Gunny's veterans revive golden memories

Greenock President's XI 153 for 9
Bill Gunn's Veteran XI 153 for 4


A LARGE crowd, in terms of numbers, watched a large Gunn XI, in terms of girth, tie this enthralling spectacle at Glenpark on Sunday in celebration of the former batsman/wicketkeeper’s 60th birthday.

From a’ the airts and pairts they travelled for the great game. The gates were opened early and those who had slept overnight in order to secure places surged in through the bottom wall gate at Fox Street.

He was later followed in at the main gate by those who had gained precious briefs for this clash of the Titans.

Bill Gunn beamed as bright as the sun in a near cloudless Glenpark sky, his hair even sparser than in his prime but lending itself admirably to its now silver hue.

Jack Clark, capped over 50 times for his country and who graced Scottish cricket with some memorable pace bowling displays over the decades, had more productive follicles than Gunn, but of an equally distinguished tint. The oldest in the team, he still retained a figure of modest proportions. No shouts of ‘who ate all the pies’ at Clarky.

Tom Black was, well, just TB. It’s not that long since he hung his bat out to dry, but here he was again, reminding us of the abilities of the most talented Scottish amateur of his day.

With Charlie Stewart, David Campbell, Peter Robertson and Roger Hardie also present of the 1976 side, which was the first of its generation to win the old Western Union, many fond memories were dusted down amidst the cobwebs of the older spectators’ minds.

Such luminaries as John Kirk, Tom Ward and Scoop provided erudite judgment in their umpiring roles, Ward’s of a particularly judicial merit, Scoop’s of a ground-breaking nature, being the first Scottish umpire to utilise camera technology, and Kirk’s being especially useful in that he does, in fact, umpire.

President David Campbell’s eleven, skippered by Ryan Begley as the club supremo was in Gunn’s line-up, took first whack in a 25-overs per side contest on a more than decent track.

Opening the bowling were Jack Clark and Charlie Stewart, the former finishing with figures of one for 25 off five overs at a pace more noted by the latter who took one for 26 off his five overs.

The bowling star, however, was John McDougall who captured three for 22 off four overs, and also managed a great throw for a run-out and excellent catch at mid-off.

It was one of his deliveries, trapping David Bruce leg before wicket, which also became a first in Scottish cricket, going to umpire Graham’s camera at the bowler’s end before being correctly and expertly judged to be ‘plum’. Scoop-eyed!

For the President’s assortment, Sammy Singh emerged as the star, striking 66, including one straight six off J.R. McDougall into Bedford Street.

Graeme Sanders provided spontaneous applause of a Schadenfreude variety after being pole-axed by a return throw while bowling, the first of several participants to collapse as spectacularly as an Italian army.

There was a family cameo when ‘faither Gunn’ stumped son Fraser, though it was an act for which retribution was to follow.

In reply Gunn’s men were permitted the luxury of having two lives. Gunn’s first came when son Fraser took his revenge, clean bowling his old man who could only grin at the poetic justice of it.

But he and opening partner Graeme Sanders were to score 25 and 26 respectively, before Peter Hempsey arrived to clout a prodigious 31, succumbing also to a member of his own family, son Jonathan providing a splendid throw to run out the galloping patriarch.

The base having been laid by the infantry, the heavy artillery of the reply came in the abundant shape of Tom Black and former Greenock captain Roger Hardie.

Black’s first shot thundered through the field, as if propelled from Mons Meg, scattering fielders in its path.

Hardie began to show glimpses of past glories too, though exhaustion, which even infusions of gin and lager could not wholly stem, began to take its toll.

As the denouement loomed, TB called for a single, Hardie collapsed and floundered like a pregnant sealion in the shallows.

Meanwhile Dougie Wylie had become the latest to be felled like a Douglas Fir, surely devine retribution for having whizzed a throw-in off Scoop’s left leg in the previous over.

The tension mounted. Umpire Graham was called upon to deliver the red orb in the middle of a costly Begley over with Black in his pomp. A wicked, weaving delivery, cutting through the air and nipping off the pitch sped towards the stumps before Black just managed to clip it for four through the leg side, as deft a shot as he has ever played.

With a ball remaining, Gunn’s intrepid men required two for a tie. TB steered to backward point. How Hardie covered the 44 yards will probably never be known, least of all by himself, but Black romped home at the bowler’s end, just making his ground before the stumps were broken. Honour was secured.

Black had bludgeoned 44 to Hardie’s astutely placed dozen as stumps were drawn, the evening sun casting long shadows over the best wee cricket ground in Scotland.

All left the field to partake of a lovely spread put on by Helen, Gunn’s vastly superior half.

We eagerly await the 70th bash.