Everyone connected with Lancashire County Cricket Club was saddened to learn of the death earlier this week of former player Harry Pilling.
Harry Pilling was a pivotal member of Lancashire’s ‘Team of the ‘70’s’, the one-day side that swept all before them as they amassed an unprecedented ‘hat-trick’ of Gillette Cup wins in 1970, 1971 and 1972, along with the first two John Player Sunday League titles in 1969 and 1970.
In an 18-year career with Lancashire he scored over 15,000 first-class runs, including 25 centuries, and also made 3,887 runs in 173 one-day matches. His unbeaten 70 in the 1970 Gillette Cup Final against Sussex guided Lancashire to victory at Lord’s and earned him the Man of the Match award.
The advent of the Sunday League a year earlier had been heralded by some as a ‘slogger’s charter’, yet it was ‘Little Harry’ as the 5’3” batsman inevitably became known who was the first to score 1,000 runs in the competition – and no-one who saw Pilling at his finest would ever accuse him of slogging. A great timer of the ball, his foot-work was quick and his wristy shots helped compensate for any lack of reach. Courageous against quick bowlers, he was also an excellent player of spin.
Pilling joined Lancashire in 1959 as a 16-year-old, playing in a trial match and the Minor Counties competition for Lancashire’s second team. He made his first-class debut three years later, was awarded his county cap in 1965 and celebrated his benefit in 1974. He passed 1,000 first-class runs seven times in eight years between 1965 and 1972, and in 1970 scored two centuries in one match against Warwickshire, the first time this feat had been achieved since Washbrook and Place in 1947.
Pilling was also a fine fielder, possessing a canon-like flat throw - something taken for granted in a modern-day cricketer, but a skill not often seen forty years ago - and, patrolling the boundary during the latter part of one-day games, he would frequently catch out unsuspecting batsman who assumed they were safe from any chance of a run out.
At the end of his playing career, he led the County’s second team as captain/coach until 1985, showing his charges ‘how it was done’, scoring 181 not out in a partnership of 423 with David Varey to win a game from a position of 53-6 against Derbyshire at Blackpool - still the record partnership for any 2ndXI wicket.
Pilling was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, and lived in Mossley but spent the later years of his life at his home in Little Lever. He died last Saturday after a short illness, aged 69. He had to miss a reunion of the side which won the hat-trick of Lord’s finals earlier this month because of ill-health.
Lancashire’s chief executive Jim Cumbes, who also played with Pilling, said: “We are greatly saddened to hear about Harry’s passing. He was a stalwart of the Lancashire side in the 1960s and 1970s and was a key member of the successful one-day teams from that era. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Pilling, whose wife Yvonne died in 2009, leaves two children, Gary and Julie, and two grandchildren Max and Harriet.
Harry's funeral will take place on Monday 8th October at St Matthew's Church in Little Lever at 2pm. Family flowers only. Donations in lieu of flowers to Multiple System Atrophy Trust (MSA) via the funeral director at Silletts or www.justgiving.com/valthomas