Owzat for a tremendous Hartlepool start to the cricket season
Lighter nights and warmer weather means it must be cricket season.
So we thought we’d change sport and put the focus on cricket at Park Drive.
In particular, we’re turning the clock back to 1976 and the year when Hartlepool got off to a storming start to the season. It included two wins in one weekend.
One of them was described by the Hartlepool Mail reporter at the time as ‘one of the most exciting finishes I have ever seen’.
Hartlepool were the only team in that season’s A division to win both their opening games.
The match against Norton was a particular crowd pleaser and Hartlepool batted first on a difficult pitch. For Norton, young bowler Chris Thomas proved particularly difficult to score against.
Edwards with 24, Clarke with 34 and sturdy knocks from J.Lamb, MJ Smith, and R Cawson - who all reached double figures - helped Hartlepool reach 139.
But to win, they would have to bowl Norton out and that looked unlikely when the visitors reached 102-4 ‘with plenty of time to knock off the 38 runs they needed for victory’, said the Mail.
But Hartlepool came back into it with a ‘never give up’ attitude. As the Mail put it at the time, wickets started to fall ‘with unusual regularity’.
Highlights included two run outs from Mike Gough and Eric Clarke but with the game entering the last over, Norton were still hanging on with nine wickets down. It was still the case with two balls of the last over left to go.
But then came the deciding moment. The Norton batsman knocked the ball to silly mid-on but Mike Gough was there to take a great catch and give the home team victory.
Skipper Ken Gardner said afterwards: “It was a great team performance from the lads. Even though we looked a beaten side we never gave up and although it could be argued that Norton threw it away, we deserved our win.”
The success of the Hartlepool team was very much a family affair.
The first eleven featured two sets of brothers and they were Mike and John Gough, and Brian and Jeff Lamb.
There were many who felt Hartlepool would be in with a shout of the title that year and the Mail report at the time said: “If Hartlepool can continue to produce the same enthusiasm, never-say-die effort and 100 per cent work rate which they showed against Norton, then they are destined to be one of the League’s top sides this season.”