By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
SIXTY years ago this week a young cricketer from Torquay bowled himself into the record books by taking all 10 wickets in match.
The date was July 15, 1960, the player was Bobby Coombe, the place was Torquay Recreation Ground and the occasion was the annual match between the Brockman Cup winners and a Rest XI representing the other sides in the competition.
Bob Coombe was a 6ft 4ins all-rounder who was picked for the Rest XI to challenge Brockman Cup winners Narracotts, who had beaten Shiphay St John in the final.
Narracotts were no match for the young Coombe in the challenge match as he bowled them out all on his own with a 10-for-17 haul.
The match ball was mounted on an engraved base commemorating Coombe’s achievement and presented back to him at the competition’s annual dinner, which was held at the Rosetor Hotel the following January, just a six-hit away from the Recreation Ground.
Bob Coombe began his cricket career with Torquay Corinthians on their Cockington ground and had started the 1960 season playing for them.
An eye-catching performance against Torquay 2ndXI led to an invitation to change clubs and Coombe debuted for his new team against BRNC Dartmouth the following weekend.
Coombe was an off-spinner who could bat as well and made the Rec his second home. If it wasn’t cricket on one side of the ground it was rugby on the other with Torquay Athletic, for whom he was a combative back-row forward.
It wasn’t just rugby and cricket that Coombe played; he was an international-standard volleyballer in the 1960s and 1970s, good enough to captain England on numerous occasions.
For more than 20 years Bob Coombe was a permanent fixture in either Torquay’s 1st or 2nds XIs. A secondary school teacher by profession he left South Devon in the early 1980s for a post in the East Midlands.
The annual challenge match between the cup winners and a Rest XI started in 1957 as a thank-you to the Torquay club for hosting the Brockman Cup competition since its inception in 1933.
Torquay had recently renovated their 1930s-style pavilion and had an outstanding account with the builders of more than £1,000.
The matches were played to raise money for the rebuilding fund. They continued until 1962 when they were discontinued due to the cost of staging them!
Another Brockman Cup innovation that died at around the same time was the award for the most promising young player of the season, which had been introduced in 1959.
The first winner of a new cricket bat, which cost the committee £5, was Chelston batsman Dave Traylor.
The 1960 winner was Shiphay St Johns’ young opening batsman Alan Sibley, a 17-year-old pupil at Torquay Boys’ GS, who went on to play for Torquay and Devon and trained as a teacher.
There were no young players of note in 1961 or 1962, but in 1963 the bat went to Shiphay St Johns’ young all-rounder Terry Friend, a 17-year-old pupil at Torquay Boys’ GS, who went on to play for Paignton and Devon and… trained as a teacher!
With no suitable candidate to honour in 1964, the award was quietly dropped.