As we look forward to the 2017 season, BGCC website catches up with Sunday 3rd XI captain Mark Forge, and asks him about his cricketing life and memories both at Barrow Gurney and early in his life.
What is your first cricketing memory?
I remember playing cricket at primary school in Scarborough. I also remember clearly the 1975 test at Headingly ruined by supporters of the jailed George Davies when they dug up the pitch. I remember trying to mimic the run up of Michael Holding after the 1976 series although I was never going to be a fast bowler!
Who encouraged you to play cricket?
I think I encouraged myself based on watching TV at the time. My Dad had been a wicket keeper for Sherburn near Scarborough when he was young but the family sport was golf. Dad was 4 handicap and his father was a pro who worked with Ted Ray the US open champion of the early 1920s. I used to love watching the BBC test match coverage with Peter West, Jim Laker and Richie Benaud and listing to TMS with Brian Johnston, Don Mosey, Blowers, Trevor Bailey, Fred Trueman and of course the great John Arlott of whom I used to do an impression.
Who was your first cricket hero and why?
That’s easy, Geoffrey Boycott. He was Yorkshire’s best player by far, he had the best technique of any player I have ever seen, and his placement of shot was superb. I saw him demolish a Nottinghamshire side bowling spin against him at Scarborough by stroking the ball through the offside beating the fielders time and again with absolutely no risk. When he made his return to test cricket in 1977 I was on holiday, but managed to find a TV in the hotel to watch him make his hundred (and run out Derek Randall). Yorkshire fans of the time were evenly split for and against the great man, but I was a fan even though it took me more than 5 attempts to get his autograph.
Can you name-drop any top-class players you have played with or against?
At school I opened the batting in the 1st XI side captained by David Byas who went on to captain Yorkshire to the County Championship. I was also coached by Brian Close and once by the great Freddie Trueman whose twins were at my school. In house matches I played against Simon Dennis (Yorkshire & Glamorgan) who was a nephew of Sir Len Hutton, and Richard Doughty who later played for Gloucestershire. In one house match I remember fielding on the first fairway of the adjoining golf course as Rich hit the ball so far! I also remember taking 7 off one of Simon’s over without seeing the ball once!
Where is your favourite place to play or watch cricket?
Barrow Gurney is a wonderful place to play cricket. It is a beautiful ground, so well maintained by its volunteers. Obviously Scarborough would be my favourite first class ground and I have seen many great games there over the years. Chester Le Street would be my favourite test ground; I was there for the exciting finish to the Ashes test in 2013. I have watched my daughter, Bernie, play at some lovely places but Millfield School’s main pitch looking out over the Glastonbury Tor looked to me like what heaven’s cricket pitch might look like!
Which England cricket match do you most remember and why?
There are too many. I was at Headingley during the famous 1981 test. I was there on the day when you could get 500-1 on England winning. I could not persuade my Dad to take the bet. Due to traffic we arrived 10 minutes late and left 10 minutes early which meant we missed Graham Gooch being dismissed in both innings! We saw Botham make a 50. I could not imagine what would happen on the next 2 days!.
I also remember a really tense session at Edgbaston in 2008 with Freddie Flintoff bowling in the evening gloom at Jacques Kallis – hardly any runs were scored but it was such drama as a great bowler fought to dismiss a great batsman (which is what T20 cricket lacks). I saw Cook make every run of his 294 at Edgbaston, and Broad rip through the Aussies at Durham in 2013. I was so pleased to be at Lord’s when Jonny Bairstow played one of his first games for England as I was such a fan of his Dad.
Which county do you support?
I am a Yorkshireman and you take the man out of Yorkshire but never take Yorkshire out of the man. However, in women’s cricket I support Somerset as my daughter plays for them!
What other teams have you played for?
I played for Scarborough College, Scarborough 4ths or 5ths, Wykeham (in North Yorkshire) and for a couple of years Winford.
How did you come to join Barrow Gurney Cricket Club?
Through my children. Frank and Bernie both played age group cricket for Barrow. When Barrow started a second team to play on a Saturday they were worried there would not be enough players so I, and some other parents, were asked to come out of retirement. As it happened we were not needed that much which was so disappointing that we set up a Sunday team as well so that everyone could get a game!
What do you think is special about the club?
The setting of the ground is magnificent, the people are incredibly friendly and it makes a great summer to play and watch cricket there.
What was the most memorable performance you have seen by a Barrow team or another Barrow player?
I think the best performance I have seen by the team is a choice of two. A couple of years ago we needed 160 odd in a 2nd team game to win and were 80 for 5, at which point two of the youngest players in the team, Bernie and Kieran Owen came together and batted so maturely for 20 overs to win the game. The other would be last year’s 2nds game at Old B’s. In a seemingly hopeless cause several lower order batsmen stepped up to win the game with both Nick Heal and Adam Brace playing memorable innings.
As for individual performances, obviously Bernie’s 100 was a highlight, several innings by Jonny Sykes which destroyed the opposition and Oscar Livesey’s 6 for last year. In the junior games over the years, I remember Dan Jones taking a hat trick and on another occasion hitting a boundary in the first over of the match and then finishing the full 20 overs on 5 not out! I also remember Ben Hodges running a cool single to tie a game at Cleeve.
What was your most memorable performance for Barrow?
Well I scored my first 50 this year so that could be it, but just after making a return to cricket I was playing in a friendly and Phil Milton threw me the ball not knowing that I did not really bowl. After a couple of wides, and some disapproving looks, I ended up with 3/10, which I never expect to repeat!
What is the funniest moment you have witnessed on a cricket field?
I was watching a game at the Scarborough Cricket Festival, and T N Pearce’s XI were playing the touring team. The great Pakistani bowler Sarfraz Nawaz (for T N Pearce’s XI) was at mid-on and had already dropped two relatively easy catches. Inevitably another chance was chipped to him and he put it down, prompting team mate Derek Randall to run to the boundary to pick up one of those large wire-mesh bins and take it over to Sarfraz to use!
The other funny moment I remember was Morne Morkel being dismissed but unable to locate the pavilion such that he walked off to the groundsman’s shed!
Who is your current favourite player and why?
Jonny Bairstow, because of what he has achieved after the tragic death of his father who was also a great hero of mine. I am also a great fan of Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Ben Stokes.
What is your Barrow Gurney prediction for 2017?
I predict the Firsts to be close to promotion, the 2nds to be in the upper half of their table, and my Sunday team to have fun and win a couple of games (or more!). Individually, I think James Riley will take most 1st team wickets, Oscar Livesey take most wickets overall and Mike Lilley will be the most economical bowler for the club. In batting, it depends who plays and in what team but I hope Bernie will have another strong season, with Guy Fisher also scoring lots of runs. New first team captain Paul Glazzard will have a strong showing and Matt Owen will surely take the wickets he deserved last year, I hope Mark Fisher may get a run at bowling in the first team too. Ellie Holdaway always takes a lot of wickets, and Jonny Sykes will undoubtedly threaten the livestock in the adjoining fields when he bats! Frank Forge will also be there or there abouts with both runs and wickets. On a Sunday I hope for Leo Brace, Cameron Bullock and Melissa Owen to step up from junior cricket with one or two others perhaps, and some strong performances from “golden oldies” Rod Reeves, Adam Brace and Pete Holdaway.
Of course I hope we have some new players and other long-standing players who will make strong contribution this year.