GARY Pemberton, one of the most decorated players in local cricket, has announced his retirement from the game at the age of 50.
Delph’s second team match against Almondbury Wesleyans marked the end of an era for Gary who has been playing the game for 36 years.
And he takes away some wonderful memories of playing in the same side as Brian Lara who went on to become a legend of the game and the day when he caught and bowled West Indies’ star Joel Garner.
When it comes to silverware, Gary was in an elite group who have won every honour in the Saddleworth League, first division title, Tanner Cup, second division title and Moore Cup.
Gary won the division one championship with Austerlands (1989) and Saddleworth (2002 and 2004). He has celebrated the division two crowns 20 years apart with Moorside (1988) and then Saddleworth (2008).
He won the Tanner Cup, firstly with Delph in 1998 and Saddleworth in consecutive years in 2002 and 2003. In the latter, he was named man-of-the-match and completed the set with the second division’s Moore Cup in 2013.
However, one of the proudest moments for Gary, a self-confessed “firebrand”, has been this season in which he has lined up alongside sons Zac and Luca in Delph’s second team.
It was back in 1985 when Gary, then an all-rounder but primarily a leg-spin bowler, began his playing days at Moorside in the Under-15 and third teams.
Gary moved to Austerlands four years later and in his first year won the Saddleworth League title.
He recalled: “It was great to go from playing second to first team cricket and winning the league in one season.
“Steve O’Shaughnessy was our captain/professional and he looked after me and showed great faith in me.”
And it was in those early days that Gary had Lara as a team-mate.
He explained: “Steve O’Shaughnessy had broken a finger and the West Indies were playing a game at Denton and the club signed Lara as deputy pro for our match at Hollinwood.
“Brian was aged 19 and, when he came into the dressing room, he told us he would be a future captain of the West Indies and we all thought whatever.”
Gary had one season at Delph in 1998 when he won the Tanner Cup then completed back-to-back wins in the competition at Saddleworth in 2002 and 2003, his first two seasons at the club.
“We beat my former club Austerlands in the final which went to a replay after the first game was tied,” he said.
Gary would later win the Tanner Cup for a fourth time when they beat Micklehurst and he was named man of the match.
But a slipped disc sustained in 2005 forced Gary to reinvent himself as he switched from being a seam bowler into a unique ‘quick off spinner’.
Since then, he has been primarily a second team player helping Saddleworth win the Saddleworth League’s second division title five times in six seasons.
And since joining Delph in 2018, Gary, who has scored only one century in senior cricket, has consistently topped the club’s bowling averages and the league averages as well.
Gary, who is self employed and has a car valeting business, decided the time was right to retire.
He said: “I have been a firebrand in my time and been banned four or five times for getting trouble with umpires.
“Perhaps there have been times when I have played harder than I should have done, but it was just because I wanted to win.
“The fire in my belly had gradually disappeared, though I still want to win. And that has told me it is the time to stop.”
Gary intends will still be heavily involved in cricket as sons Zac and Luca remain at Delph and he spends much of the summer on the road taking Luca to Lancashire Under-13 fixtures.