Spin bowler, 83, finally bows out of game

John Reynolds retires from cricket after 64 years in the game.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

John Reynolds retires from cricket after 64 years in the game. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A long-serving cricketer has been forced to retire from the game because of his 'worn out knees'.

John Reynolds and partner of 14 years Joy Marriott Picture: Andrew Stone

John Reynolds and partner of 14 years Joy Marriott Picture: Andrew Stone - Credit: Archant

It's not an uncommon scenario - until you add the fact that John Reynolds is 83 years old.

The remarkable sportsman played club cricket in Norfolk for 64 years, took 5,811 wickets including 14 hat-tricks, and once played 12 games in 14 days.

But a fall earlier in the year has forced the left-arm spinner to quit the game.

He said: 'I first picked up a cricket bat when I was about four years old. In all my family photographs I always had a cricket bat in my hand.'


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Born in Dereham in 1933, early influence on his cricketing career came while still a pupil at Norwich School. 'I was about 15 or 16 years old when I picked up a book on English cricketer Hedley Verity called Prince with a Piece of Leather.

'He was a slow left arm bowler like I am and the book gave a lot of detail on his technique and it really inspired me.'

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Despite not receiving any proper coaching he played for the first team for three years. On finishing school he joined Norwich Defiants cricket club where he remained for 13 seasons.

'The standard at Norwich Defiants was too low for my ability so I eventually left them for Bradfield where I played for the first team in the Alliance Premier League.'

It was here that he said he played his best cricket, captained the team on 'occasion' and toured the country with the club. Having a job in the civil service allowed him to spend time on the cricket field. 'I once played 12 games in 14 days,' he said.

A highlight of his time with Bradfield was being invited to play a match against Surrey in 1968 at The Oval. 'Unfortunately it rained and we only got to play two hours of cricket but it was still a special occasion.'

In 1982 after 17 seasons he left Bradfield for Eaton Cricket Club where he spent the next 34 years. 'I joined thinking I would only play for a few years but ended up there until last season when I played my last game.'

Eaton captain John Chilvers, who has been at the club since 1969, said players like Mr Reynolds were not common. 'There are very few examples of people like him who have played so long,' he said. 'John was always a keen competitor but not in a nasty way. He liked to win and he especially liked to take wickets. He also didn't like getting out while batting and he kept that determination right until the end of his playing days.'

Mr Reynolds said he had been contemplating giving up the game last year as his reactions had slowed and his eyesight was getting weaker. 'I was thinking about it and then I fell on my knee in February and damaged it quite badly and that made me decide to stop.'

Although he didn't know it at the time, he played his final game for Eaton in September. While he did not take any wickets in the match, he did bag two in the game before that.

On announcing his retirement Eaton presented him with Certificate of Appreciation for his 967 appearances for the club, 2,279 wickets taken including 139 five-wicket hauls and 199 games without being dismissed.

Asked how the game had changed over the years, Mr Reynolds replied: 'The wickets have improved to favour the batsmen, the standard of cricket has gone up and there's much more professionalism in the game. Today's coaching facilities are also brilliant and the game is a lot safer than when I started out thanks to improved protection gear.'

He lists South African great Graeme Pollock as his all-time batting hero and Verity his bowler.

Supported by his partner of 14 years, Joy Marriott, he does not plan to completely bow out of the game.

'There's hardly a ground I haven't played in. It's been fun. Of course I miss it but Joy loves cricket just as much as I do and we'll still be going back to watch.'

The stats

Over the duration of his playing career, left arm spin bowler John Reynolds amassed an impressive list of statistics. After each season he would record the number of wickets he took. Although mostly known for his deadly arm, Mr Reynolds said he had opened the batting for his team early on in his career and carried his bat on five occasions. He was usually found fielding on the boundary.

He also:

• Played for Norwich Defiants for 13 seasons, Bradfield for 17 and Eaton for 34;

• Took a total of 5,811 wickets;

• Took 100 wickets in a season 34 times with a personal best of 187 in 1979;

• Took nine wickets in an innings eight times;

• Had 14 hat tricks;

• Took four wickets in four balls once;

• Scored a personal best of 74 not out with the bat;

• Dismissed three generations from a single family – grandfather, father and son – in different games;

• Dismissed three players who would go on to play Test cricket – Bill Edrich, Raman Subba Row and Michael Haysman

• Made 967 appearances for Eaton and took 2,279 wickets including 139 five wicket hauls;

• Once played 12 games in 14 days.

Age is just a number

At the age of 70, John Reynolds was invited to play in an Old Boys match for Norwich School. This was not the first time he had played in the regular annual fixture but it was a game that has stood out for him over the years. 'I remember it well – I was 40 years older than eight of the team and 50 years older than the other two,' he said.

Despite his advanced age compared to his teammates he returned bowling figures of 5/60 and was named bowler of the match. Other career highlights include playing at The Oval in 1968 a day after a Test match between England and Australia had ended. He was also presented with an engraved silver salver in 1998 for reaching the milestone of taking 5,000 wickets and was invited to Lords in 2007 as a guest of the Norwich Cricket Club where he was presented with a certificate of appreciation for his service to cricket. On announcing his retirement Eaton presented him with Certificate of Appreciation for his 967 appearances for the club, 2,279 wickets taken including 139 five wicket hauls and 199 games without being dismissed. He said his longevity was down to him doing cross country running, a lot of cycling and being a spin bowler. 'That obviously helped a lot as I didn't have a long run up like the fast bowlers do.'

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