WHILE it may be better known for its rugby league players, St Helens can also lay claim to producing some pretty decent cricketers over the years - and none have been better than Lancashire legend Ken Shuttleworth.

Now aged 77, Ken’s superlative career has been recognised this month with an induction into the Lancashire Cricket Hall of Fame alongside fellow Red Rose greats including Peter Lever, David Hughes and Johnny Briggs.


“I started out playing for Earlestown with my brother-in-law,” said Ken, remembering his early days in St Helens. “But then I started work at Pilkington and it was the personal officer there who was a friend of the family who got me to play at Pilkington’s Sports Ground for St Helens Recs.

“I played a match on Saturday and was then promoted in my job on Monday!”

As a teenager, Ken was a tall, raw fast bowler and was soon attracting attention.

“I came into work one morning and the personnel office told me to go home and get my kit because I was going to a trial at Old Trafford,” he said. “They had a car waiting for me to take me to the ground from the East Lancs Road and it was the Lancashire chairman Rupert Howard in a Jaguar.

“It was a two-day game against Cumberland and I took four wickets and they offered me a contract – it was for £10 with £4 travel expenses. They told me that was more than Brian Statham was on!”

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Ken made his debut for Lancashire in 1964 aged 19 and began to be regarded as a replacement for the ageing Statham.

“I was bowling as quick as what you see the fast bowlers bowl now,” said Ken. “Brian and Ken Higgs were still the two main bowlers with Peter Lever and myself taking turns as the third seamer.”

Ken would take 50 wickets in 1967 before his best season in 1970, when he took 74 wickets at 21.60 runs each, earning him his first cap for England when he went to Australia with Ray Illingworth’s Ashes-winning team and started his Test career with five for 47 at Brisbane.

“I just took it as another game,” said Ken. “We got stick, which you expect when you’re out there, but we were the first team since Douglas Jardine’s in 1932 to win the Ashes in Australia.”

Following the Ashes, Ken suffered a rib injury and struggled to get back in the side after winning five caps, but he did have the honour of taking England’s first ever one day international wicket against Australia in January 1971.

“There were lots of fast bowlers about then – Jon Snow, Alan Ward and Pete Lever,” said Ken, who continued playing at Old Trafford until 1976 when he joined Leicestershire. “I only wanted to play for Lancashire and they were a bit upset when I left – as was I. I just lost form after I lost my confidence in a match against Yorkshire when the ball swung all over the place and I couldn’t control it.

“I kept bowling wide after wide and didn’t know what was going on. The worst thing was it rained the following day – I had already worried about it all night and then spent the next day worrying about it because we were rained off.

“The fear never really left me after that – bowling went from being a natural thing to do to becoming very hard. The mind is a powerful thing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

After retiring from professional cricket in 1980, Ken, who lives in Congleton, spent 10 years working for British Coal in marketing, and played club cricket in the North Staffs and South Cheshire League.

Ken will be attending a special dinner at Old Trafford on Thursday, November 25 where he will be inducted into Lancashire’s Hall of Fame.

“It’s tremendous to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the names in there,” said Ken, who recalls Gary Sobers and Barry Richards as the best batters he ever bowled to.

“There aren’t many cricketers from St Helens who’ve made it with Lancashire.”