Me, my wife and Devon Malcolm

I’m a member of a Facebook group called the Cricket Grounds Appreciation Society. It’s as anoraky and twee as it sounds, but to we cricket-lovers, shorn of the summer game that we love so much, this year, it’s becoming a bit of a godsend during these barren times.

Members of the group simply post pictures of cricket grounds that they have played at or visited, wherever they are in the world. Little village club grounds, picturesque grounds and famous ones, too.

The other day someone posted a picture of a ground where a Lashings CC charity cricket match had been played. In the photo was the former England and Derbyshire fast bowler, Devon Malcolm. On his day, Devon was as fast and aggressive a quick bowler as I’ve ever seen in my life, particularly if he got riled. The South African’s found that out to their cost in a Test Match at the Oval in 1994, when one of their bowlers, a chap by the name of Fanie de Villiers, hit big Devon on his helmet with a bouncer. Allegedly a furious Malcolm turned to the south African slip cordon and told them:

“You guys are history.”

He wasn’t kidding, either. When the Saffers came in to bat, he produced one of the best and fastest spells of bowling I’ve ever seen, ripping the South African innings apart, taking 9 wickets for 57 runs.

However, seeing a photo of Devon again for the first time in years, reminded me of a chance encounter that Val, my wife and I had with Mr Malcolm, the year before his destruction of the South Africans.

On the weekend of the 22/23rd July 1993, I took Val away for a ‘romantic’ weekend to London, from our then home in north Manchester. I took her to see the Benson and Hedges Cricket Final at Lords between my beloved Lancashire and Derbyshire!

We decided to stay over on Friday evening before the game, at the Clive Hotel in Hampstead. We drove up on Friday afternoon and as we pulled into the hotel car park, I got noticed a lot of guys getting out of cars, carrying cricket equipment. For a moment, I thought that we were going to be staying at the same hotel as the Lancs team. Then I saw Dominic Cork and a few other faces of Derbyshire cricketers that I recognised.

I turned to Val and said:

“We’ve only gone and booked into the same hotel as tomorrow’s opponents, Derbyshire!’

Anyway, next day we duly trotted off to St John’s Wood to Lord’s cricket ground. A day out at the ‘home of cricket’ is always something to be savoured. As a bit of research has reminded me, the weather wasn’t the greatest, but the game was played out in the day without interruption. A cracker of a game it was too.

Although they were the underdogs against a Lancs team that included Atherton, De Freitas, Fairbrother and the legendary Pakistani all-rounder, Wasim Akram, Derbyshire won the game by 6 runs and Dominic Cork, who years later went on to wear the Red Rose, was named Man of the Match.

This little story isn’t really about the game itself, but it is worth noting that there was ‘an incident’ when, during Derbyshire’s innings, batsman Chris Adams was hit on the back as he instinctively turned his body away from a very rapid beamer from Wasim Akram. For non-cricketing aficionados, a beamer is a type of bowling delivery in which the ball, without bouncing, passes above the batsman’s waist height. It’s illegal because it’s dangerous, particularly when bowled by someone as quick as the Pakistani maestro Akram, was.

Immediately after the delivery had been bowled, Akram apologised to Adams. The Derbyshire man understandably required a fair bit of treatment before bravely carrying on. Adams was as gutsy a player as he was feisty. He was out for 11 shortly afterwards.

During the tea interval, Adams and Akram are alleged to have squared up to each other, with the former still being highly aggrieved at the illegal delivery from Akram, despite the latter’s apology.

Anyway, with the game over VW and I trotted back to the hotel, with at least a few drinks and maybe a curry to look forward to.

After a couple of aperitifs at the hotel, we went out in search of an Indian restaurant. A suitable looking venue was swiftly found.

It was one of those places that had lots of nooks and crannies and we were shown to one of two tables for two in a particular nook (or cranny). The other table was vacant when we sat down and ordered our food.

A short while later, the waiter appeared again followed by two men who were being shown to the table next to us. I nearly choked on my pappadom when Devon Malcolm and another Derbyshire player took their places at the aforesaid table. I’m not sure where VW was up to with her cricket knowledge at that stage, but I’m sure she recognised big Devon – definitely not the other chap though, who I’d worked out was that rare specimen: a Danish professional cricketer. He was called Ole Mortensen but went by the name of Stan! Mortensen was actually a really decent seam bowler.

The two sportsmen started talking to each other about the day’s events. I have to confess, I was listening in to their conversation like a seasoned Stasi operative in the former GDR. It became clear that they were less than happy with the attitude of the county of my birth’s cricket team that afternoon. Although I’m sure that the Adams/Akram confrontation was mentioned, what I remember being disappointed to hear, as a Lancastrian, was that the Lancs players were less than gracious in defeat. Downright rude and off-hand, according to our neighbours at the next table.

As time went on, I couldn’t resist it any longer.

“Gents, well played this afternoon’, I spurted out. “Would you accept a drink from two Lancashire fans?”

I was sat diagonally opposite Malcolm who stared across at Stan with a look that said:

“Ohhh shit!”

Instead he said to me with a nervous smile:

“You aren’t from the Press are you?”

I reassured him that we weren’t. Stan turned to me and said, in that case, that would be very kind and yes, they’d like that very much.

From that moment on we spent the next half hour, if not more, chatting to them. Devon was a little quieter than Mortensen, who was a really funny and entertaining bloke. We told them how we couldn’t believe that their evening after winning one of the major domestic cricket trophies, was being spent in the local curry house. As I recall they weren’t overly enamoured at the fact either, but then again Derbyshire was certainly one of the poorest counties in the first-class league. I hadn’t realised that it was that poor though!

As they got up, they invited us to join them for drinks back at the hotel with the rest of the team. I couldn’t finish my chicken jalfrezi quickly enough.

Sure enough, when we got back to the hotel, Devon and Stan greeted us like long lost friends. I recall standing at the bar next to Devon and marvelling at the fact that I was being asked by this giant of a world-famous cricketer, what I wanted to drink. Bloody Hell, if only social media had been around then, I’d have had a field day!

Chris Adams was called over by Stan to show us his wound from the game. Adams was a larger than life character and had had a few, as he took off his shirt and turned round to reveal on his back, the biggest single bruise that I’ve ever seen.

Then the TV in the bar started showing highlights of the game. Cheers, for Derbyshire successes, boos for Lancs, but when Akram bowled the now infamous ball – well, the room erupted into a crescendo of boos, an array of hand gestures and howls of derision directed at Wasim!

The B&H trophy was being tossed around the room like a toy, as the beer flowed, and when it came to Stan Mortensen, he signalled for VW and I to come over and hold the trophy, flanked by him and Devon. One of the Derbyshire committee members took a photo of us and then asked for our address to send a copy on.

Sadly the photo never did arrive. So the photo accompanying this blog is not one of me, my wife and Devon Malcolm (and a Danish cricketer called Stan), but the only image that came up on Adobe Stock Photos when I typed the name ‘Devon Malcolm’ into the search bar. It’s a picture of the Devon coastline.