ACROSS THE COMMON


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1996-2010

ARTICLES:
The Grass Roots
by KEN TAYLOR
The First 100 Years
by TOM MORGAN
Our Own Ground and it's Amenities
by ARTHUR BARTON
Our Life Members
by ARTHUR BARTON
The Club Game
by CHRISTOPHER MARTIN-JENKINS
From Nairobi to Nottingham
by BASHARAT HASSAN
Salutations
West Country Tours
Youth Cricket
And Don't Forget the Groundsman

Pelsall Cricket & Sports Club

FROM NAIROBI TO NOTTINGHAM
by BASHARAT HASSAN
Looking through the dressing room windows as I tidied up my kit at the close of last season, I watched the solitary figure of Ron Allsop carefully tending the square and trying to make good the damage of the summer. My mind turned back to those jute matting wickets of the Sir Ali Sports Club in Nairobi where I learnt my cricket. The season would just be starting in Kenya, though now the matting has been replaced by turf. Almost exactly twenty years ago to the day, I went out to open for Kenya against the MCC and played an innings which was to change the course of my life. The MCC had brought out a strong team with ten England caps and the fast bowling in the hands of David Larter, the tall Northants cricketer, and the left arm seamer Jeff Jones, both at the peak of their careers.

It was one of those days when from the first delivery the ball went sweetly from the bat and the fast outfield encouraged me to play strokes. Jones and Larter gave way to Robin Hobbs and Tom Cartwright, but the runs still came and I had 84 to my name before I was stumped. At close of play, Mike Smith, the MCC captain, congratulated me on my batting and asked if I had thought of coming to England to make a career out of cricket. My father thought that there was no harm in Mr. Smith putting my name forward when he returned to London- probably nothing would come of it! Over the next ten months there were several letters and much discussion. At times it looked as if the idea would come to nothing, but in the autumn of 1965 I received a letter from Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, who offered me a two year contract on their staff at £450 for the first year. There was a great deal of debate in the Hassan household when that letter arrived. I had never been outside East Africa in my life and the thought of leaving friends and family behind for the unknown, though it aroused my sense of adventure, was more than a littje frightening.

The vital date was April 4th, 1966-a Monday. I had arrived in Nottingham the previous Saturday, only to be greeted with a snow storm; having flown in to Heathrow from Nairobi two days before. April 4th was the day on which all the players on the staff were required to report for duty. As it happened the County had decided to make quite a number of changes for 1966-Norman Hill, the dark haired opening batsman had been made captain, Johnny Clay was the new coach and two well-known players from other counties-Roy Swetman and Bob White-had moved to Trent Bridge, so it meant that I wasn't the only one trying to find his feet! I had however one disadvantage which was unique-of the seventeen players, I was the only one who had never played cricket on a grass pitch. I went cautiously into the nets trying to learn, in a fortnight, what the rest of the players had been accustomed to all their lives-the daily -perhaps I ought to say hourly, variations to be found on a grass wicket. Then it was off to Queen's Park, Chesterfield, for my first chance out in the middle. I was to spend the summer, whilst qualifying for the County, playing for Worksop in the Bassetlaw League.

I was fortunate enough to score 93 not out on my debut for Worksop and it was the beginning of a very happy season with the Club-I also managed to make runs for Notts Second XI and all in all that first season in England gave me a great deal of hope that the County would be keen to renew my contract at the end of 1967. That second summer saw me hit my first century in County cricket and I managed to win a place in the Championship side for most of the season. A sudden change in the qualification rules for the 1968 season however put a stop to hopes of strengthening my place in the First team-Notts signed Garry Sobers and Deryck Murray, both of course West Indian Test players, and each county was permitted to play only two overseas men in any one match, so I was confined to the second team. I did get one chance, against the Australians, when I was so anxious to prove my worth that I bagged a king pair in just over an hour-I shall have to ask our librarian if that's a record; if it is I hope no one is unfortunate enough to beat it!

Happily I was able to play for the first team in 1969 and in fact didn't miss a match, though I expect my old friends in Nairobi were a trifle surprised to discover that my place in the side was due to my fielding in the covers! I batted, more often than not, at No. 7- although at home I always opened the batting and kept wicket.
So much has happened in the last twenty years that this short essay cannot even give all the highlights of my career in first-class cricket. The great moment for me was the winning of the Championship in 1981, but above all cricket has enabled me to meet and make friends with so many people and given me opportunities which I would not otherwise have had. I certainly made the right decision when I signed that two year contract all those years ago-the career of a professional cricketer has its ups and downs and you can't get further down than a king pair in an hour, but I wouldn't change any of it



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