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Tom’s trickiest opponent: Bernie Wilson

2020 was a season to remember for Tom Lammonby.

The 20-year-old took the domestic game by storm this summer, scoring over 450 runs in the Bob Willis Trophy at an average of over 50.

During the season he pitted his skills against some of the biggest names in the game, and in an interview at the end of the season Tom revealed the name of his trickiest ever opponent.

Was it Simon Harmer or Jamie Porter? No.

Was it Oliver Hannon-Dalby or Tim Bresnan? It was not.

Speaking at the end of the 2020 season, Tom claimed that the trickiest bowler he ever faced was “a wily old spinner” by the name of Bernie Wilson.

So, who is this mystery demon of spin?

We decided that we would try and track down this man who caused Tom so much trouble.

Our investigations led us to Devon and to Sunset CC, a club that Bernie helped to found in the winter of 1994.

Once we tracked him down, we discussed his name being unleashed into the limelight by one of cricket’s most promising young talents.

“I was obviously extremely flattered when I heard that he’d mentioned my name,” said Bernie.

We asked how he came to cross paths with Tom.

“I was playing for the Devon Dumplings against Exeter School and I bowled to Tom,” explained the 73-year-old. “He edged it to first slip. It was a simple chance, but it was dropped. At the end of the over Tom spoke to me and said that he’d rather face Mitchell Starc than me! Obviously, I took that with a pinch of salt, but it was very flattering although slightly mystifying.

“He’s a lovely lad and his batting is sublime. He seems to have so much time when he’s batting. You could see that he had something special when he was younger. He played for the Dumplings one day when he was about 13 and scored 70-odd down at Sidmouth and he just made it look so easy.”

We took this opportunity to find out a little bit more about Bernie’s life in cricket.

“I started playing cricket when I was about seven and I played a lot when I was younger,” he explained. “I was a relatively quick bowler when I was at school, but I mainly opened the batting. I also played for Devon Colts for a few seasons.

“As I got older, I became a quite useful medium pace bowler, and that’s what I did until about 15 years ago. My body was finding it harder to recover each week, so I went back to something that I learned at school, and that was the art of spin.

“I spent a whole season at West Buckland bowling spin instead of medium pace and it was in that year that I learned a few little tricks.

“I’m still playing the game. I played my last game for the Devon Dumplings in September. I was extremely honoured that they decided to give me a nice testimonial game down at Paignton to say thank you.

“My cricket career has been a bit abnormal really. Normally, as you get older you don’t do quite as well because your body changes and you can’t do things as well as you could when you were younger. For me, the older I got, the more wickets I took. I was the leading wicket taker for the Dumplings in 2018 and 2019. The longer I carry on bowling, the better it seems to get!”

Bernie has spent a lot of summers at the Cooper Associates County Ground watching Somerset in action.

“I was a Member at Somerset for many years and I’ve got some great memories of coming to watch games in Taunton,” he admitted. “When I used to work for a well-known bank, we used to regularly bring groups of people to watch Somerset play. Well, most of them used to watch the games but some of them would have a little nap in the afternoon after a lovely lunch and a few ciders. I used to work with Brian Langford and obviously he knew everyone up at Taunton and of course they knew him.

“It really is a great day out. I love coming up from Devon, having a nice lunch and watching some great cricket. When the sun shines, it’s a perfect day.”

We also asked Bernie about Sunset CC

“A few friends and I formed Sunset 26 years ago,” he said. “We felt that there was a gap in the market, so to speak. We felt that people with young families didn’t have too much time at the weekends to play cricket. So, we play on Friday nights and in mid-week. We play cricket for fun, mainly against teams that share the simple belief that the game is about enjoyment for all concerned. Winning is important but not to the detriment of any player’s enjoyment of the game. It’s important that everyone gets a chance to play no matter what their skill level is.”

Will Bernie be telling everyone about what Tom said?

“It’s not something I’ll be bragging about,” he said. “That’s just not me. One day though, when we’re hopefully watching him play for England on the tv, I might say something to the grand children along the lines of: ‘do you know what that bloke once said about me?’”

The Somerset players are currently back in training ahead of the winter break, and we sat down with Tom this week to discuss his rivalry with Bernie.

“I’ve known Bernie for a long time,” he said “I was lucky enough to play with him when I got the opportunity to play for the Devon Dumplings when I was about 12. A few years later Exeter School played the Dumplings in a pre-season game and Bernie came on at the Pavilion End. He bowled a few menacing deliveries at me and really should have got me out, but first slip dropped a regulation catch.

“It was a privilege to be able to grow up playing my cricket in Devon at all those amazing grounds with people from all walks of life. That was a really good learning curve for me at such a young age and a great opportunity.

“Bernie’s not quite as quick as Mitchell Starc, but he’s pretty tactical and I’ve always said that I fear Bernie most of all because he’s so accurate.”

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