Veteran Benny still going strong

CRICKET: Forty years after most cricketers have hung up their whites, 75-year-old Benny Hill is still going strong.The allrounder from Claydon still plays twice a week, and earlier this season achieved remarkable figures of eight wickets for 44 runs in a Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Division Seven match.

By Elvin King

CRICKET

FORTY years after most cricketers have hung up their whites, 75-year-old Benny Hill is still going strong.

The allrounder from Claydon still plays twice a week, and earlier this season achieved remarkable figures of eight wickets for 44 runs in a Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Division Seven match.

The St Margarets second eleven player has no intention of giving up and says that the game still gives him a buzz.

"I played a game with legendary Stonham batsman John Cobbald," said Benny. "I believe he was 92 at the time and he was still batting and also stopping balls in the slips when in the field.

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"Whether I will still be playing at that age I do not know. But it would be nice.

"With modern lifestyles, cricketers in the sixties can be in their prime and I still get a tremendous amount of enjoyment from the game."

Benny has always been handy with both bat and ball and he was a member of the star-studded Ransomes side that won the Two Counties Championship in 1976.

That side was full of Suffolk county players, with the likes of ex-England and Essex spinner Robin Hobbs also turning out. But Benny played a full part, often opening the batting and also keeping wicket.

He was only 49 at the time and still a relative spring chicken. To show his all-round talent, Benny has turned more to bowling in the latter stages of his career.

Bowling 18 overs during his recent eight-wicket haul did take its toll, and Benny has been unable to bowl because of a damaged shoulder since.

But he has still been batting and fielding with the eagerness of a 15-year-old. Not only does Benny turn out for St Margarets every weekend, he is also a regular in the Two Counties Over-50 side – where some of his team-mates are still 25 years his junior.

It was in the glory days of Don Bradman and before Len Hutton and Denis Compton caught the imagination of the English public with their Test heroics that Benny first put on his whites.

"I played my first game in 1937," he said proudly. "And I have no thoughts about packing up."

Little cricket was played during the Second World War, but when he was called up Benny played regularly for the RAF in Malaya and Singapore.

He finished his National Service in 1948 and started a lengthy career in the competitive Yorkshire Council League with Hull.

In 1967, teetotaller Benny moved to Suffolk, and has since played for a number of clubs starting with Needham Market.

"When I arrived in this neck of the woods I worked with colleagues who were connected with Needham Market," he explained. "I then had a spell with Ipswich Wanderers, then Stowmarket before joining Orwell Works who went on to become Ransomes.

"When the Ransomes side broke up I remained playing at Sidegate Avenue and have been with St Margarets for the past 12 years or so.

"Winning a championship medal and taking eight wickets this year against Maldon are treasured highlights of my career.

"But there will hopefully be more. I still wake up on match days with a keen anticipation for the game and while this continues I will carry on."

An innings of 65 years not out is some achievement for any player. There can be few cricketers in the country with such a proud record.

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