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Funeral Service to be held at Our Lady Help Of Christians R C Church, Castle Street at 12:45 on 3rd July 2009.

Steve Turner Tribute

Long time friend/player/opponent of Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club and stalwhart of St Josephs CC as well as local cricket in general,  STEVE TURNER sadly passed away after a long illness on Thursday 18th June 2009. The following is tribute to an individual who gave so much to the sport he loved and those around him.

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I think the first moment that I realised I’d underestimated Steve Turner’s ability as a cricketer was when I hit the ball straight to him at mid on in a game against St Joseph’s at Silsoe and confidently set off up the track for a leisurely single, safe in the knowledge that he had no chance of picking it up, much less throwing it to the bowler.

This proved to be a fairly serious misjudgement.

Steve not only picked the ball up cleanly but proceeded to throw the stumps down with a direct hit. Perhaps the only person more surprised than myself at this turn of events was the umpire (I name no names) who gave me not out despite a complete absence of any reasonable doubt.

In my defence I wasn’t the only one to underestimate Steve as a cricketer. To be fair I don’t think he realised how good a player he was, so what chance did the rest of us have?

Apparently he batted just 12 times for Offley & Stopsley even though he had a relatively lengthy association with the club. He was also a useful bowler and although he only ever took four wickets for the club they came at an average of just 11. Not that that stopped me from confidently sizing up his innocuous medium pacers in the nets one night before proceeding to take a sizeable chunk of outside edge out of a new bat....

Despite the fact that he rarely pulled up many trees with his batting exploits, few players took their batting more seriously and few cared more deeply about their performance, specifically as to whether or not they had done enough to help the team win.

The raw statistics show that Steve scored 73 runs at an average of 10.43 with a highest score of 27. They don’t show how many times he sacrificed his opportunity to bat higher up the order so that he could help the team out by standing in as wicketkeeper in the absence of any other volunteers. They also don’t show that his highest score was made on a rotten track on the green at Houghton Regis as Offley capitulated in typically abysmal fashion to a fired up Houghton Town side.

I have several abiding memories of that game.

The initial one is from the Houghton Town innings where Messrs Freeman and Qumar indulged in a private showdown to see which one of them could get hit the furthest out of the ground. As I recall, Qumar got launched down the road with greater frequency (three times in as many balls according to the scorebook), although Freeman was the victim of the day’s longest drive; actually it wasn’t so much a drive as a mortar shell.

The second memory is of the abject collapse that ensued as we made a complete pig’s arse of chasing down the relatively small target of 183 (it was relatively small in the contest of some of Houghton Town’s more destructive efforts against us at any rate). At one stage it seemed safe to assume that we would struggle to pass 50 and there was some doubt as to whether we would limp past the club’s lowest previous total of 42 all out – and to be fair we’d only had nine players that day at Therfield.

The combination of a rotten pitch, a certain lack of technique, courage and competence and general ineptitude suggested that we would be in the bar by half past six at the latest. Instead Steve dug in and did his best to repair the damage, bravely attempting to drag Offley out of the mire after a promising position of 24-1 had deteriorated slightly to 31-6.

It wasn’t the greatest innings ever played and ultimately it didn’t change anything but in the context of what had gone before (namely a slew of single figure scores and a dismal procession back to the pavilion) it was unquestionably a fine knock.

That is not to say that Steve did not blame himself when the innings finally subsided after 34 overs, leaving him high and dry on 27 not out – far from it. In typical Turner fashion he attempted to shoulder full responsibility for the defeat, suggesting he should have gone for his shots sooner, regardless of the fact that without his innings we would have been sunk without trace.

Yet that’s not what I remember about Steve that day.

If I’m feeling particularly masochistic I can look in the scorebook for the particularly gruesome details of that innings and ponder over the fact that the top six seemed to regard the round red thing as something that should not be touched with the long wooden thing at all costs. The first six batsmen to be dismissed were all clean bowled, accumulating 20 runs between them.

But what I can only recall from actually being there is the aftermath of the game and the way Steve enthusiastically encouraged Rizwan to work on his batting with the promise of better days to come.

Somewhat improbably Rizwan (a man whose most common form of dismissal was the second ball mow across the line which helped make him one of the most prominent duck collectors in club history) had shared the highest partnership of the innings (29) with Steve, adding a veneer of respectability to the total and carrying the score past 100 and securing an unlikely bonus point.

Although Rizwan eventually inevitably fell to a trademark wild swipe – doubtless compromising Steve’s plans for the greatest comeback since Headingly ’81 in the process – Steve did his best to soften the blow with plenty of words of encouragement about Rizwan’s batting and how the next time he found himself in the situation he would be better able to deal with it.

At the time I was fairly certain that Steve was wasting his breath and it was only a matter of time before Riz reverted to his duck-hunting ways. I won’t say I was wrong there either as Riz never really did much to shed his reputation as a walking wicket.

Yet whereas your cynical correspondent wouldn’t have wasted five seconds trying to convince Rizwan of the benefits of a sound technique and the novelty value of attempting a forward defensive shot every once in a while, Steve was only too happy to offer words of advice in the hope that it would make Riz a better player.

I think that shows the measure of the man and eloquently illustrates why it was such a shame that he never got to work with the Colts at Offley where his kindness and great passion for the game would have benefited a generation of young players. He might not have been the greatest player the club has ever seen but his commitment and genuine devotion to the cause would certainly have made him one of the best coaches.

It goes without saying that there are other stories.

St Joseph’s may no longer exist as anything more permanent than an occasional team (occasionally getting together every September to stuff Offley out of sight) but Steve’s final-over heroics in a midweek game against Breachwood Green when he took 20 runs off the last six balls appear to have gone down in local cricketing folklore, rather than simply as a part of the St Joseph’s tradition.

Furthermore, Steve’s mishaps at Offley during another midweek encounter where both he and his windscreen came off second best in bruising encounters with the cricket ball will not quickly be forgotten.

Another abiding memory is of Steve looking particularly frustrated with life, staring angrily out of a photograph in the local paper after St Joseph’s were forced to abandon a game on the original grounds of pikeys stopped play, with caravans apparently parked on a length. If anyone else had been involved I imagine everyone would have slunk off to the pub but because Steve cared so much about his club and the game in general the incident ended up in the Luton News.

Steve’s statistics during his time as an Offley player are insufficient to do him justice and these words barely seem a much better tribute to the memory of a man who will be sorely missed by those who played alongside – and against – him.

He may not have been the greatest player but by any standard he was a fine man.

His Funeral Service will be held at Our Lady Help Of Christians R C Church, Castle Street at 12:45 on 3rd July 2009.