Accrington Cricket Club is saying goodbye to one of its longest serving playing members, Lenny Dewhurst, who is retiring after playing for the club across five decades.
The veteran made his debut in 1976 at the age of 15 and has played alongside and against the cricketing greats of Shane Warne, Allan Donald and David Lloyd.
Dewhurst started off his career for Accrington’s 4th XI as an opening batsman and developed over the years as an off-spinner.
In league cricket, he took 622 wickets and scored 1508 runs, though without a half century to his name.
His best performance came against Rishton, where the all-rounder scored 47 with the bat and took a magnificent 8-33 with the ball.
When asked how he felt about not achieving a knock of 50 in that innings, the left-hander chuckled, saying: "I was playing for the team and I got out trying to push on."
Lenny has a great number of stories to tell about his cricketing days and he remembers when Accrington first signed Australian great Shane Warne in 1991.
He said: "Shane was definitely Jack the lad.
"People loved him here and he was a fantastic dressing room figure for the club.
"We didn’t re-sign him, though, after his first season because he didn’t get enough runs!
"We just thought he was a good young Australian who could turn the ball and a man who loved a drink."
After moving up through the sides, Lenny made his debut for the 1st XI in 1994 at the age of 33 and it was not long before he made an impression with his tricky off-spinners.
In only his third Lancashire League game, Lenny took a hat-trick which included the prized wicket of Joe Scuderi, who has played first class cricket for South Australia, Lancashire and Italy.
He said: "He was the first victim of my hat-trick when he was caught at long-on. He became our pro a few seasons later and I always used to wind him up about it.
"He’s still got one of my towels as he never used to turn up to matches with one!
"The second wicket was caught at cow corner and the third was plumb in front LBW. It wasn't a bad shot – he just played across the line and it was definitely out."
In addition to playing alongside Warne, Dewhurst has also had the privilege of facing the fearsome South African fast-bowling legend, Allan Donald – and managed to survive and tell the tale.
Donald, who has 330 Test scalps under his belt, played twice against Lenny but failed to get him out.
He said: "The lads of Church Cricket Club were winding Donald up saying that my mate, Martin Whittle, was the best hooker of the cricket ball in the Lancashire League. He’s never hooked a ball in his life.
"Well you can guess what happened. First ball, he hit him straight in the helmet and we all fell about laughing."
In the return fixture though, Donald helped his side bowl Accrington out for a miserly 18.
Dewhurst was batting at 11 in that match and described his experience of facing six terrifying deliveries from the former international.
He said: "He came around the wicket to me. His first ball was outside off-stick so I shouldered arms to it. Second ball was the same and so was the third.
"After the fourth ball was the same Donald came down the wicket to talk to me and said ‘you’re like Jack Russell, are you ever going to play a ball?’ so I replied to him ‘Well if you bowl one on the wicket I will!’
"The fifth ball of the over was outside off stump yet again where I left it alone but the last ball was different.
"An obviously irate Donald bowled a bouncer and I just managed to evade it and then say ‘and that won’t get me out either!’ He was seething."
Lenny was quick to say that despite Donald’s scary antics on the cricket field he was a nice man in the bar afterwards and said that he enjoyed players
giving some chat back to him.
So, after a long and eventful career at Accrington, Dewhurst plans to go into umpiring.
"I’ve always said, when I finally finish playing I will umpire and put something back into the Lancashire League because it’s a great community with some fantastic characters. I really believe that all Lancashire League clubs have a lot to offer.
"I’m quite touched by the comments I’ve received from other club members since retiring.
"It means a lot that the players I’ve played with and against have been so nice because that’s what the Lancashire Cricket League is all about. It’s the perfect place to play cricket."