Tea was always a bit special at Ebbw Vale and from what I have seen of the present catering it still is. My first tea in the Pavilion was memorable, for following sandwiches and bread & butter and jam (do you still have that now?) I happened to reach for an iced-slice only to receive a gentle slap on the back of my wrist with a knife administered by John Desmond, who told me "I'm the Senior Pro in this team and I get the first choice of cakes". The same John Desmond who insisted that the team bus always stopped at the Farmers Arms, Resolven to consume two quick pints on the grounds that he couldn't be expected to bowl 15 - 20 overs without!!
In 1953 I played for the Club against Pakistan Eaglets, who were touring in preparation for the first ever tour of England the following year. Mixed day's fortune - I bowled one Khalid (Billy Ibadullah) who later became a Test opener and an overseas player for Warwickshire - wonderful!! Later I faced a fast bowler Fazal Mahmoud, first ball didn't see it - hit pad - not out said our umpire Mervyn Gardener. Second ball - ditto - "Out" said Mervyn, he could have saved me some grief if he had given me a ball earlier. One result of this fixture was that we picked up a new very fine player who later, I think was Captain of the Club - his name was Nazir Ali Quizilbash; he married an Ebbw Vale girl Marjorie Shearer and returned to Pakistan where he met an early death. A few years ago at Usk I met up with their son who was playing cricket for a Newport team.
At about this time I remember coming second in a talent competition for Juniors at our ground sponsored by the News of the World, the winner was Gordon Richards (Panteg), who won a free holiday at Butlins, Pwllheli, with cricket coaching. Second prize - NOTHING!! But I did get a game for the Firsts out of it. I'm happy to say that after many years I met up with Gordon in a Three Counties Dinner and we now regularly chew-the-fat at Panteg matches. Gordon is manager of Panteg House Social Club.
Players make Cricket Clubs what they are and I would like to include a few brief notes on some of the men I played with and was pleased to know.
Number one must be Ivor Brain, (Captain Wicket-Keeper and Opening Batsman) who was, without doubt, the best batsman I have still ever to seen in club cricket - his off and cover driving were exceptional. Ebbw Vale bowlers in those days may have had problems with their lengths but their line was dictated by the position of Ivor's gloves. He had a scornful facial expression for the bowler of any rubbish (I Know!!) and he also used this expression for any sub-standard return from a fieldsman. At net practice he used to put coins on top of his stumps and believe me, he didn't lose many. Ivor had a younger brother Harold who could also play a bit - he once reputedly hit a six over the tin sheet fence on the Newchurch Road side of the ground.
Ivor's regular opening partner was the left hander Ernie Worthington, a fiery character who was an excellent foil for his Captain, he also took loads of wickets with his unorthodox wrist spin. Both Ivor and Ernie were brought up in Pontygof, practically on the ground, so as you can imagine cricket was in their blood from an early age. I once heard Ernie tell Wilf Wooller the Glamorgan skipper what he could do with an offer to play in a County Match at Ebbw Vale - it appears they still owed him money from some Second Team Appearances.