When Dean Jones Came to Town (Street). By Paul Tasker
Up to this point Nostell Cricket Club had never beaten Carlton First Team and it was the worst kept secret of the Leeds League that they would do anything, and I mean anything, to break their metaphorical duck.
So, in 1988 Nostell pulled out all the stops, dug deep in to their pockets and acquired the services of an overseas player beyond imagination and that would make news headlines before a ball had even been bowled. Dean Jones was the Australian No 3 batsman and was currently rated No 1 in the ODI World rankings. Boom! Take that Carlton.
No one understood why Dean Jones would want to come and play in the Leeds League when he could have had his pick of any County side and got paid a lot more than Nostell were offering, but I suppose that just added to the excitement and the appeal of him being over here. Especially when you consider that Nostell didn’t have the best facilities or biggest support in the League and every other week he’d be playing at Nostell. Whatever his reason, no one really cared as they would get to see one of the best players in the World play cricket for free and what Yorkshire man wouldn’t want that. I even remember the publicity photo in the Yorkshire Evening Post which had Dean Jones leaning out of the upper floor window of his accommodation above a Chip Shop holding a cricket bat. I’m just surprised they didn’t ask him to wear a flat cap and sing On Ilkley Moor Bar T’at.
But this isn’t a story about Nostell; this is one about Carlton and what makes the club so special.
When Nostell came to Carlton, they couldn’t have wished for a better day. The sun was shining, the outfield was beautiful and the wicket looked like a batter’s paradise. And for some reason the wicket was so close to the rhubarb field that even a top edge would go for six. Just what you need when you’re about to bowl at the best ‘one day’ batsmen in the World. The early signs didn’t look good for us, so when Nostell won the toss and decided to bat, we all thought, ‘Here we go’.
Surprisingly Dean Jones didn’t open the batting and chose to bat at his preferred No 3 as he did for Australia. This gave us a slight respite until Dave Cooper took a wicket early in the game and then came out with the following typical Dave Copper comment, ‘We have awoken a sleeping Dragon’. I’ll never forget the moment when he took the opening wicket and everyone in the ground knew Dean Jones would be coming in next. There was a sudden change in atmosphere across the pitch as we all waited for him to walk to the crease and take his guard.
Dave Cooper was still the best fast bowler in the Leeds League, but Dean Jones was another class. You could tell from the way he played the ball and how he seemed to have so much time to play his shots and could place the ball wherever he wanted or simply smash it into the rhubarb field. He never once looked in trouble.
Meanwhile at the other end, Malcolm ‘Mally’ Baddeley who could best be described as gentle medium pace and away swing, probably felt like a spin bowler to Dean Jones, but it was still a surprise to see Dean Jones take his guard a good yard and a half outside his crease. This did not look good and balls began to fly to the boundary. The Nostell players were beginning to get excited and a little bit cocky at the prospect of a huge score and a first taste of victory against Carlton.
But sport in general is funny and unpredictable thing and cricket is more than a one-man game. Even if your name is Dean Jones and you’re the No1 ODI batsmen in the World, you still can’t be expected to do everything yourself.
And then in that next moment, it all changed.
Mally delivered a ball which I can only think was so slow that Dean Jones couldn’t make up his mind where or how far to hit it, but instead of smashing it into Ashton Crescent (or all the way to Rothwell) he missed it and it hit his pads. Mally went up for an LBW appeal, ‘Ouwzaaaaaaaaaaat’ and despite Dean Jones being possibly half way down the wicket when the ball struck his pads, the Umpire’s finger went up without any hesitation and the mighty DJ was out.
Dean Jones just stood there with a look of disbelief on his face as though someone had played a practical joke on him and then he looked at the Umpire, then he looked at where he was stood and then looked at the rest of us. And then he did the whole thing again. He was in utter shock and couldn’t believe he was out and to be honest, so were we. Didn’t the umpire know who he was? Surely, he couldn’t be out. But there was no way the umpire was going to change his mind or decision and he had to walk.
As we watched Dean Jones leave the square and walk slowly back to the changing rooms we all had to hold our laughter as we celebrated with Mally and try to understand what had just happened. We tried to suggest to Mally that he may have been a tad lucky with that one, but he said that it was plum and it would have knocked down all three wickets. And we weren’t about to argue. We were all so pleased DJ was out that we couldn’t care less how he got out, just that he did and we could get back to a normal day’s cricket.
Needless to say, Dean Jones’s day did not get any better when he came on to bowl at the Ashton Crescent end, where his off spin was dispatched to various parts of the ground. World class player or not, he got the treatment.
I’m not actually sure what the final scores of the game were, but Carlton proved once again we were a team not to be under estimated and won the match to maintain our 100% record against Nostell.
In the clubhouse, after the match, Dean Jones was a true Gent and spoke to everyone in the team and supporters (especially Tom Brown), congratulating us on the win. Quite unusual for an Australian, I thought. I think he may have also mentioned to Mally that he didn’t think he was out, but Mally reassured him he was definitely plum and continued to tell everyone in the club. Dean also said he loved playing at Carlton where the pitch and facilities were excellent and the teas were outstanding. It was really nice of Dean to say these things, but to be honest, we already knew it.
And now read ‘Dean Jones and his Mate‘ to see what happened in the return fixture.