Norfolk cricketer plays 1000th game - months after rare virus

Steve Phoenix cricket

Just 999 games separate them. Steve Phoenix who has played 1000 games for Great Melton with youngster Rebecca Davey who was making her senior club debut. - Credit: Kerry Lake

A stalwart Norfolk cricketer walked to the wicket for a landmark innings that he thought might never happen.

Steve Phoenix was playing his 1000th senior game for Great Melton Cricket Club just months after being struck down by a rare virus.

Mr Phoenix contracted Guillain Barre Syndrome towards the end of 2021 and spent three months in hospital including time in intensive care.

Steve Phoenix cricket

Steve Phoenix contracted Guillain Barre Syndrome towards the end of 2021 and spent three months in hospital including time in intensive care. - Credit: Kerry Lake

He was determined to battle the illness and continue a sporting life that saw him play 750 competitive games of football in addition to his outstanding cricketing feats.

Guillain Barre Syndrome is a rare and serious condition affecting nerves and is thought to be caused by a problem with the immune system.

Mr Phoenix said: “I had a chest infection and one day felt dizzy and couldn’t see properly. Then my voice began to break up.

"The next day I could hardly walk and I had problems swallowing."

Most Read

He was admitted to hospital where he stayed until being discharged on New Year’s Day.

“It was mentally very tough. I am somebody who has always been in control and suddenly I was at the mercy of others.”

But he dreamed during his illness of completing his cricketing milestone.

Steve Phoenix Great Melton Cricket Club

Steve Phoenix played his 1000th game for Great Melton Cricket Club on May 21. - Credit: Kerry Lake

“It’s taken some time to get there thanks to lockdown. I seem to have been in the 980s for ever.”

His 1000th appearance came for Great Melton’s fourth team against Narborough A on May 21. Mr Phoenix scored just three and Melton lost but he admitted that he was just happy and relieved to be able to play again.

Born in Great Melton, Mr Phoenix attended Wymondham High School where PE teachers helped to foster his love of sport.

Over the years, he has scored 11,997 runs for Great Melton, taken 381 wickets and held 448 catches - a club record for an outfield player.

He has been club chairman for the past 39 years, a post he will be relinquishing at the end of the current season.

Steve Phoenix cricket

Steve Phoenix played his 1000th senior game for Great Melton Cricket Club just months after being struck down by a rare virus. - Credit: Kerry Lake

Mr Phoenix and wife Celia have attended a Buckingham Palace Garden Party in recognition of his cricket coaching.

He has also received an award for his coaching from former England captain Michael Atherton.

He said: “A very ordinary sports person, not rich in talent can get so much pleasure and so much reward providing he or she is willing to put the effort in."

Steve Phoenix Cricket

Over the years, Steve Phoenix has scored 11,997 runs for Great Melton, taken 381 wickets and held 448 catches. - Credit: Kerry Lake

Forming Great Melton Cricket Club

Mr Phoenix studied English at Borough Road Teacher Training College in Isleworth (now part of Brunel University).

He joined Wymondham Old Boys and Wymondham Sunday Football Clubs serving Old Boys as captain and club secretary.

Wymondham Old Boys folded in the 1990s but Steve continued to play for Mulbarton Reserves after that and in his forties joined Wymondham Town.

Alongside his amateur football career, Steve found time to form Great Melton CC.

“I was teaching at Dereham Boys’ School. A group of us got a cricket team together to play some midweek games."

In the mid-1980s Steve’s farmer father retired and approached the Evans Lombe estate to see if it would provide some land for a cricket club.

The result was the club’s current home at Melton Park in Great Melton set-up in 1992.

Mr Phoenix admits that the club owes a great debt of gratitude to Sir Edward Evans-Lombe who recently passed away.