Cricketer John Reynolds celebrates his own diamond jubilee season

Evergreen cricketer John Reynolds counts himself lucky to be alive and is still taking wickets at the age of 78 and adding to his 5700-plus tally in his diamond jubilee season.

John has turned out during each of the last 60 seasons despite a series of operations, which has seen him battle cancer and undergo two replacement hip operations and a replacement knee operation.

And the man whose slow left-arm deliveries have taken his tally of wickets to 5750 this season has no intention of stopping.

'I still get a lot of pleasure from it. I have had a replacement hip on the left and the right and a replacement knee on the right. Two years ago I got cancer on the kidney and I am lucky to be alive after that. They caught it just in time and they removed the kidney. I have had tests and examinations and everything is clear now.

'I had started playing that season when I just started feeling ill. I knew something wasn't right. I only took 10 wickets that season. But I was back the following year.'

The oldest spinner in town has taken nine wickets in a game eight times – four times for Defiants and four for Bradfield – but only once has he stood a chance of claiming all 10.

But a dropped catch by team-mate Sid Barrett in a game for Defiants against Thorpe in 1954 denied him the full set, leaving him to reflect on what might have been with figures of 9 for 15.

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'He was fielding at mid-on, the ball went up in the air and he dropped a sitter. To make things worse he went and took a brilliant catch off the other bowler in the very next over. When I finally cough it, on my coffin lid will be inscribed the words 'Thankyou Sid for what you did,' laughed genial John. At 6ft 2in John could have made an intimidating paceman but spin bowling has been his first and only love. It is a formula which has served him and his team-mates well wherever he has been as he has taken over 100 wickets in a season 34 times. His best haul was 187 wickets in the 1979 season.

'When I was young I read a book called Prince with a Piece of Leather which was all about Hedley Verity, a Yorkshire and England spin bowler who took 15 wickets at Lord's against Australia in 1934 and I was inspired,' he explained.

John's 60 seasons comprise 13 with Norwich Defiants – a team largely comprising Boulton and Paul workers; 17 with Bradfield, founder members of the Norfolk Alliance and 30 seasons with Eaton, one of the longest-serving teams in the Norfolk League, as well as staunch supporters of Sunday friendly cricket, where John plies his trade these days.

Dereham-born John, who lives in Norwich, not far from the Eaton Park pitches where he played so many of his games over the years, says the camaraderie and banter helps to keep his love affair with the game so strong.

'I have always had a roundish action and a low arm and it has been getting lower over the years. Batsmen joke that the sightscreen needs to be turned on its side when they are facing me.' He added: 'I just want to keep going as long as I can. At the moment I feel all right although I can't play two games a weekend any more because old age has caught up with me.'