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Transfers: All the moves as they happen
Club histories
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2016 21:22
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by Reg Nelson

The early origins of the Northowram club can be traced back to 1907 when Northowram St. Matthew’s C.C. was formed. The club was linked to the local parish church and played their home matches at Shibden Park. They then moved to a farmer’s field at Only House Farm around 1912 just above the Stocks Arms, which is now a housing estate.

In 1920 they moved to Westercroft Lane- a semi-rural venue with views of Coley church and the Emley Mast in the distance. An aerodrome once stood adjacent to the pair of cricket fields.

Using the title Northowram Parish Cricket club they played their cricket in the Halifax & District Sunday School League, before moving to the Halifax District League in 1914. They competed well but had a conspicuous lack of success when it came to winning trophies.

Many cricket clubs were affected, fatally, by the coming of the Second World War, and while Northowram folded for several years they were re-formed in 1948 and renamed Northowram CC.

Their move to the Bradford Central League in 1948 heralded a new chapter in their history, and eleven years later in 1959 they erected a pavilion at Westercroft Lane to cater for the modern age of improved facilities. In 1966 they were languishing in the bottom half of the `B’ Division having won six and lost six. The only individual highlight was the fielding ability of G Whiteley who won the league’s fielding prize that year.

Fortunes dipped in 1967 with just four wins and a lowly position the inevitable result. The best batter was G Hall who averaged 24.50, while the most consistent bowler was M Parsons who finished fifth in the League Averages with 32 wickets at 15.84.

It would be fair to say that Northowram CC were never big-players in the Bradford Central League and had a decidedly second division reputation. However, despite not having won a major trophy in the league, they still had pockets of individual excellence.

In 1988, batsman P Crossland scored fractionally short of a thousand runs to take the Second Division Batting Averages, and also the Norman Bastow Trophy for most runs scored. Cliff Foster played at the club- one the league’s leading players in his era, and a genuine all round cricketer- he won the Second Division Bowling Averages in 1990 with 72 wickets at 10.71, and in the following year lifted the Second Division Batting Averages with an incredible average of 77.40.

Foster was a doughty cricketer who was always in the game. He bowled tight medium pace and also scored runs with the bat in a crisis. He also made his name in the Bradford League with Great Horton proving himself a genuine all rounder in the Second Division.

Field Son & Co – later to be known as Field Cricket Club, joined the Bradford Central League for season 1968. The league handbook for that year described their ground as on Hollingwood Lane- to be reached by trolley or motor bus. Two years later they made waves for the first time in the Bradford Central League by winning the 1970 Second Division.

Two decades later Field CC would dominate the Bradford Central League in an unprecedented three -year period.
In 1993 they won a notable double- the First Team won the Waddilove Cup for the first time, while the Second Team took the Thrippleton Cup. This put Field CC on the map and with the increased confidence things got even better.

1994/1995 saw Field reach new heights with League & Cup doubles in both seasons, which also equated to the third successive cup win. To emphasise their dominance the Second Team also won the League & Cup double in their competition.

The First Team of that era usually comprised of a squad of Lee Montgomery, Paul Hannan, Heath Philipson, Paul Amato, Andrew McGill, Ian Larner, Jonathan Smith, Phil Cox, Steve Hird, Paul Mitchell, Richard Jozafek, Mohammad Ramzan.

They beat Shelf, Norwood Green and Thornton in finals with the latter suffering the most crushing defeat. Playing at Park Avenue, Fields chased down their opponents score by the wide margin of ten wickets, with openers Montgomery and Smith coasting home.   

Robert Larner, who would become a tower of strength in future years was part of the Second Team’s trophy double.
Meanwhile, at Northowram CC, they began to improve their ground and in the early 1990’s replaced their old wood hut. Bizarrely they visited Butlins at Filey after the holiday centre had closed down, and ferried stonework, doors and various other elements by lorry to the Westercroft Lane site.  They proceeded to build a new pavilion which served well until demolished to make way for the present clubhouse.

It is very rare that one finds two club grounds backing on to each other, but this was exactly the case with Northowram CC and its neighbour, Northowram Hedge Top CC. The rivalry between the clubs was intense - hence the introduction, decades ago, of an annual challenge match between the two elevens.

Northowram CC began to struggle on the field of play, but fate would dictate that there was a new and successful horizon for them. Fields CC, who had located to the famous Bradford Park Avenue ground were about to lose their tenancy when Yorkshire CCC decided to install their Academy there. Within no time at all there was a mutual agreement to merge their club with Northowram and re-locate to Westercroft Lane.

This was a historic move for both clubs but it created a strong cricket infrastructure. The new name was appropriate when it was democratically titled Northowram Fields Cricket Club.

The new club took its place in the 1997 Second Division and promptly dominated the division. Not only did they take the title but they won the two main individual awards. Lee Montgomery won the 2nd Division Batting Averages with 631 runs at 57.58, and Steve Hird took the 2nd Division Bowling Averages with 39 wickets at 9.64.

Clearly, the merged club had the potential to impress in a higher standard, and after being rejected by the Bradford League, they applied to join the Central Yorkshire League. After visits from the executive committee the club fulfilled all the criteria and took their place in the new league for the 2000 season.

Success was immediate as the First Team won the Central Yorkshire League Division 2 title, while the 2nd XI grabbed the Division 4 championship. They had `come of age’ and enjoyed the kudos of taking part in a senior league with better potential for recruitment of players.

Off the field they were continuing to grow as a new scorebox was erected at the ground in 2001. The facility was part-funded by grant money, and it replaced the small hut that had served the club up until that point. Northowram Fields strived to be a long standing Premier League club in the Central Yorkshire League and if it took a little investment to improve things on the field they were prepared to raise the necessary funds.

In 2001, they employed a Pakistani overseas player in Rao Anjum. Principally a fast bowler, he could bowl reverse-swing and had immaculate control over his yorkers. It was a successful move by the club as he took 75 wickets at an average of 11.00, and he was largely instrumental in earning the club promotion to the premier league.

Anjum went on to play with great success for Spen Victoria in the Bradford League. He had a very fruitful First Class career taking 503 wickets at 23.60, and also had a career best score of 78. His career progressed to international level where he played one test match and one ODI.

For Northowram Fields it was a major triumph to reach the premier league in such a short period of time.
They preserved their status for a while finishing in 9th position in both 2002 and 2003. However, they were relegated in 2004 and plunged to 10th in Division One in 2005. This was a blow, but it did not negate their determination to get back and they finished at the right end of the table in 2006 in 4th position.

The one constant in this period was the ability of home product Robert Larner to score runs on a consistent basis. He scored 680 runs at 42.50 in 2006 to finish third in the league averages. During the 2007 season they clearly set out to return to the Premier League and they battled for promotion all the way winning the title on the last day against East Ardsley.

However, it was the previous game at Moorlands that confirmed promotion. They dismissed the home team for 169 with a fine haul of 5-37 from Gary Rodger, before edging to victory in a tense affair by 3 wickets, with Robert Larner’s 73 the key innings.

Rodger bowled a nagging line and length to prevent Moorlands reaching a really challenging target. To prove his all round abilities he recorded an unbeaten 68 later in the month against Gildersome to assist his team’s promotion push.
In 2010 Northowram Fields recruited an excellent Australian club cricketer in Bradley Hauenstein who had played for South Barwan in his native country. He took the Central Yorkshire League by storm scoring 853 runs at 50.18, and also taking 27 wickets.

The bowling was strong that year with Nadim Hussain (45 wkts) and David McCallum (40 wkts) ensuring a good season for the club. A tally of eight league wins reflected a growing confidence as a premier league club.
The big signing for 2011 was the much travelled Mark Gilliver who scored 615 runs, and also took 19 wickets as an occasional bowler. Although past his prime his experience helped to keep the club safe from relegation.

Gilliver enjoyed an illustrious career in the Bradford League scoring 15,908 runs. He also topped 1,000 runs in a season on two occasions with his best tally in 2002 at Esholt when he scored 1,328. Although he had county trials the furthest he went in the First Class game was representing the Yorkshire Cricket Board.

Other good performers in 2011 were Larner (485 runs), Heath Pyke (502 runs) and Ben Burkill who took 36 wickets. Wicket-keeper batsman Pyke played for Victoria in Australia and took over the captaincy during the season.
The next season was a similar team performance with six league wins again, but at one time relegation was likely after seven straight defeats. The outstanding performer for 2012 was young prospect Jacob Waterson who scored 625 runs including an unbeaten century.

A significant development was the opening of their new club-house, and in tandem with their ECB Clubmark status it was clear that the club’s infrastructure was strong for the modern age. The moderate seasons took a slight turn for the worst when one less win meant relegation to the 1st Division Championship. This was despite a high class batting performance from Sydney Grade overseas player Jeremy Smith who scored 622 runs at 32.74, including the league’s top score of the year of 155*. Larner also excelled with 547 runs, but the bowling lacked penetration.

Northowram Fields found it easier in the lower division in 2014, and there were several excellent performers. However, they lacked the final cutting edge to gain promotion back to the premier league. Christian Silkstone had a season to remember winning the 1st Division Championship Batting Averages with 493 runs at 41.08, and Chris Metcalf (449 runs) and Larner (405 runs) were not far behind. The best bowler was Josh Keer who took 38 wickets.

When 2015 opened it was probably the club’s intention to gain promotion at the second time of asking. The fact that they failed to do so after recording seven wins and seven losses in a disappointing season would have a major effect in their immediate future.

The Bradford League gained premier league status and absorbed most of the Central Yorkshire League clubs. The future of the latter league was coming under scrutiny with several top clubs continuing to depart to the Bradford League anyway. Under the new Premier League structure of the league there would be two feeder Championships and a Conference below.

Had the club gained promotion they would have taken their place in one of the two Championships rather than the Conference that was destined for them. In the last Central Yorkshire League season Larner (580 runs) and Metcalf (492 runs) both averaged more than 40, while the leading bowler was Zafar Khan with 56 wickets

The club entered the Conference League in 2016 determined to make things happen and they challenged Buttershaw St Pauls virtually all the season for the title. The fact that they were granted promotion in second place after further league re-structuring was a huge bonus for a club who kept striving.

In a team of no stars but several worthy contributors, Ben Grech (473 runs), Chris Metcalf (492 runs), and Zafer Khan (330 runs) all averaged in excess of 30. Khan also excelled with the ball taking 44 wickets at 15.98, while Jonathan Lee took 39 wickets at 10.79.  

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