In reaching its fiftieth year, the Nottingham Cricket Lovers Society (NCLS) has matched founder and leading light, Bryan ‘Bomber’ Wells, who made just one fifty in his long career.
Off spinner Wells joined Notts from Gloucestershire in 1960 and played for six seasons; after retiring from First-Class cricket, he devoted much of his time to supporting cricket societies throughout the country and, in 1972, helped to set up NCLS.
Since then, with a hiatus for the Covid-hit years, the Society has met regularly and staged talks, lectures and interviews with some of the game’s most famous names. Few more famous than the very first speaker – Garry Sobers, the finest all-rounder in post-War cricket (and beyond) who was then captain of Notts and the West Indies and was knighted for his services to cricket three years later.
Among other speakers in the first few years of NCLS were Brian Close, the Yorkshire and England all-rounder who had recently moved to captain Somerset, and Brian Clough, a keen follower of cricket who was often seen watching games at Trent Bridge during his years at Nottingham Forest.
Later in that first season, a Yorkshire evening was organised, with Geoffrey Boycott, Fred Trueman, Phil Sharpe and Tony Nicholson addressing members in an evening compered by Michael Parkinson.
Other speakers in that first year included BBC statistician and scorer, the ‘Bearded Wonder’ Bill Frindall.
The stellar names continued in subsequent programmes with top England cricketers, Ted Dexter, Basil d’Oliveira, Jim Laker and Colin Cowdrey all visiting Trent Bridge in the 1970s.
Leading women’s cricketer Rachel Heyhoe Flint (herself the daughter-in-law of form er Notts cricketer Ben Flint) was another early guest, accompanied by Notts-born all-rounder Enid Bakewell.
Forty-nine years later, Enid, by now the recipient of an MBE for her services to cricket and an inductee to the ICC Hall of Fame, was once again the Society’s guest as part of the 2021/22 programme.
Over the years, more than 300 guests – umpires, coaches, cricket writers, administrators, broadcasters and journalists as well as players – have featured.
Many of the County’s long-serving players from the past 50 years have been guests of the Society: Derek Randall, Mike Smedley, Tim Robinson, Paul Johnson, Graeme Swann, Chris Read, Paul Franks and many more. Of the current squad, Steven Mullaney, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Matthew Carter and Ben Slater have all spoken in recent years and long-serving player, coach and now Director of Cricket Mick Newell has visited the Society on five occasions.
The 2022/23 programme opened with Liam Patterson-White, spin bowling all-rounder talking on the back of a successful season, and a look at the many other sports that have taken place at Trent Bridge in its long history.
In November 2022, author Stephen Chalke, biographer of Bryan Douglas Wells, looked back at Bomber’s career as a cricketer and his legacy in encouraging cricket societies – most notably, for a Trent Bridge audience, the now half-centurion Nottingham Cricket Lovers Society.