By Charles Randall
2 May 2014
Wirral CC became famous for all the wrong reasons when the news of their 'three all out' spread around the world as far as Australia, New Zealand, United States and the subcontinent, but their batting disaster produced more benefit than they could have imagined when the last wicket fell.
Many of the tweets, messages and even news reports joked that the team must be hopeless at cricket. This was wide of the mark as fellow clubs in the Cheshire League knew Wirral were actually very handy with the bat; they had chased down more than 200 for victory the previous Saturday in Division Three. The truth was that the total of three at Haslington was a complete freak.
After the news had gone viral, Wirral received an invitation from Lancashire County Cricket Club to attend free coaching at Old Trafford, like an emergency response when they did not really need it any more than most other clubs. But the television publicity suited Lancashire, and Wirral were certainly never going to turn down professional help. More than that, Lancashire offered to assist with fund-raising to upgrade the Wirral nets, a gesture warmly appreciated. The ECB and the Cheshire Board contacted the club with support.
Andy Procter, the Wirral chairman, said the response from around the world had been “absolutely phenomenal” and the national coverage had put Wirral on the map, not least for player recruitment. Social networking sites had a field day. “I'm very pleased at our decision to get on the front foot straight away and not try and hide it,” Procter said. “I'm sure there will be benefits for us in the long run.”
The domino effect is well known in cricket, and that is what happened. Haslington were bowled out for 108, with opening bowler David Fletcher perhaps thinking he might be Wirral's match-winner after returning 5-30. Seemingly the whole world soon learnt that Wirral slumped to nought for eight wickets in reply within six overs. The end came in 9.2 overs, leaving last man Connor Hodson as the only batsman not to register a duck. His one run and two leg-byes were all Wirral could muster. Amazing.
Many league followers queried the scores when the result appeared as Haslington 108 Wirral 3, assuming there had been an error.
Haslington, newly promoted from the Cheshire Alliance, had one of the league's best bowlers in Tom Gledhill (4.2-4-0-4), though he was outshone by Ben Istead, 17, who returned 5-4-1-6.
The words of Pete Clewes, Wirral's captain, flew around the world. “We were feeling perfectly confident when we went into bat, but for some reason we all just batted atrociously,” he said. “It was extraordinary. Everyone just panicked as the wickets fell. It just got worse and worse.”
Matt Garrett, the eighth victim, said: “It was one of those scores that if you didn’t laugh about it, then you’d probably cry.”
Procter said on reflection: “We thought we should win and might have been perhaps a little bit complacent after the previous Saturday. There were bad shots, but not that many. It was the build-up of pressure that did it. That's the beauty of sport.”
If the players felt misery in the changing room after the debacle, they soon learnt to make the most of the extraordinary happening. Within a week the Wirral CC website posted a message to its readers: “Thank you to all of you who have laughed along with us in the last few days, its been incredible to receive the messages of support from all over the world and to watch the story grow. It's been taken in great humour by all. Cricket is a funny old game sometimes, but that's why we love it so much.”
In 1913 Langport were dismissed for nought by fellow Somerset club Glastonbury. That is the only similar low-scoring recalled this week, but there must be a few other comparable incidents in village or club cricket perhaps lost in the mists of time.
So it was day to remember for Haslington – though Wirral somehow finished up with all the credit...