Downham Market cricket team celebrates 50 years of one family’s involvement

Thulbourne family mark half a century of cricket for the town

It's a scene played out in towns and villages across the county every summer weekend; local cricket is as British as roast dinners and warm beer.

The wily art of the spinner and the slogging sweeps of the amateur batsmen are all part of a tradiiton that shows no signs of petering out, even in these days of computer-generated distractions.

It is on village greens and in the county leagues that aspiring Broads, Bresnans and Bothams ply their trade while the sun shines - or not. But, unlike their professional idols, they pull on the whites and pads after a hard week at work.

As the national team makes all the headlines in the current series against India, the local teams bask in the afterglow of England's successes, and hope their grounds are as packed as Trent Bridge was for the glorious fourth-day on Monday when the tourists were skittled.

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Long family ties with local clubs are commonplace as skills and passion are handed down the generations to keep the game alive at grassroots level.

In Downham Market a very special match was played on Sunday to mark 50 years since a member of the Thulbourne family turned-out to play cricket for the town.

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A reunion game was held with a Chairman's 11 facing a town team to mark the half-century anniversary since Roger Thulbourne first grabbed a bat for the team and took the long walk from the pavilion to the wicket to make his debut.

The chairman's 11 took the honours, but the day was all about celebrating the game which forges off-field friendships that can last a lifetime.

A young teenager at the time of playing for Downham, Mr Thulbourne, 65, worked the land all week and cycled from Boughton to the town each weekend for a game of cricket.

'I loved the game and there really wasn't that much else to do round here, so we wanted to play cricket,' he said.

He gave the game up in about 1981 having clocked-up 20 years representing the town, but that was not the end of the Thulbourne story.

Two years after Roger began playing, his brother Stewart, now of Brandon Creek, also began playing for Downham and he is now club chairman, having served in a number of roles over the years.

'We were playing a team from Nottinghamshire once and there was a young 16-year-old lad who was hitting the ball right across the pitch and into the tennis courts next door. His name was Derek Randall,' said Stewart, 63.

The teenaged Notts batsman went on to carve out an international career with the England team shortly afterwards.

The Thulbourne brothers have passed on their love of the game, and Roger's son Alan, 43, is now captain of the town's third team. He has been invovled with the club for around 30 years himself and there was more silverware for the cabinet this week as Downham won the Gooderstone Cup on Tuesday night after beating Northwold in the finals.

Downham have won the premier division of the Norfolk Cricket Alliance for four years and run a number of teams, including number of youth teams to ensure the game remains alive and well in the town.

Alliance vice chairman John Tythcott, of Norwich, said families like the Thulbournes were the lifeblood of cricket across the county.

'One member of the family inspires others to take up the game. It is often passed from father to son and several clubs have strong family members. Norwich has three generations of one family playing while Swardeston has two brothers and one of the sons.

' It is really important for the game, particularly as youngsters are not getting the chance to play it in schools. I would defy anyone to name a state school in Norwich which offers organised cricket,' he said.

'If it wasn't for the clubs running a youth coaching system for the under nines, 11s, 13s and 15s, the game of cricket would die,' he added.

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