JOHN JOSEPH MILLION, known as “JJ”, was a legend at Etherley Cricket Club.

John, who always wore a big smile, passed away on March 2 this year, only a few month short of his 81st birthday, and he will be remembered as one of the greatest Etherley bowlers, if not the greatest, to run up the hill at the village ground and release his explosives to the batsmen at the other end.

He did not have a high arm action, but in his delivery stride, when he planted his right foot down, he turned his torso clockwise which meant that he was able to put a lot of his body weight as well as his shoulder into a square arm delivery which would cause the ball to come on to you a lot quicker than you expected.

Richie Richardson, a swashbuckling West Indian batsman who struggled against John

In the summer of 1990, in a game against Burnmoor, John and David Young limited Sir Richie Richardson, the West Indian who was in the top five batsmen in the world at the time, to just 20 runs off 10 overs.

After the match, Sir Richie asked John: "Do you always bowl like that?"

John replied: "Yes, I always do."

John's son Mark said: "When he was coaching and practising with me, he would put a coin on the ground which would be where a good length ball should pitch. Time after time he would hit that coin."

John Million far right in the back row of the Etherley CC team in 1968. Back row, left to right: W Heslop, K Waine, A Angus, JC Baker, M Maddison, JJ Million. Front: D Armstrong, M Million, H Allen (captain), A Chapman, C Simpson

Born on June 15, 1943, JJ turned in some great performances for Etherley, starting in 1960 with 3-11, including nine maidens, against Wearhead and then 31 years later in the 1991 season, he returned 3-9 in 11 overs which included eight maidens against Crook Town.

Nearly 61 years ago, on June 19, 1963, in a Mid Durham Senior League Division 1 game, playing for the 1st XI at home to Willington he returned 9-21 from 9.5 overs as Willington were put out for 46 and Etherley won by two wickets. He repeated that feat for the 1st XI in 1969 when he took 9-29 against Dean and Chapter from 10.2 overs with two maidens.

Forty years ago, in 1984, John proved to be the matchwinner again, in a tight finish against Tudhoe in the Horner Cup, this time with the bat. Tudhoe set Etherley a target of 131 to win in 23 overs. With six overs remaining, Etherley had reached 77, meaning they needed 54 to win.

Peter Watson started the recovery with 46 which included six sixes while John clinched the match with a huge six off the fourth ball of the last over.

In 1989, JJ bowled unchanged for three consecutive matches for the 2nd XI. He bowled 19 overs and took 3-18 against Ushaw Moor followed by 20.2 overs against Langley Park with figures of 8-22 and finally 19.1 overs against Shildon BR with figures of 8-33.

Despite half a season at Bishop Auckland in the 1960s, and a five year spell at Darlington from 1970, David Wilson in his 1992 book The History Of Etherley Cricket Club, lists JJ as having taken 1,512 wickets for Etherley 1st XI and 261 wickets for the 2nd XI, making a total of 1,773.

His best seasons were 1968 when he took 105 wickets at an average of 10.84, 1977 with 106 wickets at 10.33, 1980 with 117 wickets at 11.19 and finally 1987 with 102 wickets taken at 1st and 2nd team level at an average of 13.64.

Little wonder he is also listed in the chapter dedicated to the legends of the club.

His brother, Philip, said: "He was also the oldest of our seven children born to Mary and Joseph Million, so when we had visitors he would organise us all to do different jobs. A fervent Bishop Auckland Football Club supporter, he often knitted himself a scarf in the club's colours. Sometimes, though, he would forget to cast off and he would have an 8ft scarf!”

John is survived by his son Mark, daughter Marie, brothers Jeff and Philip, sisters Elizabeth, Susan, Christine and Julie, plus grandchildren James and Grace.

  • Thanks to Philip and Mark Million