The historians generally acknowledge that cricket at Berry Lane can be traced back to at least 1884. Although some confusion exists as early references point to a Great Preston Old Hall Cricket Club, further research indicates that at no time were there two separate clubs in existence in any one year. In this respect it is reasonable to assume that at some point “Old Hall” was dropped from the club’s title.
Great Preston participated in the Sagar-Musgrave Challenge Cup, a local knockout competition, in 1891 and 1892. However, the call for league cricket proved irresistible and the club joined the newly formed Woodlesford and District League for the 1893 season. It was a successful first year as Great Preston shared top place with Methley
In 1899 a move was made to the Barkston Ash league where the club remained a constant member for 70 years. However, it was the mid 1920’s before Great Preston made its presence felt, winning the Lane Fox Cup in 1923, 1925 and 1926 and the championship followed in 1929.
Probably the best performance by a Great Preston bowler occurred in 1943 when Jake McDermott took seven Micklefield wickets without conceding a run. Other notable Great Preston cricketers of this era were Reg Wigglesworth, Tom Wigglesworth, Tom Ingle and ‘Budge’ Firth.
With the nationalisation of the mines in 1947, the ground was acquired by the National Coal Board. A new pavilion was erected and officially opened by Mr GW Firth, manager of Primrose Colliery. In 1948 a new wicket was laid, which forced the cricket club to play all their games away from home for a season.
With Norman Kilburn as captain, four more championships and another Lane Fox Cup were ample proof of the team’s calibre. In a 1964 cup tie, Whitehall were dismissed for only 23, a youthful Mick Clark taking five wickets for nine in only 41 balls. Other successful captains in the post war years were John Stainsby, J Marshall, Jim Stockwell and Sammy Parker.
With the ground now considered good enough to stage the 1968 Cup Final, the club was ready for a move to better things. It came in 1970 with admission to the Leeds League, and it took only two seasons for Great Preston to win promotion to the top division.
The prospects for First Division cricket looked bright, but there was a setback in 1974 when, owing to subsidence, the ground could not be used. The first team was forced to play every match away, with the second eleven using Swillington’s ground for home games.
Great Preston were competing well in the Leeds League and in 1979 came extremely close to winning the Second Division title.
By the 1980’s the club had developed a thriving junior section which began to dominate their respective leagues. The Under 18s won the ‘double double’ by picking up the Leeds League title and Cup in both 1983 and 1984.
To round off a memorable 1984 the under 13s won the Osgoldcross League and Des Hill Cup double. This was followed by another under 13 Osgoldcross league title in 1985, under 18s cup in 1986 and an under 15s league title in 1987.
In 1987 Kevin Roberts took all ten wickets in an innings for just 23 runs for the First Team against Pool Mills. He would repeat the feat subsequently against Olicanians- an unprecedented feat for the club.
After winning promotion in 1988 Great Preston went through an incredible phase as a cup fighting side. In 1989 they won the Hepworth Cup final after victory over Old Modernians at Colton. 16-year old Mick Foster took the Man of the Match Award scoring 82 and also taking 3 crucial wickets in a 98 run victory.
Foster went on to feature for Yorkshire in 1993, and also played for Northants before joining Durham from 1996 to 1999. In 30 first-class matches the right-handed batsman scored 1,128 runs at 23.50, with a best of 129 against Glamorgan, his only first class century. He took 61 wickets with his right arm fast medium pace at 30.14, with a best of 4 for 21 against Middlesex.
Following the cup win it was a bittersweet year in 1990 with a league campaign which proved to be such a struggle that relegation was the result. However, the Hepworth Cup was retained with a pulsating nine run win over Whitkirk at Old Modernians CC. Kevin Roberts and Adrian Knight bowling unchanged as Great Preston defended a score marginally over 200.
Though the first team narrowly failed to win promotion in 1991, a late run by the second eleven secured the division 2a title. The combined performance of both teams resulted in the award by the league of the new Walter Cussans Trophy as the “Club of the Year”. This was immensely gratifying to all the loyal workers, headed by Alan Dickinson, who laboured so hard to build the new pavilion in 1990.
Great Preston’s reputation as a cup fighting side was further enhanced in 1993 when they reached the Hepworth Cup Final, this time against Woodhouse at Old Modernians. Unfortunately this final ended in disappointment with Steve Dobson and Australian quick Darren Turner the chief tormentors.
The club celebrated 100 years of league cricket at Berry Lane that year with an U13 game against an Osgoldcross League Select XI, and also a game against a Leeds League XI. The Osgoldcross representative team included a very young Tim Bresnan of Townville CC, whilst the Leeds League team were fittingly skippered by Whitkirk opener Mick Galloway, who had led Great Preston in the past.
Ian Newton was fortunate enough to play in both games on the day, captaining the all-conquering under-13s teams to victory over the league side. This epitomised the side’s strength and illustrated why they performed a league and cup double that season for this age group.
Promotion back to the first division was eventually secured in 1994, with Australian Stuart Giles to the fore, scoring 1,016 runs. Highlights of the season included a 235-run 2nd wicket partnership between Giles and Dave Bradbrook at Cookridge, and a 9 wicket haul for Kevin Roberts at Farsley. Roberts won the League Bowling Trophy with 73 wickets at under 11 apiece.
It proved a good season for the club, with the seconds reaching the 1994 Wood Cup Final against Whitkirk at Kirkstall Educational CC and also finishing second in division 1A. Heavy rain shortly after the start of play had forced the Wood cup final to be re-arranged, but Great Preston was eventually beaten by 5 wickets despite a defiant 85 from skipper Gary Richardson. He would collect the league batting award that same year.
After a period of consolidation in division 1, the 1st team were good enough to challenge the First Division elite in 1996 and eventually finished as runners-up to a strong Carlton team. The strength of the team was built on New Zealander Ronnie Kotkamp and the consistent Kevin Roberts who formed a formidable new ball attack.
The strong Great Preston side found ample consolation when they beat their title rivals Carlton in the Hepworth Cup Final that year. It was a tense affair in a rain-ruined final at Leeds Police CC where Great Preston took the honours in a tense 4 wicket win. The heroes were Kotkamp who took 5-28 and top scorer Dave Bradbrook (38 runs) who grafted well in a low scoring affair.
That win represented the third Hepworth Cup in seven years and gave Great Preston major status in the league.
1997 saw 14-year old Gary Newton pick up the Leeds League division 1A (second team) batting award for his 750 runs at an average a little over 54. During the same season he broke the record for the highest score by a Leeds League batsman in an under 15 representative game, making 144 against Wetherby at Methley CC.
The same year witnessed the clubs first junior treble as the under 17s picked up the league, cup and play off trophies
By this time the standard of the Leeds League was generally in decline, with major clubs such as Carlton, Whitkirk, Kirkstall Educational, Esholt, Colton and Woodhouse opting to move to pastures new. The enlargement of the Aire Wharfe League was a major factor, but there were defections to other leagues as well.
Great Preston took the decision to move league ahead of the 2000 season, with a successful application to join the Wetherby League. With the club put directly into Division 1 and having lost senior players, Russell Milner’s side struggled in the league in the first two years.
However, silverware still came in their first season when they won the 2000 Fred Fleetwood Cup against South Milford. In a remarkably one-sided final Leg Spinner Andrew Clark took a hat-trick, while Chris Wormstone made 80 not out in the 9 wicket win.
The club enjoyed its most successful period in the Wetherby League during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Led by Ian Newton and including overseas player Danny Ward, the first eleven secured a League and Senior Evening League Cup double in 2002. Clark won the League Bowling Averages of 2002 with 60 wickets at 10.9. Another key performer was former county player Mick Foster who returned to take part in ten matches.
Not content with the success of 2002, the 1sts ‘swept the board’ in 2003, adding the Fred Fleetwood Cup to the League and Evening League Cup. With two games to go and the title already in the bag the team were in sight of an unbeaten season, but came unstuck at old foes Oulton.
Alongside the success of 2003 the club competed admirably in the ‘Yorkshire Champions’ competition, the ‘Black Sheep’ Trophy. Great Preston beat the Huddersfield League Champions Kirkburton, a semi-professional side, including Yorkshire opener Scott Richardson in the quarter-final.
This was an astonishing achievement for a Wetherby League side and arguably Great Preston’s best victory in their history. They met their match in the semi-final against Yorkshire League Champions Harrogate, but the team were far from humiliated despite lacking a number of regulars.
The `Blacksheep’ adventure continued another season when they defeated Killinghall of the Nidderdale League. However, a narrow defeat at Copley of the Halifax league followed in the quarterfinals prevented a visit to Berry Lane of the Bradford League champions Pudsey Congs.
In 2005, Australian Matty Love scored a club record score of 181 in a 2005 Fred Fleetwood cup tie against a Kirk Deighton side. This remains the highest recorded score by a Great Preston player.
Love and Mohammed Nawaz were key figures in the double cup success of 2005 as Great Preston overcame Barwick at Spofforth CC in the Fred Fleetwood, and Old Modernians in the Senior Evening Cup at Walton CC. Leg spinner Andy Clark was the captain of the successful sides.
In 2005 Mohammed Nawaz created an individual all round performance that is arguably unequalled in Great Preston’s history. Not content with scoring 664 runs at 66.40, he took 37 wickets at 14.4 to win both the First Division Batting & Bowling Averages.
The success of the previous season was a distant memory by the time the adjacent Miners Welfare Club closed in 2006. Although not altogether unexpected this was still a blow to those associated with the cricket club knowing that a sub-section of the club had gone. A period of uncertainty regarding the future followed amid continual rumours over the sale of the club.
The future looked dark for Great Preston CC, and even their existence was called into question. The cricket ground on Berry Lane took its power from the social club, and the cricket side club could not afford the cost of restoring electricity via an independent supply.
However, the committee worked tirelessly for a solution and eventually secured a grant of £6,000.00 from the City Council. Cricket did continue but the following couple of seasons saw the team struggle due to difficulties putting out the same team on a consistent basis. On a positive note, Russ Milner became the first batsman to pass 4,000 runs for the first team in the Wetherby League.
With the advent of new recruits and the blossoming of some talented youngsters fortunes again turned around. The 2011 season had a dramatic climax with the First Team still in with a chance of the title until the final over of the season.
After the First Team had a wrapped up a comfortable win at Walton, they were relying on St Chads Bromfield to beat Barwick and prevent them picking up a bonus point. This looked likely with St Chads needing two to win and Barwick failing to have banked a bonus point. However, a late wicket handed the latter the title.
Great Preston were encouraged by the re-opening of the social club ahead of the 2012 campaign, a season which brought another Senior Evening League Cup win for the First Team with a victory over Walton at Scarcroft CC. This represented five such wins in ten seasons.
The club decided to offer advertising space on the perimeter of the field with as many as 10 new boards being visible on match days. This not only brought in much needed income, but also created links with the wider community.
Despite the bad weather the team were in contention for the league in 2012 at the mid-way point, but they eventually finished sixth and were beaten in the semi-final of the Fred Fleetwood by cup-specialists Walton. The season also saw Andy Clark pick up his 500th wicket in the Wetherby League for the First Team.
It was entirely appropriate that the 2013 season, in celebrating the 120th year of league cricket- enjoyed exceptional success.
Stu Ruddick took up the 1st team captain’s role and led the team to the First Division title. This was secured with a victory on the final day of the season at Shadwell CC, following a close battle for top spot with Kirk Deighton CC. Great Preston were beaten in the final of the Fred Fleetwood Cup after a disappointing display against Wetherby at Shadwell CC, and also fell away at the semi-final stage of the Senior Evening Cup with a 10 wicket defeat against league runners up Kirk Deighton.
The second team enjoyed double success under the leadership of Richard ‘Tiny’ White, with a runaway title triumph in division 4 (which saw the team only beaten once all season) alongside a reserve Evening cup triumph over 2nd division Kirk Deighton ‘A’ at Old Modernians CC. The only disappointment in a tremendous season was the defeat by Headingley CC in the Sunday cup.
Off the field, two Great Preston members were rewarded for their efforts at a Yorkshire Cricket Board awards ceremony, held to recognise contributions to local cricket. Anne Clark picked up an award for her services to scoring and Richard Hiorns was named the young volunteer of the year for his efforts in promoting cricket at the club and making it available to more of the community.
Alongside the success on and off the field, the club took the decision to outsource the provision of teas to the social club. This has helped to foster better links between the social club and cricket club and the arrangement has been deemed to be a success.
The 2014 season was one which promised much but ended up being something of an anti-climax. Great Preston suffered defeat to Barwick in Elmet in the semi-final of the Evening Cup, and also in the final of the Fred Fleetwood Cup, played at Saxton CC. Having led the league for much of the season they suffered a dramatic and remarkable collapse in the final few league games to concede the title to Wetherby CC who made a late surge.
The on-field collapse coincided with better news off the field, as it was confirmed that the club had been accepted to play in the Central Yorkshire League for 2015, creating a new chapter in the history of the club.
The decision to move leagues was primarily about giving opportunities to local lads to play a better standard of cricket and attracting new players to the club. There was a fear that the lads weren't being challenged and interest was on the decline. This was aligned with news filtering through about other clubs looking to move- Old Modernians to the Aire Wharfe.
Great Preston was afforded a Division One berth in the Central Yorkshire League which was effectively the third stream division. Any notion of quiet consolidation evaporated as they embarked on a title fight with East Leeds.
Great Preston debuted in the Central Yorkshire League with an encouraging winning draw against Gildersome, with Australian Matthew King top scoring with 95*.
King arrived at Great Preston CC as the first recipient of the Giles Foster Scholarship, a scheme named after former players Stuart Giles and Michael Foster, which enables a player from Ringwood CC in Melbourne to travel and play as the Great Preston overseas player.
By 18th July they had made their title ambitions very clear when they went to Mirfield and outclassed the hosts by ten wickets. The home team had no answer to Newton (5-32) and Clark (3-39) as they were dismissed for 109. Openers Ranasinghe (61*) and King (40*) were relatively untroubled as they knocked the runs off in 17.2 overs.
When they reached August it was clear that only East Leeds could thwart their title hopes and on the 15th they played an epic match with their rivals. Batting first Great Preston made a competitive 227-8 with King scoring a dashing unbeaten century.
However, East Leeds scored consistently throughout their order, despite losing batsmen when set. The pressure increased and it wasn’t until the final tense over that they eased home in 49.4 overs. Great Preston’s Lee Russell had a fine match showing great resistance in scoring 44 runs, and also taking 4-67.
The 3-point margin drew the clubs closer but Great Preston had the advantage of simply matching their rivals’ results for the rest of the season to prevail and this is what they did.
The celebration day came when a home victory over Gildersome would mean the Division One title was theirs. They duly passed the test producing a dominating display to win by a massive 10-wicket margin. There were no title nerves with Andy Clark the chief destroyer as he took 5-57, ably assisted by Lee Russell (3-30) as the visitors were dismissed for 175.
Danusha Ranasinghe, who finished unbeaten on 90, hit 14 fours and two sixes and joined with Matty King (68 not out, including 14 fours) in an unbroken stand of 176 as the Preston openers made short work of reaching the target to seal the title in some style.
It was a triumphant debut season with several virtuoso individual performers coming to the fore. Australian Matthew King won the Division One Batting Averages with 1,030 runs at 128.75 with a top score of 153 not out, and also took the All Rounders Trophy.
King, a 29 year old left-handed opening batsman, hailed from the Monash Tigers Cricket Club in Melbourne's Premier (District) Cricket competition. In 2013/14 he recorded a high score of 50 in the 1st XI and scores of 102 and 147 in the 2nd XI. His previous experience of English conditions was in 2007 playing for Harden in the Aire Wharfe League, where he made 826 runs along with wickets.
Another influential batsman was Sri Lankan Danusha Ranasinghe who contributed 479 runs at 47.90. Ranasinghe became a UK resident after living in England for a number of years and subsequently qualified to play.
Andrew Clark, who had won the Wetherby Bowling Averages in 2002, replicated the deed in the Central Yorkshire League by taking 43 wickets at 14.09 with a top analysis of 6-18. Ian Newton had a fine season in the field taking 13 outfield catches and in consequence topped the division’s `most catches’ chart.
In the end Great Preston prevailed with ten wins and just two losses making it a points tally of 80. This proved to be nine more points than runners-up East Leeds.
Great Preston also competed well in the Jack Hampshire trophy, beating higher ranked East Ardsley by 8 wickets in the first round before suffering a narrow defeat against eventual finalists Wrenthorpe CC.
Another new venture in 2015 was Great Preston’s entry into the Heavy Woollen Cup for the first time. They suffered in the First Round when beaten by Hanging Heaton by ten wickets in a match that saw King unflustered by the opposition as he made a half-century.
Great Preston’s title win was mirrored uncannily by their Second Team who also fought off East Leeds.
In some ways it was a bittersweet experience for Great Preston to find themselves in the Bradford League Conference despite their title win. The restructure of the league to facilitate the Central Yorkshire League clubs in the new-set up dictated that the Premier League and top two Championship clubs would take their place in one of the two Championships.
However, Great Preston had won genuine silverware and stamped their authority on the cricket map in time for their move into the Bradford League Conference. They had also written another page in their history.
It had been a very eventful period for the club with 2016 signalling the third different league in three seasons.
Great Preston had a successful first season in the Conference League establishing themselves as a top three side from week four almost until the end. Having lead the table on the ninth week expectations was high, but they just could not sustain a promotion challenge.
Much of their form could be attributed to their Giles Foster Scholarship Winner Jackson Freeman, who turned out for Australian club side Ringwood Rams. He scored 708 runs at 59.00, including three centuries, and also took 47 wickets at 13.60 with his brisk seam bowling.
The best of the rest was Danusha Ranasinghe (304 runs) and Lee Russell who took 30 wickets at 15.77.
In the Heavy Woollen 2nd Round Cup-tie they had a home thriller with Championship A promotion chasers Yeadon. In a match reduced to 20-overs each because of the early season rain, Great Preston scored 165-4. Yeadon were coasting at one time until a shutter of wickets led them to needing three runs for victory off the last ball. They duly obliged by hitting a six.