THE story of how a squirt of deodorant helped the Durham University cricket team to win the 1972 UAU title was told at a reunion this week.

Dr Grenville Holland, former mayor of Durham City and president of the university cricket club for 34 years, says of all the UAU-winning sides he oversaw 1972 was his favourite.

But it might never have happened without his fake medical skills during the semi-final against Loughborough at Bradford Park Avenue.

Dr Holland recalls opening batsman John Bennett approaching him “in a state of distress” before going out to bat.

“He said he couldn't grip the bat with his right hand. I told him I knew exactly what the trouble was – it was something which afflicted Olympic javelin throwers and I had just the stuff to put it right.

“I told him to lay his hand flat on the table and I sprayed it with Right Guard without letting him see what it was. He shook his hand, said it was fine and went out and won the match for us.”

Durham had not previously won the UAU title since 1953, when future England paceman Frank Tyson was in the team. But after the 1972 triumph four more titles followed up to 1994 and they were in almost every final from 1984-99.

Unlike many of their more famous successors, who include Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss, the 1972 team had a lot of North-East connections.

“It's the only team picture I had framed and it still hangs in my house,” said Dr Holland. “They set the tone for all the success that followed. I was very proud of them and still am.”

The captain, Steve Walford, was from a famous Norton sporting family. His uncle Micky played for Somerset and he has two cousins, Robert and Mark, who are racehorse trainers.

When Steve captained Durham Under 19s the opposing captain in a match against Northumberland was Alan Taylor, from Ashington, who became a university team-mate and subsequently played for Durham City.

Walford took six wickets in the final against Exeter, which was washed out at the original venue of Trent Bridge and replayed at the Queen's College ground in Oxford.

It was suggested to Walford that the triumph should be commemorated by a plaque among the many already adorning a wall of the Maiden Castle sports centre.

Now living in Weybridge after a teaching career in Surrey, he paid for the plaque and gathered eight of his former team-mates for the unveiling.

His successor as captain, Richard Mercer, died almost 20 years ago after a long career as Durham's wicketkeeper. Two others who played both for the university and Durham's Minor Counties side were Steve Atkinson and Tim Hughes.

Atkinson, originally from Chester-le-Street, has long been in Hong Kong and was unable to make the reunion, but the only other absentee was Bennett, believed to be in France.

The team's spinner, Jimmy Shoulder, from Esh Winning, coached the Australian national football team after a spell as assistant manager to Billy Elliot at Darlington in the late 1970s.

His coaching career took in far-flung outposts like Uzbekistan before he returned home and became a jockey.

“I had one ride at Lingfield,” he said. “I would have loved more, but getting down from my natural weight of 11st to 9st was too much.”

Now living in Brandon, Jimmy still works part-time doing technical reports for the Premier League.

Another with North-East connections was Chris Woodhead, who became deputy head of a school in Newcastle and played for many years for Chester-le-Street, where he now coaches the under 13s.

After Hughes had brought victory within sight in the final with an innings of 87, Woodhead secured the two-wicket win in the penultimate over with a four through the covers.

“Tony Good was at the other end and he told me to run like hell. We actually ran four just before the ball trickled over the rope.”

Good, a paceman who was on Lancashire's staff from 1972-75, was the one member of the team to play first-class cricket.

Batsman Richard Swan, a Berwickshire farmer, won 90 caps for Scotland from 1974-92.

“Meeting up with them again was the best day I will have this year,” said Dr Holland.