ended up with five wickets and so bought his first ever jug which, due to his age, had to be Coca-Cola. He says, “I remember being really nervous before the game, but some great advice from Mssrs Di Maria, Gannaway and Sanger calmed me down. I have a great picture somewhere of Dom Di Maria and me in the corner of Enichem’s social club necking our soft drinks. Dom was my hero at that age because of his late cut.”
Some youngsters might have been intimidated by playing in the senior sides at such a young age, but Damian positively thrived on it. “There were some great characters who always wrapped me in cottonwool” he said. “Tony Wharton, my first opening partner, always talked me through my batting, and despite his occasional rants, Bob Iles was always there to help me.”
Damian looks back on his early days at Lymington with a great deal of pride, “The fact that I went all the way through from Under 11s to the First XI made it more special. I made so many great friends at Lymington, and of course The Sports Ground is such a great place to play cricket.” We’ll drink (cola) to that!