John helps retain Grey Ashes

ROYTON’S John Punchard has helped England to cricketing success in Australia.

The 62-year-old played a starring role as England Over-60s retained the ‘Grey Ashes’ after a series of three one-day internationals.In the first international, Punchard scored 36 and claimed one wicket in a four-wicket win at the Bradman Oval at Bowral where cricketing legend Sir Donald played his boyhood cricket.

Punchard said he could not believe the Bradman Oval was at Glebe Street which is also where Crompton Cricket Club is situated and where he is second-team captain.

In the second international at Lake Macquarie, England lost by 22 runs, despite Punchard top scoring with 44 out of a total of 190-9.

The series decider in Brisbane was a nail-biter as England won by 10 runs with nine balls remaining.

During the five-week tour, England played 14 matches, winning 10, drawing one and losing three times.

It took them from Adelaide to Tasmania then Canberra and various destinations on the east coast before finishing in Brisbane.

“The cricket was very tough but with great camaraderie between the sides post-match with several Aussies having played in the CLL many years ago,” said Punchard.

The Aussie side was captained by Mark Gaskell, who had played three one-day internationals for Australia.

He had also played for Crompton in the 1970s as had his team-mates Wayne Broad and Peter Hollie.

The England team was captained by John Foster who was raised in Grasscroft and played his first cricket in the juniors at Saddleworth.

Chris Dearden, a legend at Littleborough in the CLL, was also a member of the England squad.

Punchard, who is semi-retired but still works for a cooking oil company in Crompton, described the trip as a “great experience”.

He admitted it was emotional to play on the same ground where Don Bradman began his career.

Punchard explained: “Bradman’s house was on the boundary’s edge and he played his first cricket on the ground.

“He scored his first hundred on the ground and because of the history it was an emotional game.

“There is also a huge museum containing lots of memorabilia from throughout his illustrious career.”

Punchard had featured in three ‘Grey Ashes’ series since making his debut in 2017 and beaten the Aussies on all three occasions.

Punchard, a member of the Lancashire Over-60s side that won its county championship in 2018 and 2019, added the only dampener was that the players had to fund the trip themselves as a cost of several thousand pounds.

He said: “That was the only bone of contention as the Aussie board fund their team but, despite numerous requests to the English Cricket Board, they have turned a blind eye and we couldn’t get any help.

“Most of our players have 40 plus years’ service, playing, coaching and managing and it would have been nice to have that recognised.

“In saying that, I would not have missed it for the world. We may be a bit slower, but there was still a competitive edge.”

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