From The Vault Vol. 2
By Chris Cleary
Richard Lynch: A Season To Remember
Among the great memories I have from playing at YC’s for the last 25 years quite often involve some of the great cricketers I have played with. Names like Richard Lynch, Bobby Ireland, Heath Shepherd, Polly Sleeman and John Masci spring to mind. Players that were not only great cricketers but also quite often larger than life characters. This month I’m going to reminisce a bit and let you in on my favourite memories of playing with Richard Lynch. In particular the 1991/92 season. A season to remember.
When I first arrived at the Club back in the late 80s I had met Richard a couple of times over a beer with mutual friends at the local football and was also well aware of his reputation and abilities on the cricket field. This bloke had taken 7 for and made a ton in a recent A Grade Grand Final as a teenager. The fact that he had such a reputation among his peers and that the opposition players respected him so much was quite incredible as he was only 21 years old at the time. I quickly learned why in a few short weeks.
Lynchy, or Puggers as he was often known, was one of those rare people that had the look about them. The look that only the very good players have. Not in his physical appearance or personal features, but the way he looked when he was doing something. With cricket he was fluid in his movement and never looked like he was out of second gear. In the field he was dynamite. He could field in the slips and catch anything, was uncanny in the way he could take cover or point and rarely let the ball through and in the outfield he would ping the ball in straight over the stumps from anywhere. With the bat he would stride out to the pitch like he owned the place and always took the attack straight up to whoever was bowling. Probably his downfall as a batsman but when he got hold of them it was powerful and very messy for the opposition. As a bowler however, is where he shone brighter than anyone I have ever played with or against. He didn’t look fast, but then all of a sudden he was. He only had a short run up but it was poetry in motion and his action was classical. Smooth right through to the end of his follow through. He moved the ball off the deck and through the air both ways and was deadly accurate, only ever bowling a bit too short when the batsman was annoying him. This happened most games.
The biggest thing Lynchy had was his complete command of what was going on around him. He ran the show and if you didn’t know about it he told you about it. I can remember more than once the sight of Lynchy walking down the pitch and offering the batsman the opportunity to hit his wicket and walk off, saving himself from further embarrassment. Nobody ever took him up on the offer but it asserted whatever hold he already had over the batsman at the time.
After my first couple of years at the Club Lynchy decided it was time to go to England for a holiday and we had no idea when he was coming back, if at all. It left a gaping hole in our First Eleven and needless to say we were relegated from the top grade not long after. It would be two long years before he would return and it happened at just the right time. We had failed to gain promotion back to the top grade after our first season in B Grade and desperately needed that something extra to get us there. Newly appointed Coach Wayne “Jock” Milner had been recruited under the belief that Lynchy would be returning but that was really just a case of Bobby Ireland telling Jock what he wanted to hear to secure his signature. All we knew was that he might be coming home but not much else. Luckily for us, Lynchy turned up to training about two weeks before the first game. Jock had a grin from ear to ear and Bobby was just standing there quietly chuckling. It sparked everybody in an instant and those that considered Lynchy some sort of myth soon found out the truth of the matter. History now shows that we only lost one game during the home and away season and then defeated Kingsbury comfortably in the semi-final before knocking over Thomastown in the big one. Mission accomplished, welcome home Lynchy.
There are three particular things from that season back in 1992 that stand out for me and explain just what an intelligent, competitive cricketer Richard Lynch was.
The first was a home game during the season against Kingsbury who had been relegated along with us a couple of years earlier. They were in the top four trailing just behind us all season and were our eventual semi-final opponent. During this game, when we were in the field, I saw one of the best individual efforts from a player that was so close to being perfect it wasn’t funny. Lynchy had systematically removed the whole Kingsbury top order before the tea break in a spell that completely obliterated any hope they had of winning the game. At one point after the tea break I was the only player on the leg side, standing on my own at mid wicket and you wouldn’t believe it, the bloke on strike picked me out so that I didn’t have to move an inch. That was the 7th or 8th wicket to fall and Lynchy had them all. By the time he got his 9th there was only one thing we wanted to happen. Get the 10th. I had been removed from the other end for being wicketless all day and the ball had been given to Vince Asdagi for a few overs to help Lynchy mop up the tail but it appeared as though he wasn’t required either. Not long after this, Lynchy extracted the edge for his 10th and the ball lobbed straight to Vince in 2nd slip, and then on to the ground. The best pair of hands in the team had grassed it. Not to worry. Lynchy will get the last one soon. Or so we thought. Until the very next over when Vince knocked middle stump clean out the ground thus removing the very batsman he had dropped the over before. We were all momentarily stunned but pretty soon we were walking off the ground. Bagging Vince but at the same time marvelling at what we had just witnessed.
The second memory I have from that great season was another home game against Mernda. Myself and a couple of friends had money riding on the game with two of the Hassall brothers who had given us the opportunity to win back the money they took off us during football season when Mernda had knocked West Preston off in the Grand Final. I assured the boys that we were certs. They weren’t going to get near us. I got a very frosty reception from the boys at a 21st first the night after the first days play when I had to deliver the news that we had been cleaned up for 115. The following week Mernda were cruising about 4 or 5 wickets down when Lynchy got one through the batsman and into the keepers gloves. The whole side went up sure it was caught behind. The umpire was old Harry Taylor, not known for his etiquette or for being particularly sane. He decided to turn to Lynchy and ask him what he was appealing for. Sniffing that something wasn’t quite right here Lynchy immediately said LBW, to which Harry raised his finger. The batsman was filthy, Lynchy had outsmarted everyone and the game ended on a high not long after when the last Mernda batsman, Paddy Hassall, one of the brothers I had the bet with, duly edged Lynchy to Tony Egan in first slip with the score on 112. With a bit of nous and some good bowling our man had steered us home and my mates would recoup their cash.
The last memory I’d like to share from that season was in the Grand Final against Thomastown. They were the only team to have beaten us during the home and away season so we were keen to make amends and take home the big prize. Lynchy and myself opened the bowling and about 6 or 7 overs in Lynchy got a thick edge from one of the openers that went very low to John Masci at gully. He claimed the catch and we all went up in unison. The umpire wasn’t sure if the ball had carried, despite John being adamant he had taken the catch and so gave it not out. As quick as a flash Lynchy interjected and suggested rather forcefully that if the umpire wasn’t sure what had happened he should ask the square leg umpire if it had carried. For some reason the umpire thought this was a good idea and he called the square leg umpire over and put the question to him. Definitely, came the reply so the umpire duly changed his decision and gave the opener out. This set the tone for the rest of the game and we went on to record a resounding victory and seal our return to the top grade. Largely due to a remarkable season by Richard Lynch where he took somewhere in the vicinity of 50 wickets.
Not long after the end of the season and the celebrations had slowed to a halt, Lynchy decided that he would be returning to England to set up home there and make a new life. It once again left a gaping hole in our Club. We had lost our best player and a much loved character but above all, a high quality person. We did however gain a lot from his return for that one famous season. There were several young members in the team that year. Myself, Nick Puccio, John Masci, Ange Tenace to name a few. We would go on to form the nucleus of the team for the next several years and helped make sure the club maintained its A Grade status despite most outsiders writing us off with the departure of Lynchy. I have no doubt his competitive spirit and cricketing nous rubbed off on us and helped us become better players. Richard Lynch was very laconical and laid back by nature but he had the fire in the belly and the ability to go with it like no other cricketer I have played with. It gave me something to aspire to and model my cricket on. I didn’t ever get close to the standard that Lynchy set but I firmly believe he helped me raise the bar in terms of attitude and application and my cricket skills and leadership ability benefitted greatly. I owe him a lot, and I still miss his friendship, but his legacy should never be forgotten. A truly remarkable cricketer and a ripping good bloke.