25 years doing the best job in the world!
As I sit here after a boozy BBQ on Bank Holiday Monday it is exactly 25 years since I moved to this special place called Wormsley.
Now I know lots of you have been here and lots of you will have heard or seen articles about Wormsley so I thought I would write a few lines about a place I have called home for 25 years.
Wormsley was bought by Sir Paul Getty in 1984. After many happy hours in the company of Brian Johnson it was decided to lay a cricket ground so the boss could have a couple of games a year of good old fashioned country house cricket.
The site chosen was a very slopey field previously part of the farm.
The ground was cut, shaped, laid and a pavilion built in 1991. A quaint but small thatched pavilion (the local planners didn’t want anything even average size) was built on top of the curved bank overlooking the ground from mid wicket.
To be honest the ground wasn’t laid very well at all, but that’s another long story. But I could see the potential and I thought in a few years we could be getting some good cricket with a bit of luck and hard work (and we knew there was a bit of money available !!)
I moved to Wormsley after working at the Bank of England sports ground for 7 years, firstly driving up from near Gatwick every day for a fortnight until I moved up here with the family on May 1st 1992.
The first game was the 10th May, the 2 local villages in a trial game for the ground before the BIG ONE against the MCC on the 24th May.
So the first Paul Getty XI game (before he became a Sir) was a huge day with lots of press coverage and lots of celebs and vips at the game. Sir Michael Caine, The Queen Mum, Denis Compton, Fred Trueman, etc etc. The Getty XI was captained by Imran Khan.
Even a thunderstorm halfway through couldn’t take the gloss off the first Getty game. The boss loved the day and from then on it was pretty evident that there would be more than a couple of games per season !
I will try and condense things here because I could go on for weeks about how bloody good this place has been to work. A hobby I get paid for!
1993 We hosted an Old England v Old Australia game. What a sight seeing Denis Lillee bowling bouncers to David Steele just like in 1975.
1994 Now as Michael Caine would say “not a lot of people know this” but whilst all the papers were talking about South Africas first game back in England since their reintroduction to international cricket being against Lord Carnarvons XI at Highclere Castle in front of the Queen, well they were actually playing at Wormsley. A practice game with their squad players and a few extras to make up the numbers. Derek Randall, Simon Hughes, Andy Lloyd, yours truly and a couple of Aussie mates of mine.
A great day and at one stage we had Jonty Rhodes and Derek Randall in the covers together.
Over the next few years as well as the boss getting knighted we increased the number of Sir Paul Getty XI games to 13 one season. We played the West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and started getting the MCC young cricketers using the ground for one day and 3 day matches.
Then the best day ever, Sir Pauls XI v The Australians in July 1997. 2 great teams, loads of celebs, jazz band, marching band and free ice creams for the 1000 people that turned up. A magical day, both teams playing tough cricket, ending in a draw but not before the late Martin Crowe scored a brilliant 114. The boss couldn’t stop smiling. The Aussies playing cricket in his back garden. What a day !!
The Windies again, with Brian Lara scoring a superlative 100 this time against Sir Pauls XI, another game against Sri Lanka in which a 16 year old Sam Northeast scored a not out 50.
Unfortunately Sir Paul died in 2003 but the family continued the great legacy of cricket at Wormsley.
So over the next 13 seasons other highlights were New Zealand and Bangladesh using us as a training camp before the World 20/20 cup followed by 2 games a day between New Zealand, Bangladesh, Holland, Ireland, Scotland and a PCA legends team. Great fun and lots of big hitting.
We had a womens ODI v the aussies where Kathryn Blunt bounced the aussies out, that was great fun too.
We had the one and only womens Ashes Test where Heather Knight scored a big hundred.
Next was a defeat by the Indian women in the one test match that summer along with hosting some of the Unicorns matches against Somerset, Gloucester, Surrey, Derbyshire and finally getting a win at the expense of Glamorgan.
Another old England v Old Australia game and a game to celebrate Sir Ian Botham's 60th birthday with his side playing Sir Viv Richards XI in a charity match. Piers Morgan hit Glenn McGrath for four, followed by Eric Clapton playing in the Opera House and having it beamed onto a huge screen on the outfield.
2 weeks hosting Afganistan as they warmed up for their “Test match” against Scotland.
Sportsfest. 500 plus kids getting coached different sports by sporting legends over a weekend. How good was that . The parents were more impressed with the legends than the youngsters.
Oh yeah, and I cant forget the 2 murders we have had at the cricket ground. Luckily only due to Midsummer Murders and not by me against players messing up my grass !
The last few years we had also had the Minor counties one day and 4 day finals. Last years 4 day final was one of the best games you could wish to see.
We also had the 4 day second XI final here between Warwickshire and Surrey which went to after tea on day 4 , another great game.
I feel like im going on here and I could go on for much longer but I will finish off with the most amazing result.
Sir Pauls XI played against a Minor counties XI, on a very misty grey,drab day on a pitch I thought didn’t look great. I thought this will finish early so I will be back home in time for songs of praise. Anyway we declared at 282 for 0 and lost by 2 wickets. So much for seeing songs of praise ! David Ward ex Surrey spanked 211 not out that day, still the highest score and most brutal innings I have had the pleasure to witness.
So to now, 25 years later and on Sunday 21st of May we are holding a celebration match to mark 25 years of this amazing place I have had the most awesome time working at.
Sir Pauls XI v The Arabs, 11 am start, free entry. Pop in and say hi and enjoy it as much as I always do.
See you here,