Cricket

Cricket and football have a long history as many fans switched their attentions between the two sports as the seasons changed. Many football clubs of the 19th Century grew out of cricket clubs and Tranmere Rovers is no exception.

In 1884 the two cricket teams Lyndhurst Wanderers and Belmont came together to form a new Birkenhead Football team, Belmont FC who later became known as Tranmere Rovers.

In modern football, players use the summer to relax a little and to train for the next season. However in years gone by the amateur players of the day played purely for the enjoyment and wanted to keep playing sport even though the football season had ended. The desire to keep playing competitive sport led many football players to cricket in the summer.

Tranmere Rovers legends such as Moreton and Bell both played for Cammell Laird’s cricket team and Urmson played for Neston in the 1930s. Tom McMurray even managed to be the 12th man in an England Test Match team against the West Indies in 1935.

This partnership between Tranmere and local cricket clubs meant some interesting friendlies took place. Tranmere Rovers annually played Cammell Laird Cricket Club and in 1935 there was some excitement surrounding that year’s game. Although Moreton, Bell and Roberts were playing for Lairds, Tranmere were still expected to put up a good fight.

However Lairds taught Rovers a lesson in cricket that year at Rock Park. Lairds batted first and notched up 200-7 as Rover’s bowlers failed to be any real challenge for the shipbuilder’s batters. The Tranmere players however put on a better show when it came to their innings with Newton reaching 41 which included four boundaries. Ridding and MacDonald together added 36 to the total with three 6s and three 4s. But Rovers innings only led to a total of 148 runs which meant Lairds were victorious.

The following summer Tranmere took on Birkenhead Park Cricket Club in a charity game to help the struggling cricket club. With a full strength Birkenhead team and a Tranmere squad including its own talented cricket players it was sure to be an interesting game. The Birkenhead News said ‘…enthusiasts of both Cricket and Football will be sure of seeing a good sporting game…’

Tranmere went into the match reasonably confident with the Birkenhead News starting Bell and Clarke as the players to watch. However Tranmere’s confidence quickly disappeared as Birkenhead Park notched up 230 in just two hours! Bell and Clarke took eight wickets with Platt and Wood getting the other two.

Rover’s innings were not particularly successful and they reached 199 before the final wicket fell. Dellow for Rovers notched up 52 runs with two 6s and six 4s but he was the only stand out batter Rovers had.

Tranmere’s connection with cricket continued into the 1960s as goalkeeper Jim Cumbes played county cricket in the summer months. He also played for three other county teams whilst continuing his football career with other clubs. He is currently the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Cricket Club and has played a major part in the development of Old Trafford.

It is unlikely a current Tranmere team would be involved in cricket these days but the games of the 1930s can remind us of a simpler time when the summer wasn’t about fitness and pre-season friendlies but about enjoying sport in the summer sun.

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