Date: 27th Feb 2024
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Ralph Osborne - An Appreciation

Date: 17th April 2023

One of the Comp's best players.

Ralph Osborne: 1940 - 2023

 

From Nick Gordon (Hightown)

It's difficult to put into words how much of an impact Ralph Osborne had on Hightown Cricket Club. We have seen the stats, almost 20,000 runs across a 38 year club career with Sefton CC (15 seasons) and then Hightown, for 23 years. But it was much more than this. I had the great pleasure of watching him play a number of times in the late 1980s and early 90s, when I was 1st XI scorer. Ralph had an amazing presence on the field - he was tall and well built of course, but his body language and demeanour made him appear even bigger. Stood at first slip like a crouching colossus, or with bat in hand at the crease, he seemed in total control, unflappable, determined. And of course he played correctly, and straight. The ball was never walloped or slogged or smashed. It was punched, caressed or eased to the boundary with exquisite timing. By this stage he was in his early 50s and the 'Gaffer', as he was almost universally known, was winding down his club career. He wouldn't play every week, but when he did you knew it would be worth watching. A cricketing education from the relative comforts of the drafty Sandy Lane scorebox.

I seem to remember he always dressed smartly for matches and had an enormous 'coffin' style cricket bag - the old fashioned hard, black cases. He smoked the odd cigar. I want to say he wore a cravat. I'm not sure if he ever did, but it seems to fit the narrative. I only lived round the corner from him in Hightown, but it seemed like he was on a different planet. I guess I was in awe of him a bit.

Of course I only shared the field with him on very few occasions - the odd Sunday friendly or a President's Day match. So I have to bow to older ex 1st XI colleagues to really understand the great man from a playing perspective. One former captain, Chris Williams, now an MCUA umpire and the man responsible for bestowing the 'Gaffer' nickname, gave us this account of an away game at New Brighton:

"He was so disillusioned with the standard of our out fielding (and probably the captaincy too!!) the Gaffer took himself out of first slip and positioned himself on the cover boundary. Not long after the ball flew out in his direction. Instead of letting it go for four, he ran round the boundary, picked it up and threw it in over the top of the stumps, then glared at me!! After that, for some time he was known as ‘Rampragaff’! He could always impose himself on any game without saying a word, the mark of a great man!"

Another ex-skipper, Ian Cropper, shared his memories of a magnificent ton against his former club:

"Very sad news indeed. Ralph was a great cricketer, fierce competitor and top man. I played with him for many years and always enjoyed his company. I batted with him as an 18 year old boy at Sefton in 1982, with the ground surrounded by spectators. Needing 120 off the last 20 overs we won easily without further loss, the great man amassing an imperious century."

Mike Gray, who shared the field with Ralph in the 1970s and 80s, said:

"Ralph was a wonderful man, firstly he had time for everyone and was patient with those of lesser ability....it was a complete privilege to bat at the other end and watch him compile an innings. Through his charisma and calm captaincy, he often dragged the club to the upper echelons of the Liverpool Competition. He was no mean bowler and I never saw him drop a catch. He loved to play and his beaming smile, on taking a wicket or scoring a hundred, and there were many of those, would light up a summer day...RIP Ralph, a Hightown legend."

In his later playing days Ralph turned out for Lancashire over 50s, while still making odd appearances for the club, even as late as the centenary year President's match in 2007. He is quite rightly regarded as one of the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition's greatest ever players. In 1986 he famously faced West Indian fast bowler Curtly Ambrose, who became one of the finest and most destructive bowlers the game has ever seen, scoring a brave 44 (without a helmet!) out of a Hightown total of 131. He came off the field covered in cricket ball sized bruises where the ball had been hitting him repeatedly at 90mph+! On being dismissed, he then turned to a young Mark Appleton, who was making his way out to the crease, and said: 'Hey, you'll enjoy this!'

Ralph and his wife Dot continued to support the Club after his playing days, regularly attending the Friends of Hightown lunches and were always keen to hear how the cricketers were getting on.

The word legend is often overused these days, but from a Hightown perspective, and wider cricketing circles, Ralph Osborne was one of the greatest and fully deserves such an accolade.

The club sends its deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Dot, Julian, Liz and all the family.

Rest in peace Ralph.

Nick Gordon

And From Sefton Park

Born in Liverpool on April 18, Ralph Osborne was educated at the famous Liverpool Institute for Boys around the same period as both Sir Paul McCartney and George Harrison also attended.

He joined Sefton CC as a schoolboy in 1952 and by 1957 he was representing the 1st XI where he could become a regular until 1973 when he moved to Formby.

Ralph, who was a stockbroker by trade, would go on to hit 8,292 runs at an average of 31. in 283 matches whilst at Sefton with a highest score of 158 at Northern on July 20 1963. In all he hit six centuries and 56 fifties while also taking 116 catches

In 11 consecutive seasons, from 1962-1973, Ralph would finish top of Sefton's batting averages seven times and only once failed to reach 500 runs.

During this time Ralph would play a vital role in both of Sefton's championship winning sides of 1967 and 1972 and was also captain of the club for the 1970-71 season.

Writing on the occasion of Ralph's last game for Sefton , Liverpool Echo cricket correspondent, Harold Wolfe, said: "An important era in Sefton Cricket Club's history ended on Sunday when Ralph Osborne, one of the finest batsmen the Club has ever had and one of the most outstanding cricketers in the Liverpool Competition over the last decade, played his last last game."

Ralph himself, said: "Sefton CC was a great Club to join as a schoolboy and to progress with, especially winning two championships and being captain."

Ralph's teammate and fellow Club legend, Ted Williams, said: "He has been the backbone of the Sefton side for many years. The greatest compliment I can pay him is it is difficult to imagine a Sefton side without him."'

Ossie' was also a great lover of touring and represented MCC (including tours to USA in 1992 and Canada in 1994) and played over 50s cricket for Lancashire between 1991 and 2002.

He also played for the Rabbits CC, a Sunday side in the 1950s and 1960s, comprised mainly of Sefton and Bootle cricketers. Ralph also played rugby union and had a season with Waterloo's 2nd XV.

Ralph would move to Hightown CC where he played from 1974 to 1996 becoming captain, chairman and eventually president. 

In total, Ralph scored 18,530 runs in 628 Liverpool Competition league matches at an average of 32.62. 

He claimed 128 wickets, 107 of them for Hightown. with a best bowling of 5-37 for Sefton against Hightown on July 2 1966. 

Ralph died in early April 2023 just short of his 83rd birthday. 

Everyone at Sefton Park CC would like to extend their sincerest condolences to Ralph's wife Dot, children Julian and Liz and their families. 

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