James scaled heady heights during career
In a bizarre twist, Somerset's landslide victory in the 1954 Cup Match they hosted ultimately turned out to be a blessing in disguise for losers St George's.
It was for this very reason that Lloyd James decided to play for the East Enders where he formed an integral part of one of the most dominant teams to grace the annual midsummer classic.
“Most of my relatives come from Somerset and they wanted me to join Somerset Cricket Club,” James, who died last weekend aged 82, said in a previous interview with The Royal Gazette. “But the year before, Somerset had thrashed St George's, so I decided my chances were better at the East End.”
His gamble ultimately paid off as he was among five colts St George's picked in 1955, which also included Alfred “Fleas” Hall, Jackie Durham, Donald “Doc” Steede and Fred “Dickty” Trott, who, along with James, was just 18.
James virtually picked himself after producing the highest score of 52 in the final trial match, but was primarily chosen as an opening bowler whose weapon of choice was a potent away swinger.
He rewarded the selectors for having faith in him immediately by claiming three for 50 on his debut at Wellington Oval, among his victims the dangerous Winton “Timmy” Edwards, who at the time held the classic's record of the highest individual innings of 170.
“I depended on my bowling entirely at that stage of my career,” James, the elder brother of former Somerset Cup Match all-rounder Elvin James, recalled.
Be that as it may, the gifted all-rounder's bowling would ultimately be overshadowed by his exploits with the willow.
He became a household name after blasting a whirlwind 157 and dominating a 173-run seventh-wicket partnership with Hall, the highest of any wicket at the time, during the 1961 Cup Match at Wellington Oval.
“When I came in, we had 146 for six and when he departed we had over 300,” Hall, who chipped in with a Cup Match best score of 89 during the memorable stand, said. “We put on 170 something runs and brought us out of trouble.
“He played well and was thrashing the ball about. That's one thing about him, he can hit the ball.”
James was actually the orchestrator of his own demise at the crease.
“He played the ball on to his wicket, that's how he got out, facing Mackie Simmons,” Cal “Bummy” Symonds, the St George's captain, recalled. “But it was a chanceless and great innings.”
A year later at the same ground, James unleashed yet another vicious assault on the Somerset bowlers, this time thumping an unbeaten 173 that eclipsed Edwards's record for the highest individual innings which had stood for 12 years.
“I felt fully confident from the very first ball,” James recalled. “I felt I could make 200.”
He might have achieved just that during the 1962 classic had it not been for a lengthy rain delay and captain Symonds's declaration in pursuit of victory, which St George's ultimately achieved by an innings and six runs.
“It was another chanceless innings and he could have made 200 runs,” Symonds said.
“I told him we only had two-and-a-half hours left and it would have take up another half hour to make the 200. But being a good sportsman he said, ‘Let's declare and go for the win' and we done that.”
James was accompanied at the crease during his record-breaking innings by colt Lee Raynor who watched in awe from the non-striker's end as his more senior team-mate tore Somerset's attack to shreds.
“I batted for quite awhile with him and was there when he broke the record,” Raynor said. “He was in blazing form and was playing shots all round the wicket. He was fit. He used to cut stone working with his father in the stone quarry and after a while that little cricket ball was like nothing to him. He was like poking sixes.
“The fans were excited when he broke the record and ran on the field to congratulate him. Timmy Edwards also came over to congratulate him.”
James actually set two records during the 1962 Cup Match classic as he was also the first batsman to score centuries in successive matches. He bowed out of Cup Match in 1974 after amassing 988 runs at an average of 36.59.
His record innings of 173 was eventually eclipsed by Janeiro Tucker, a cousin of his former St George's captain Symonds, who hammered 186 at Wellington Oval in 2001.
James was present at the ground to personally congratulate Tucker on the milestone, an act which also spoke volumes about his sportsmanship and character.
“I thought that was a good gesture and sportsmanship on his part, congratulating the person who just broke his record,” Tucker said.
James probably never dreamt of scaling such heights during his development years during which he was mentored by the likes of Alma “Champ” Hunt.
He initially represented Warwick Workmen's Club at youth level before rising to the senior ranks where he claimed five wickets on his senior debut playing against Hamilton Parish.
The talented all-rounder also had a two-year playing stint with Southampton Rangers in the 1950s and in his final season, more than 30 years later, helped Warwick win the Premier Division title, the last time the club achieved the feat.
Towards the end of his career James gave something back to the sport coaching youngsters at Warwick during which time the club won the Junior Western Counties with a squad that included Kyle Lightbourne, who went on to represent Bermuda in both cricket and football.
“Obviously, he was a big influence on me for many years at Warwick coaching us all at a young age and I also got to play with him during his final season,” Lightbourne said.
“He showed us all good principles of how to play the game and how to be gentlemen on and off the field.”
James's athleticism extended far beyond the cricket boundary as he also left his mark on the golf course.
He was a runner-up in the Bermuda Amateur Championship before turning professional in the early 1990s and representing Bermuda at events such as the Alfred Dunhill Cup team tournament, which ran from 1985 to 2000.
His golf career peaked when he competed in the 1994 US Senior Open at Pinehurst among a field that included the legendary Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who won 25 majors between them.
He carded an opening round eight-over 79 and a nine over 80 in the second to fall short of the cut. But just qualifying for a tournament of such magnitude was a tremendous feat in itself.
“Golf was the sport Lloyd turned to towards the end of his cricket career in the early 1970s,” Kim Swan, the former golf professional, said. “He brought his work ethic for cricket into golf and practised and acquitted himself as hard as anyone.
“It didn't hurt that he was a big hitter. That served him well in cricket and really served him well in golf.”
Symonds kept close tabs on his former team-mate up until his death after a long bout with illness.
“I used to go down and visit him and the last time I saw him was four weeks ago,” Symonds said. “I was really shocked when I heard he passed away.
“All the years we were together we had a super team, but that 1960s team is dwindling down now. Rupert Scotland is gone, Jackie Durham is gone, Kenny Paul is gone, George Dyer and now James.”