IN the last of our summer series tracking down the Lancashire League stars of yesteryear, Australian journalist Doug Ackerly catches up with former Ramsbottom pro Ian Chappell.

RAMSBOTTOM professional, Ian Chappell, used to board with a widow in Holcombe Brook.

He said: "Mrs Dawson was a lovely person. And, not working, I'd be around the house a lot during the day. The hospitality was persistent.

"I remember walking out of that house on the last day, and I thought, That's it, I will never ever have another cup of tea in my life.' That was in September, 1963, and I've never had another cup of tea since!"

Beer was much more to his liking, and a taste nurtured by a group of expatriots led by former Northants cricketer, Ray Hogan, then playing for Heywood.

"Ray took me under his wing," he added. "That meant that meeting once a week to have a drink turned into meeting five times a week."

Mrs Dawson would cook her lodger a meal before the bus trip to Manchester where Hogan worked. After a session at a pub, then a club, they would end up at an ominously-named Indian restaurant, The Khazi.

He said: "I probably improved my slip catching a bit because Hogan would suddenly fire the salt or pepper shaker at you.

"And, you'd have to catch it, which wasn't all that easy at 4am!"

It wasn't the best of preparations, although at least there was a level playing field before one game. At 3 am, he felt a tap on the shoulder.

"Are you Ian Chappell?" The man with the query was as dark as the nightclub. "Er, yes."

"Am I pleased to see you. I'm Charlie Stayers, the pro for Enfield. I was a bit worried that you were home in bed getting an early night. That's terrific, let me buy you a drink!"

Chappell returned home to Adelaide weighing more than 14 stone, and wondered at the worth of his time in the Lancashire League.

He added: "I've always said, only half in jest, that it set my cricket back about six months, but it improved my drinking and swearing enormously."

He had been signed for £950 by former Nelson pro, Arthur Richardson.

Out of that came his boat fare to England with club cricketer, Tony Crafter. Crafter, who later became a top Test umpire, was to be amateur at Stockport.

The weather and the tracks were a culture shock.

He said: "I was young and very silly at 19. I took the approach that I shouldn't have to be batting on this sort of track."

Bowling was no easier. He said: "After about three or four weeks, I just said, This is ridiculous. It's too bloody cold. It's too wet to bowl leg-spin.' So, I then started to bowl medium-pace."

It was effective. Chappell took 60 wickets, including two in three balls against Lowerhouse. A feat that didn't impress the umpire.

He recalled: "At the end of the over he said, Freddy Freer would have done better than that.' Then told me I was nowhere near as good as Ray Lindwall!"

Another umpire was unmoved when Chappell was batting. Facing Nelson pro, Des Hoare, on an overcast day at Ramsbottom, he popped the question.

The umpire refused: "No-one's ever appealed against the light in Lancashire League."

For a man who later scored more than 5,000 runs in Test cricket, Chappell's return was disappointing.

He made only 510 runs at 24. Even a 95 at Rawtenstall was hard-earned.

He said: "There was a bloody big factory across the road, and I hit the wall on the full. I got four for that. I don't know where you had to hit it to get a six!"

Ramsbottom finished bottom, and the Aussie was not re-signed. But, he was amused to read the headline in a newspaper on his return to Old Trafford in 1972, "Ramsbottom Pro Captains Australia."

Chappell spoke at Acre Bottom in 1989, and caught up with Mrs Dawson. And, whenever he comes to Old Trafford, he shares a drink with old team-mates like Dally Brooks and "closest mate," Terry Stewart.

But, while admitting that Stewart was "lively," he does harbour a grudge.

He said: "They used to give him downwind, and I used to bowl into the wind. Which meant at a place like Colne, not only were you bowling into the wind, but you were coming up that blooming hill!"

These days, Chappell enjoys combining television commentary with Australia's Nine Network, and writing for Indian newspapers, the Sunday Telegraph and Cricinfo.

He lives in Sydney with second wife, Barbara-Ann, and has a daughter, Manda, who works for Virgin Blue.

The man known as "Chappelli" is a cricket legend, but he still treasures his memories of the League.

"Whenever I go back to Lancashire, I feel like it's my second home. I was there in a summer when the sun hardly ever shone.

"But, the thing about those people was they always had a sense of humour. They always had a smile on their face, and they were good people. I enjoyed their company."