President Phil’s very special half century … and counting!

OLD Bristolians Westbury president Phil Thorn has a treasure trove of memories after a playing career of more than 60 years and counting.

The former Gloucestershire spinner is quite possibly the only cricketer ever to have appeared on three Test grounds in three days – more on that shortly – has a lowest score of minus five and once reeled off ten successive maidens in a league match.

The 71-year-old has also played with and against luminaries such as Viv Richards, Deryck Murray, Glenn Turner and Rohan Kanhai, scored 30 centuries and probably taken something approaching 2,000 wickets (we’ll come back to that, too).

But of all his many achievements, he’s extremely proud to have completed a 50-year association with Westbury-on-Trym who went to amalgamate with Old Bristolians in 1996.

Phil began his playing career with St George, alongside his father John, but toured with Westbury in 1973 before officially joining the following year.

And apart from sitting out the 2020 covid season because of ill health, he has now played in 50 different years for Westbury/OB Westbury after appearing earlier this month for the 4ths in a Division 12 Bristol & District League win over Old Park.

Phil was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease several years ago and is currently undergoing treatment for secondary kidney cancer and a blood clot.

Chemotherapy tablets mean “I may not feel particularly well again” but he’s set himself two more targets this season – to make at least one appearance for Gloucestershire Over 70s, and to take to the field on September 2 for OB Westbury 3rds … away to where it all began at St George, now known as St George Valley following an amalgamation of their own.

Phil reckons his first match was aged seven or eight for Zion Methodist cubs at Bristol’s Dundridge Farm before he began scoring for St George and playing for the historic club soon after.

He was with Gloucestershire from the age of 16 to 25, and in 1974 appeared in four championship matches and a solitary John Player League (Sunday) game against Lancashire.

Phil said: “That’s how I played at three Test venues in three days … we finished a championship match against Surrey at the Oval and went straight to Edgbaston to start another championship game against Warwickshire the very next day.

“Back then, you broke off for the Sunday League which for us was a game against Lancashire at Old Trafford before we then went back to Edgbaston to finish the Warwickshire match.”

Those three July days against Warwickshire remain etched in Phil’s mind as the home side’s second wicket pair of Kanhai and opener John Jameson put on a then world record partnership of 465.

He said: “My figures were 12 overs, nought for 84 but I did manage a maiden though I can’t remember who was facing!”

If that was a tough day, there were many, many more hugely successful matches, including bowling 10 successive maidens for Westbury in the Western League and capturing 10-48 in a Sunday date against Patchway.

His four first-class victims include New Zealand duo John Parker and Glenn Turner – “bowled Thorn … for 181!” – while he also appeared for English Universities in 1971 and 1972, had long associations with Wiltshire and Herefordshire in the then Minor Counties championship, and was selected for the MCC against Ireland at Lord’s in 1981.

He was Western League player of the year in both 1979 and 1995, and according to Play Cricket – the system that creates a digital footprint for recreational players of all ages – has 700 wickets to his name, including hatfuls for Gloucestershire Seniors who he has represented for more than 20 summers.

But there’s virtually no record of his career prior to 2002 and the many years before restrictions when Phil would regularly send down more than 20 overs of slow left-arm on an afternoon, invariably finishing with a handful of wickets.

He said: “To be honest, I was always more interested in economy than wickets … working a batsman out and what I had to do.”

And that lowest score of minus five some 40 years ago which still makes him chuckle?

He said: “I was playing in a Pro-Am at Lansdown, batting with Peter Willey. Well, I scored 25 but unfortunately was out three times which cost me 30 runs – Viv got me twice and (Wiltshire’s) Paul Meehan once, hence the minus five!”

Sign up to the Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation newsletter