|Cleckheaton's players and officials celebrate the club 's first league championship triumph in 2013
Picture: © Mike Baker JCT600 Bradford League
Cleckheaton Cricket Club started out in 1864 as a workshops team known as Hunsworth Mills Cricket Club. In preparation for that first year of competitive cricket, an area measuring 40 yards by 10 yards was laid out in a field on which the Club still plays to this very day. A year later, in 1865, members subscribed to have a wooden hut erected to provide proper facilities for the playing of cricket, and a further year down the line the original playing area was increased to a more impressive 40 yards by 40 yards. Seven years later saw the building of a more substantial brick built pavilion to replace the original wooden hut that had now become inadequate for the players’ needs.
The current club address is still officially registered by the Post Office as “The Pavilion”. This pavilion, built by the club’s own members during their leisure hours, probably stood close to where today’s main bar area is situated. In this same year a second team was formed, and a player by the name of William Hatton, a wicketkeeper from Liverpool, was retained for the full season and became the club’s first paid player.
Around this time, many local cricket clubs were founded and it is believed that the oldest club in this area was Heckmondwike which has maintained the same name since starting life in 1864, the same year in which the Hunsworth Mills side was formed. Both East Bierley and Spen Victoria sprung to life a year later in 1865, and in 1868 twenty or thirty enthusiastic volunteers took up their spades and shovels to dig and level an area of rough ground to form the Scholes Albert Mills Cricket Club.
In 1883 the Club, still known as Hunsworth Mills Cricket Club, became one of the original teams to play in the Heavy Woollen District Challenge Cup when it was formed in that year. It was not, however, an auspicious start as they bowed out to Adwalton Queen Elizabeth in the first round.
Until Cleckheaton’s entry into the Bradford League in 1976, when they were then committed to playing in the League’s Priestley Cup, they had played in this competition every year its inception. In 1995, the Bradford League decided to allow its clubs to compete for this trophy, and gradually over the following few years the co-ordination of fixtures between the two organisations allowed many more clubs, including Cleckheaton to enter.
A General Meeting held on March 10, 1885 gave approval for the club to change its name to Cleckheaton Cricket Club. This move was popular as the town had no club bearing its name. Cleckheaton Alexandre, who had played on a ground situated where Whitcliffe Mount School now stands, had ceased to exist some years earlier.
The club continued to progress and over the next few years extensive improvements were made. The ground was re-laid over nearly 3,000 square feet at a cost of £120, and the club president, Mr Fred Law and Alderman Anderson, officially opened the ground on May 19, 1894. This occasion was marked by a cricket match in which the home side was able to enlist the services of John Tunnicliffe of Yorkshire County Cricket Club to play against a side from Raistrick.
Sometime around the turn of the century, an impressive brick-built building was added to the ground’s amenities. It stood at the top of the ground overlooking the playing area. It included changing rooms, a tea room, and bar facility. This structure still presides over the ground, and whilst many changes have been made over the years internally, externally it has changed very little in over 100 years. It still stands proud; its unique whitewashed appearance says to all players and spectators visiting the ground, “this is Cleckheaton Cricket Club”.
Unfortunately many of the older playing records and other documents have not survived the ravages of time, but it is known that the honour of being the first Cleckheaton player to score a century belonged to John Hodgson who scored 106 runs against Undercliffe in 1896.
Cleckheaton 1976: back (from left): Derek Robinson, Keith Stones, Brian Robinson, Gordon Appleyard, Sebastian Gross, David Walker. Front: Alan Horner, Kenneth Peel, Keith Stanley (Captain), David Legood, Peter Rawson.
Cleckheaton 1978. Back (from left); Bob Speight (scorer), John Tiffany, Graham Clarke, Ian Leng, Steve Lawrence, Mick Robey, Keith Stanley. Front: Neil Hodgson, Rahul Mankad, Russell Hutchinson (Captain), Alan Horner, Paul Robinson.
|Former England batsman Brian Bolus shone in 1981
Cleckheaton's 1999 team captained by Chris Pickles
Chris Pickles topped 1,000 runs in 1998
Ian Austin proved to be an inspirational captain
Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale started his senior cricket career with Cleckheaton
John Wood proudly shows off the league trophy
Mally Nicholson has been a consistent performer
Iain Wardlaw helped Scotland to qualify for the World Cup in Bangladesh
One cannot be certain of the quality of cricket being played at this time, or exactly what organised leagues were available, but things changed in 1899 when the Yorkshire Cricket Council was formed. It is known that the Cleckheaton club began playing under their auspices when admitted into membership along with Castleford in 1903, the same year in which an independent Bradford Cricket League was formed. At that stage the club was one of 21 participating members.
In 1902 Cleckheaton reached their first major final when losing to Wakefield in the Heavy Woollen Cup. It was a frustrating match when one considers they were only chasing 103 and were bowled out for 51. Ten years later in 1912 they reached the final again only to be comprehensively beaten by Ossett who bowled them out for 58 and knocked the runs off for the loss of three wickets.
Over the next two decades the Cleckheaton club never attained top honours even though the they possessed some remarkable players including Irvine Boocock who, born and bred in Cleckheaton, also became a notable professional footballer with Bradford City. He just missed City’s triumph in the 1911 FA Cup Final making just one start for them that year, but from the following season played regularly until 1922.
Presumably, still with influence at City, a 20 overs per side match was arranged in 1931 against Bradford City who turned up with eight regular first team members including Sam Barkus who was eventually to join Manchester City where he became a member of their championship winning side in 1937.
Boocock’s playing career at Cleckheaton began in 1909 and he played until 1932 although, between spells at Moorend, he did play some seasons as a professional in the Bradford League, notably with Eccleshill. In 1933 he was granted a benefit match after taking more than 600 wickets for the club. He then became the groundsman and later their bar steward.
The club’s biggest coup came on September 5, 1932 when the late Lord Savile’s family, saddled with death duties, was forced into selling their Hunsworth Estate; and the Hunsworth Estate was the landlord of the Cleckheaton club. The club was at the auction and walked away in possession of their own ground at a cost of £750.
Clubs were hankering for a change to stand alone leagues outside the Council. At the end of 1935 clubs left to join the Yorkshire League, and the Wharfedale & Airedale League, but then in 1937, ten members of the Yorkshire Cricket Council - Batley, Birstall, Cleckheaton, Dewsbury & Savile, Morley, Liversedge, Heckmondwike, Ossett, Staincliffe and Wakefield left to form the Spen & Calder Cricket League. Some of these teams did, however, maintain their original status as Yorkshire Council members. A new era of local cricket was now beginning.
It was obvious that there was some delicate maneuvering between Yorkshire Cricket Council’s member clubs. What was complicating things was that Tom Harrison of Morley was the President of the Heavy Woollen Cricket League operating within the Council, and Cleckheaton’s S Mounsey was its Secretary, and each of their clubs were contemplating joining the newly-formed Spen & Calder Cricket League. It had been thought that Morley, in particular, would not follow the course of defecting to the new league but surprisingly, at a meeting held at the Scarborough Hotel in Dewsbury, they applied and were admitted into membership of the Spen & Calder league.
In 1936 Cleckheaton reached their third major final when losing to Heckmondwike in the Heavy Woollen Cup. It was a gallant effort losing by only 19 runs when chasing 156-5, but the third time they had lost in this final.
In 1937 Cleckheaton joined the newly-constituted Central Yorkshire Cricket League. During the 1939-1945 war, the remnants of the Spen Valley Cricket League disbanded and were absorbed into the new league. Frank Morton, born in 1885 and a stalwart of Cleckheaton, was instrumental in the league’s formation, and for the first 21 years he was to remain in his post as its president. In 1958 he was honoured by being appointed the league’s first Life Vice-President. At this time he was also a past president of the Yorkshire Cricket Council, as well as having strong ties with the Yorkshire Cricket Federation.
In 1938, Cleckheaton gained their highest position of third in the league behind Ossett and Dewsbury and Savile. They were now starting to make progress on the field and substantial silverware was just around the corner.
Cleckheaton finally won their first trophy, becoming winners of the Heavy Woollen Cup in 1939 when they beat Scholes at Hartshead Moor. In an emotional day for the victors they posted a very modest 112, but succeeded in bowling their opponents out for 47. In an earlier round they played a very close match with Ossett who scored 147 batting first. Cleckheaton made a good start putting 74 on for the first wicket, before losing wickets in great regularity. In a tense affair opening batsman H Barraclough guided his team home anchoring the innings with a match-winning 54 not out in a 3 wicket victory.
Cleckheaton reached the final again in 1940, but on this occasion Ossett's total of 312 left them with far too much to do to retain the trophy. They finished 115 runs behind on 197 all-out.
The club was not destined to win this trophy again until 1959, but during the period between their two wins they recorded their highest score in this competition when they were able to post a total of 411 runs in knocking Birstall out of the cup in 1948.
When victory in the Heavy Woollen Cup did finally materialise again it was by virtue of a brace of victories, very much against expectations, when Hanging Heaton were defeated in successive finals:
1959 Cleckheaton 134, Hanging Heaton 112
1960 Cleckheaton 151-6, Hanging Heaton 97
Cleckheaton’s prestige as a club rocketed when Moorend was chosen to host the Heavy Woollen Cup finals in 1972 and 1973. To achieve this honour the club, after years of neglect, had given the ground a facelift with whitened walls and new seating. The scoreboard was also put to full working order after previous difficulties.
Cleckheaton’s existence in the Central Yorkshire League 1937-1975 was a modest one in terms of success.The highest Cleckheaton achieved in the league was third place though they did win individual awards:
1946 W Ellis First Division Bowling Averages
1947 N Mounsey First Division Batting Averages
There were other individual achievers and none greater than the flamboyant wicketkeeper Laurie Castle, or the accomplished batsman Norman Heap. Bowlers of the calibre of Ernest Blakeley, Ronnie Womersley, Keith Mortimer and David Haigh also wrote their name in Cleckheaton’s history with their deeds with the ball. Haigh performed the feat of taking 26 wickets during three consecutive matches within the space of eight days in the latter period of his career.
Progress was being made at Cleckheaton with a ground good enough to stage cup finals, and the introduction of a junior section. There was a definite desire to see cricket played at a higher level and the Cricket Committee duly made an application to join the Bradford League, an application that was successful.
The motivational force for joining the Bradford League had belonged to the secretary Gordon Pearson who had previously played for the club during the fifties and sixties before later becoming an umpire. After the Club had joined the league he then saw the need to integrate juniors into the section and undertook to organise tentative steps in that direction, the first task being the kit to be used. He put the Section’s case to the Management Committee and to most of the cricket members’ surprise got the not inconsiderable amount of £200 to get the juniors equipped. The next step was to get a team. The selection for his team included Ian Gatenby, Michael Pickles and Stephen Archer who came through the system to eventually play in first team cricket.
Their first Bradford League match took place at Windhill on April 24, 1976 as a Division Two club, and what a start they experienced. Opening bowler Seb Grose recorded figures of 6-16 as Windhill were bowled out for just 37 after Cleckheaton had posted a useful 175-9.
They had gone into the league with the same team that had played in the Central Yorkshire League the previous season. Keith Stanley had been given the captaincy, and it was he who scored the club's first Bradford League century with 121 not out against Hartshead Moor.
Even with the fillip of their first-match victory they were unable to reach any great heights that season which, at its end, saw them vying with Queensbury for the bottom spot. The only notable success of the season had been Grose who captured 69 wickets at a cost of a little over 15 runs each.
The ignominy of their first season in the Bradford League, which ended with a re-election plea, brought it home to those involved that the team was in urgent need of strengthening and a decision was made to introduce overseas players.
For the start of the 1977 season the club was able to welcome Indian Rahul Mankad, who stayed with the team for four years. His good sportsmanship was legendary, walking on one occasion for lbw even before the umpire had the chance to raise his finger. In those seasons he scored over 3,000 runs which included an aggregate of 1,251 in 1978 which, at the time, was a league record that was to last for a full 15 years until beaten by Russell Evans in 1993. This performance in 1978 allowed him to win the league batting award with an average of 65.84.
Mankad was a stylist who drew the crowds in the Bradford League. He caressed the ball with supreme timing. His First Class record in Bombay included 2,111 runs at 35.77 with a top score of 162.
After their re-election plea they consolidated nicely for the next two seasons with good batting support for Mankad. Russell Hutchinson scored 714 league runs in 1977 when Cleckheaton improved to ninth position. He again topped 500 runs in 1978, and with John Tiffany, who scored 545 runs, took Cleckheaton to a healthy sixth place.
The 6ft 8in South African paceman Paul Robinson made a name for himself in 1978 by taking 53 wickets. He often bowled 25 overs from a running mark within touching distance to the sightscreen.
After four seasons in the league, celebrations were in order when Cleckheaton achieved their first promotion in 1979. In a remarkable promotion race four points separated the top four teams with Cleckheaton runners-up just one point behind Spen Victoria.
Mankad was influential scoring 601 runs, but David Hallett outscored the Indian with 626 runs and there were also good contributions from skipper Hutchinson (547) and Boothroyd (443). The most successful bowlers were Ian Leng (39 wkts) and David Pepper (30 wkts).
A young Indian prospect destined to play Test cricket was Suru Navak who contributed modestly to the promotion season with 393 runs at 26.20. His Test career was short but not so sweet as he failed to impress in his two matches.
Consolidation was easily obtained in 1980 with Mankad (756), Hutchinson (463) and Boothroyd (320) scoring the runs and Pepper (38) taking the most wickets. Cleckheaton’s second Indian V Mohan Ray contributed 520 stylish runs at 30.58. Wicketkeeper Hallett performed the unique feat of five stumpings in one innings during the season, and this still stands as a league record. However, after Mankad’s departure, relegation beckoned.
In their relegations season of 1981 former Yorkshire and England batsman Brian Bolus shone with 706 runs at 35.30, assisted by the ever-reliable Hallett (465). However, Cleckheaton’s woes were caused by the inability of any of their bowlers performing well enough to make the league averages.
Bolus who would score 859 runs in 1982 for Cleckheaton began his first-class career in his native Yorkshire in 1956, playing in 107 matches with a highest score of 146 not out against Hampshire at Portsmouth in 1960. The playing riches at Yorkshire at the time contributed to his move to Nottinghamshire in 1963, for whom he played 269 matches, with a highest score of 202 not out against Glamorgan at Trent Bridge in 1963.
Bolus twice scored more than 1,000 runs in a season whilst playing for Yorkshire, as well as ten times for Nottinghamshire and twice for Derbyshire. A solid county performer, particularly strong off his pads, his Test batting average of 41.33 is higher than his overall first-class average of 36.91. He hit the first ball he faced in Test cricket, bowled by Wes Hall, back over the bowler's head for four. He retired in 1975 with over 25,500 first-class runs to his name, and became an England Test selector in the 1990s.
Hard-hitting Chris Pickles emerged in 1982 with 549 runs at 46.75. He went on to play for Yorkshire and spent much of his league service with Spen Victoria where he was a prodigious run scorer and topped 1,000 in three consecutive seasons from 1994-96. Used mainly as a bowler for Yorkshire, Pickles tore into the league batting from the first ball and was a big attraction. His 176 for Spen Victoria against Pudsey StLawrence in 1995 was not only the league’s highest for that year, but it epitomised his power when he was on top of his game.
It was a surprise that Cleckheaton could only manage ninth place in the Second Division in 1982 given they had prolific batsmen Pickles and Bolus, backed by the cutting edge of seamers Alan Stansfield (60 wkts), Andy Baxter (46 wkts), and left arm slow bowler Ian Leng (39 wkts).
This was Stansfield’s peak as a cricketer - a vociferous opponent who took no prisoners. He took two hat-tricks in 1982 at Hartshead Moor and Bankfoot, and against Saltaire turned the game with an amazing spell of bowling. He took five wickets in three overs, including a four-ball spell of three wickets.
By 1983 Bob Clark took the team to the Division Two championship. Pickles was voted Gordon Bowers Young Cricketer of the Year on account of his 528 runs, while Cleckheaton bowlers Baxter (57 wkts) and Leng (33 wkts) occupied places second and third respectively in the league bowling averages.
The euphoria did not last when in the following year in 1984 they were relegated despite regular runs from Baxter who scored 569 including a top score of 132not out. Pickles (682) and Ian Gatenby (540) also scored consistent runs. Seamer Kevin Tighe had a good first season with 43 wickets, and he would continue to be their mainstay with hauls of 71, 46, 57, 46 and 55 in the subsequent seasons.
Cleckheaton were on a downward spiral that lasted ten years. They gradually went down to the lower reaches of Division Two despite having some very worthy performers.
Batsmen Gatenby (593 runs), Brendon Brookes (437 runs), Jonathan Firth (587 runs), Simon Horkin (689 runs), Brett Crabtree (647 runs), John Garstang (503 runs), Martin Evans (538 runs), and Martin South (566 runs) all had good one-off seasons, while Tighe kept them afloat with the ball. But, it was left-arm Jamie Robinson who impressed mostly with his feat in 1988 of winning the league bowling averages with 69 wickets at 8.93. In the same year Greg Hutchinson won the league wicketkeeping award for taking 38 victims.
Cleckheaton had great success with their overseas signing Suresh Shetty who took 81 wickets and scored 586 runs in 1991. Despite his efforts for the team they were in mid-table, and this would get worse when they finished bottom of the pile in 1993. Batsman South could not be blamed for their re-election plight having made the record books that year for three successive not out centuries. He went on to score 736 runs at an impressive 49.07.
Incredibly Cleckheaton’s fortunes changed dramatically when in 1994 Chris Fisk skippered them to the Division Two Championship. The left-handed Fisk contributed 939 runs, while South improved his previous year’s tally with 821. Abey Kuruvilla, the overseas signing, ensured they bowled sides out with 87 wickets to go with his 324 useful runs in middle order.
Kuruvilla stood like a tower, 6 ft 5 in tall and coupled with his broad frame cut an imposing figure on the field. He played ten Test matches for India taking 25 wickets with a best performance of 5-68. He took 75 wickets at Moorend in 1995 but could not prevent Cleckheaton finishing bottom.
Back in Division Two in 1996, all-rounder Paul Winrow had a remarkable season scoring 861 runs at 57.40, and also taking 39 wickets. He had several more years at Cleckheaton invariably topping 500 runs and taking useful wickets. His next best season was in 1998 when he helped Cleckheaton to the Division Two title with 656 runs and 36 wickets. He left to share Woodlands early successes before joining Barkisland in the Huddersfield League.
Left hander Carl Sharp was a model of consistency with the bat in this era. He scored 1,005 runs in 1996 with a top score of 127 and an average of 47.86, followed by more impressive run tallies of 814 and 827 in 1998.
The Division Two title-winning side of 1998 was an impressive one. Besides the exploits of Winrow and Sharp, the League Bowling Averages was won by pace bowler Adam Swallow who took 71 wickets at 10.11. On the batting front skipper Pickles, in scoring 1,423 league and cup runs, was completing 1,000 Bradford League runs for a fourth time. James Stansfield finished with a tally of 37 wickets, and 311 runs to become Gordon Bowers Young Cricketer of the Year. There were also useful bowling contributions from Andy Yates and Alistair Long.
The 1999 season, the first back in Division One, was a struggle from the first match, but they looked like finishing in a mid-table position until form deserted them in the latter half of the season. It was an incredibly close relegation scrap with three points separating the last four teams, with Cleckheaton surviving by the skin of their teeth. The point taken from the season's last match against Yorkshire Bank left the team equal on points with local rivals Spen Victoria, and only the extra win gained pushed their neighbours into the lower division.
There was a struggle to find consistency throughout the team, but the season wasn’t without some high points and outstanding performances. The first of these high points was the early introduction into the team of Andrew Gale. Joining the previous year from Gomersal, the promising junior was playing regular first team cricket by the end of the season. Not only had he progressed from the junior ranks to play second and then first team cricket, but was now also involved in the Yorkshire setup.
The main highlight was Pickles' achievement in recording 1,000 Bradford League runs for a record-breaking fifth time whilst taking the H Foster Jubilee Trophy” for the player with the highest average (60.85) in Division One. He also figured in the highest opening batting partnership in the league that season of 194 with Sharp.
Kanwaljeet Singh, an experienced Indian off spin bowler, joined a month into the season. His introduction, in the final analysis, made the difference between staying up and making a quick return to the division. His figures of 49 wickets in the averages didn't look startling, but he managed to stifle some of the league's very best batsmen. His performance in the win against Baildon, when he finished with figures of 19-13-10-5 was most definitely a turning point in the season, but stints every bit as effective against Spen Victoria, Bradford & Bingley, and Undercliffe (twice) gained the team valuable points from each of these games.
With Pickles still steering the ship in 2000 season they finally proved they could compete with leading teams in the top flight. They ended the campaign in their highest-ever position in the league when they claimed third place behind champions Pudsey Congs and Bradford & Bingley. It was the first time in their 25 years in the Bradford League that the Cclub had managed to stay for a third-successive season in the top flight.
Marquee signings for 2000 were spin bowler Paul Booth from Meltham, and leading wicketkeeper batsman Mark Gill from Windhill. Booth captured 64 wickets at an average of 14.14 each, and but for injury in mid-season which forced him to miss six games, he would most certainly have taken many more wickets than he did. Gill finished the season with 31 victims, 18 of which were stumpings. He was also a very useful performer with the bat scoring 594 runs at an average of 28.29. Pickles (627) and Winrow (730) both made major contributions whilst the latter represented the Bradford League in the Yorkshire Leagues’ Knockout Trophy where in the final he deservedly won the “Man of the Match” award with a fine performance with both bat and ball.
Booth was a left-arm orthodox spinner who played 23 games for Yorkshire from 1982 to 1989, and 37 for Warwickshire from 1990 to 1993, taking 107 wickets in his career at 40.19, with a best of 5-98. A lower-order batsman, he made 830 runs in total, with a best of 62, at 13.38. He figured impressively in the nineties Meltham side who won the Yorkshire Champions Trophy twice.
The next two seasons brought real struggle on the field at Cleckheaton. Times were so bad that in 2002 the team just avoided. Even with Yorkshire players Richard Pyrah, who became the League’s Young Player of theYear, and Chris Brice in the side, the Moorenders would have been relegated if it hadn’t been decided at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Bradford League to relegate only two teams instead of the usual three.
Ironically, Lancashire’s Steve Titchard, had taken over the captain's role from Booth in 2002, but failed to find that important spark, and had a nondescript season with the bat. He was in Lancashire’s star-studded, but under performing team of the 199’s. Constantly moved up and down the order, his solidity and percentage play were a reassuring presence, although he was frequently overlooked for limited-over matches.
Titchard was rarely a first choice at Lancashire, but international calls meant that he was frequently needed to replace a more illustrious star. He usually batted at number five, having to score quick runs as the tail fell away - not a role to suit him. An average of 32 for Lancashire would have been higher had he been a regular, rather than a constant reserve, although Titchard’s patient accumulation allowed the more attacking batsmen to play their strokes in a stable partnership
Gill was Cleckheaton’s most consistent player during these two years with run hauls of 844 and 766. Although destined for an abundance of honours at Woodlands, Pyrah impressed with 717 runs, while Brice took 38 wickets in 2002.
After an exodus of players at the end of the 2002 season, the club looked in a very vulnerable position with no captain and only half a team. After four years working hard to maintain Bradford League Division One status it was vital to recruit well. Adam Patel was signed from Baildon along with keeper Anthony Daniels from Castleford. Pakistani fast bowler Faisal Irfan was recruited, and Gale freed from Academy duties.
The side was still looking a little light and without a skipper until following a chance conversation Ian Austin, who had recently been freed by Lancashire, remarked that he would like to try his hand in the Bradford League, and he, with all his innovative ideas, was welcomed by Cleckheaton. He subsequently led a rather inexperienced side to fifth position in the league.
Austin made his first-class debut for Lancashire in 1987 and remained with the county for his entire career, scoring 3,778 runs at 27.98 and taking 262 wickets at 30.35 with his medium-pace seamers in his 124 matches.
Enormously popular with the Lancashire crowd thanks to his uncomplicated batting style and equally old-fashioned waistline, his most successful period came towards the end of his career. In 1998, he was very influential in his county winning both the NatWest Trophy and Sunday League success. He rapidly became a one-day specialist having the ability to bowl a teasing, negative line and length and cleverly taking the pace off the ball. He made his One Day International debut against Sri Lanka later in the summer.
His influence on the Cleckheaton side in his two years at the club was enormous, but his effectiveness as a cricketer was incomparable. In 2003 he scored 726 runs and finished second in the league bowling averages with 59 wickets. He would better this considerably in 2004 by scoring 1,025 runs at 60.29 to win the league batting averages, and also recorded the highest score in the league with 163not out against Pudsey Congs. Both seasons he walked away with the Sir Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy.
He was instrumental in pioneering coloured clothing into Bradford League cricket when his team turned out clad in dark green and red outfits against Bankfoot in the first round of the Priestley Cup in 2003. Cleckheaton promoted prestige floodlight Twenty/20 matches in subsequent years to illustrate their progression as a club.
The left-handed Gale came of age in 2003 with 784 runs, and two years later in 2005 scored 1,107 runs at 52.71. He established himself as a key member of Yorkshire’s side shortly afterwards playing for England Lions and eventually being appointed captain. His First Class record up to the end of 2014 was 6,601 runs at 37.93 with a top score of 272.
Following Austin’s return to the Lancashire League for the 2005 season, John Wood, who had previously played with Spen Victoria, took up the challenge and will embark on his 11th season in 2015. He took his brother Ian and Kez Ahmed with him from Spen.
Wood soon announced his presence scoring 499 hard-hit runs, and taking 44 wickets in a season when he took his side to fifth in the league. He is a bustling player who can bowl very quick short spells and is capable of producing the unplayable ball. His greatest day in league cricket came when he blasted Pudsey St Lawrence out in the 1990 Priestley Cup Final with a haul of 7-20. It was a controlled and very hostile spell of fast bowling that indicated a county career in the future.
He played 115 First Class matches spending time at both Durham and Lancashire. He took 318 wickets with a best performance of 7-58. He was a tail-end batsman albeit capable of a career best score of 64. For Cleckheaton he is a major batsman who often takes the game away from the opposition with powerful strokeplay.
Yorkshire’s Joe Sayers made several appearances at Moorend in 2005 when free from his county duties. As a county cricketer great things were expected of him as an opening batsman, and a potential captain. He faded from the scene after illness and loss of form, but did record 5,427 first class runs at an average of 33.50 with a top score of 187.
Despite a very solid look about the 2006 side they sank to third bottom. Pakistani overseas player Khurram Shehzad certainly justified his presence with 602 runs at 46.31, as did Patel who followed up his 728 runs in 2004 with 581 in 2006. Ian Nicholson had a promising debut season with 458 runs.
In 2007 Cleckheaton finished a creditable fourth despite not having a single batsman in the league bowling averages. The strength was in their bowling with Craig Wiseman (36), Mohammed Zaman (36), Iain Wardlaw (41) and Tom Pringle (38) sharing the wickets. Zaman proved to be a genuine all-rounder when in the following year he scored 698 runs at 58.17 and in doing so won the league batting averages.
Wardlaw enjoyed several seasons at Hartshead Moor ignoring the overtones of the big clubs as he slowly learnt his trade. When he moved to Cleckheaton his progress was steady rather than meteoric but he did eventually gain favour with Yorkshire who offered him Second Team matches. He grew into county standard by scientific coaching and a will to succeed and was offered a contract. Although he played with an emphasis on limited over games rather than First Class he did well enough to make the Scotland national side. He was released by Yorkshire at the end of the 2013 season.
Another player to shine in 2007 was wicketkeeper Mally Nicholson. He replaced the outstanding Gill behind the stumps with great aplomb and also proved himself more than useful with the bat in the middle-order. Over the next four seasons he was to prove himself the league’s leading wicketkeeper by taking the F Milton Watmough Trophy in four-successive seasons between 2007 and 2010, the David Bairstow Golden Gloves Trophy in 2007 and 2008. In 2007 he won the Stan Longbottom Safe Hands Trophy and in the same year became the sixth Cleckheaton player since its inception to receive the Gordon Bowers Young Cricketer of the Year Trophy.
Cleckheaton reached the final of the Priestley Cup for the first time in 2007. It was a gilt-edged opportunity to win their first senior silverware in the league. However, they were well beaten by a Pudsey Congs team that totalled 259-4, before bowling the Moorenders out for 172. Despite their defeat it was the mark of a club who were edging closer to honours.
From 2008 to 2012 Cleckheaton were between fourth and seventh in the table without really challenging at the top. Often they would finish with a flourish and look like title contenders, but invariably their sluggish start negated their chances. More than one occasion they started the season with four straight defeats.
Twins Edward and Marcus Walmsley, who had both progressed through the junior teams, came into contention during this period after having first team experience at Bankfoot.
Ian Wood had a particularly good season in 2009 with 41 wickets. Often under the shadow of his brother John, the self effacing all-rounder dug his team out of troubled waters on many occasions. When the ball is swinging he has few peers in the league, and has the knack of breaking difficult partnerships. He has also battled well in crisis times.
Leg ppinner Pringle was a 30-wicket a season man in his four years at Moorend. He left to join the all-conquering York side in the Yorkshire League where his wicket tally increased considerably.
Mark Cummins proved to be an excellent sheet-anchor opener with 552 runs in 2009, followed by 605 and 702 in subsequent seasons, while his more aggressive partner John Wood scored 622 runs in 2009 and 718 in 2011.
The capture of Yorkshire contracted fast bowler James Lee was considered to be a coup in 2011. He marked his first season with 456 ebullient runs to go with his 57 wickets. Lee’s urge to bowl the unplayable ball from a long run-up often affects his control, but he is capable of delivering the `killer’ ball to dismiss even the better batsmen. Batting in the middle order his game was ideal for accelerating the scoring rate. Lee made his first-class cricket debut for Yorkshire during the 2006 season, and after his release from the county has had many fine bowling performances for Leeds/Bradford University.
There was always a feeling in league circles that Cleckheaton don’t always punch their weight given the players in their ranks. This was all to end in 2013 when after a rare good start to the season they achieved the holy grail of the First Division title led by an inspiring captain in John Wood.
It was essentially a team effort but Tim Jackson’s 1,018 runs at 48.48 with a top score of 127not out was the catalyst for the title win. He joined from Saltaire in 2011 and found his feet with 371 runs, followed by 519 runs at 30.53 in 2012. His batting at the top of the order in 2013 was consistent and ensured good starts for his team more often than not. This was recognised by his fellow players when he was chosen as the Player of the Year. He also picked up the eague’s fielding trophy for the second time in three seasons. Jackson was a good illustration of a cricketer who had worked on his game to reach the very top of league cricket.
Apart from Jackson, vital runs were scored by Amar Mahmood (558), Mally Nicholson (445), Richard Whitehurst (413) and Lee (303). Another key player was the unsung spinner Andrew Deegan who was originally brought in from Bankfoot. He was Cleckheaton’s most effective bowler with 41 wickets, followed by Lee with 32.
Long-standing chairman David Worrall had overseen many initiatives over the years and had been progressive with his outlook. He helped to pioneer Twenty/20 cricket, and was instrumental in bringing Ian Austin to the club. Nobody worked harder than him to pursue the long-term vision of the title with John Wood at the helm.
Cleckheaton had joined the ranks of the big clubs and to prove their worth they retained the title success in retaining it for 2014.The two critical league matches were against Woodlands when they tied at home in a match they should have won, but won away when the home side looked to be on the way to chasing their target. With Simon Mason of Woodlands in destructive form he was dismissed by a fantastic one-handed catch on the boundary edge by Lee when the ball looked to be sailing over for six runs.
In the end Cleckheaton won the title in some comfort by 33 points with six batsmen in the league averages in James Lee (442 runs), Mally Nicholson (573 runs), Tanzeel Altaf (461 runs), Andy Gorrod (521runs), Jackson (400 runs) and Ian Nicholson (358 runs). Although spinners Andrew Deegan (41 wkts) and Altaf (57 wkts) took the bowling honours statistically it was John Wood and Ian Wood who invariably tied the opposition batting down. They were both beset with injuries and bowled spasmodically, but when they were in action they had wonderful control.
Cleckheaton recorded the best opening partnership in the division when Gorrod (124) and Jackson (92) put on 192 for the first wicket against Farsley.
Tanzeel Altaf, the Pakistani overseas player, was enigmatic with a spark of genius about him. He committed suicide with the bat on several occasions, and often bowled four-balls as a leg break bowler. But, his panache for scoring quickly when established at the crease was indisputable, and his knack for causing mid-order batting collapses when called upon was key to his team’s success.
The cup competitions were eventful but of a bitter-sweet experience. Knocked out of the Heavy Woollen Cup in the first round by New Farnley, they progressed in the Priestley Cup assisted by a fortunate draw where they met three second division clubs in Brighouse, Windhill, and Undercliffe. In the final they were no match for Pudsey St Lawrence who prevailed by the margin of 107 runs. After limiting the Pudsey club to 223-9 after it could have been much higher, they capitulated to spin, and latterly the pace of Riche Lamb.
The signs were promising in the prestigious Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions when they knocked out the holders Hoylandswaine by 56 runs in the first round. Batting first, Gorrod (38) and Jackson (27) put on 72 for the first wicket, and with Ian Nicholson adding 56 the final total of 204 appeared to be slightly below par. Hoylandswaine were nicely placed at one point but Ian Wood (3-30) and Altaf (4-27) ensured they would not reach the target and they fell 56 runs short.
The much anticipated semi-final with York proved to be a disaster when they conceded 252 runs with an attack devoid of the Wood brothers. John was unfit to bowl, and Ian broke down after just three balls. In essence the depleted bowling attack did well to keep a powerful York batting side to the score they did. However, they batted without care and attention, and little fight as they slumped to 102 all-out and an embarrassing 150-run defeat.
Retaining the title in 2014 was an appropriate way to celebrate their 150th anniversary- an occasion marked by a fine book written by their historian Bob Speight. His roles in the club have been vital as club secretary and league representative amongst his duties. Astonishingly he has also been the official scorer since 1961.
The prospect of a hat-trick of title wins for Cleckheaton soon disintegrated after a less than convincing start to the 2015 season. However, they stayed on the fringe of the title race in third place ready to strike if Pudsey St Lawrence’s late season dip in form had continued. They failed to make an impact in the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champion Trophy again, this time going out at the first stage at Woodhouse Grange. There was also disappointment in the Priestley Cup when they surprisingly fell at struggling Lightcliffe.
Jackson had another season to remember scoring 888 runs at 52.24 and at one time looked well placed for a thousand. His opening partner Gorrod contributed 737 runs, while skipper John Wood also topped 500-runs. The seam attack of Curtis Free (40 wkts) and Wardlaw (42 wkts) was one of the division’s best. Former Doncaster opening bowler Free impressed in his first season and had trials with Durham.
Long serving Ian Wood decided to retire after perennial injury problems. He had forged a reputation during his career as one of the best `first change’ bowlers in the league.
Bob Speight was awarded the Sir Len Hutton Trophy in 2015 for services to cricket. He had been the club's official scorer for the past 54 years, apart from a two-year stint as a player, and an even shorter break due to family and work commitments. He has also been club secretary for 26 years, and instrumental in the club retaining the all important Clubmark accreditation.
Cleckheaton built their hopes for 2016 on Pakistani left-arm quick bowler Mohammad
Bilawal, who arrived with an impressive reputation. However, the slower wickets were not to his taste and he failed to adapt his game and ended the season with just 20 league wickets at the considerable expense of 44.35 each.
The team won eight and lost the same number in a season where they were in mid-
table. The outstanding batsman was Mohammad Zaman who scored 643 runs at 45.93,
while the most consistent bowler was Curtis Free who took 35 wickets at 27.11. Chris Holliday (677 runs), Ian Nicholson (446 runs) and John Wood (546 runs)
were the mainstays of the batting with Zaman.