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2002: Treble for Pudsey Congs as Birstall win CYCL and Great Preston secure a double

2002: Treble for Pudsey Congs as Birstall win CYCL and Great Preston secure a double

Manchester United might have won a famous treble in 1999, but Pudsey Congs were the treble winners in the Bradford Cricket League in 2002.

The Congs had previously won two successive titles and a Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy, and they entered the 2002 season as favourites for every competition they entered. The fact that they won them all epitomised the heights they had reached in senior cricket, in such a short time.

To add spice to the achievement was the fact that their local rivals Pudsey St Lawrence were the runners-up in both the domestic competitions. The Congs prevailed by nine points in the league and was equally decisive in the cup when they beat them by eight wickets in the final.

 It was an unprecedented feat winning the domestic double and the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy in the same season, and the first time it had been done.

The stand-out individual performance was from Rana Naveed, above, who won the Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy, and the League Bowling Averages with 79 wickets, coupled with 399 runs with the bat.

Other outstanding performers were Andy Bethel (739 runs), skipper Matthew Doidge (425), Babar Butt (523), and Neil Gill (47 wkts). Gareth Clough also played when county duties allowed.

Rana made such a big stir in the Bradford League that Ray Illingworth thought that Yorkshire should snap him up. They did not – until much later when the fire went out of his bowling. Sussex were the beneficiaries of his talent as he helped them win county titles in 2006 and 2007.

The impact he made at Sussex was such that a Test career with Pakistan beckoned. In all First Class matches he has taken 626 wickets with a best analysis of 7-49 and scored five centuries with a top score of 139.

In the Priestley Cup Final, Yorkshire contacted player Vic Craven won  the Man of the Match Award when putting his team well on the way to their target.

A left-handed top order batsman and occasional right arm medium pace bowler, he played in thirty-three first-class matches, and scored 1,206 runs at 24.61, with a top score of 81 not out. Craven only had a short time at the Congs before having successful spells at Methley and Harrogate.

Congs retained the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy in 2002 playing virtuoso cricket all the way. In the First Round at Copley they broke the competition record for the highest score when recording a massive 413-7 with Rana top scoring with 101. They then defeated Bilton and Townville (Mark Bray 6-40), with some comfort, before facing Sheffield Collegiate in the final at Streethouse.

The Yorkshire League team were more difficult opponents but failed to pass the Congs score of 231-9 to lose by 59 runs.

For the historians, the regular team for 2002 was: Andy Bethel, Vic Craven, Neil Nicholson, Babar Butt, Gareth Clough, Matthew Doidge, Rana Naveed, Glenn Roberts, Neil Gill, Gary Brook, Mark Bray. This was probably the Congs finest team of all time.

 If Clough was on county duty the bearded Nijat Khan would come into the side as a utility player who could bat and bowl. His abilities were amply illustrated in the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Final defeat of Sheffield Collegiate when he won the Man of the Match Award.

Congs would go on and dominate the league in future seasons and replicated their treble achievement two years later.

St Lawrence were worthy challengers with Tariq Aziz winning the league batting averages with 51.35, and James Smith claiming second place on 50.54. Ian Priestley topped 500-runs and made the Fastest Fifty in 2002 in the little matter of 21 balls.

The 22-year old Smith, who had been part of the Yorkshire Academy, was developing into one of the top batsmen in the league.

The batting was strong enough at Tofts Road, but the bowling was not penetrative enough with only seamer Gary Severn, who took 45 wickets, making serious inroads into the opposition’s batting.

Yorkshire’s Bradley Parker topped the Second Division Batting Averages with 908 runs at 75.67 as his side Gomersal won the league to gain promotion.

There were several class acts in the Second Division including Mark Gilliver (above), Richard Robinson, Pat Fordham, Chris Schofield, and David Jay. Gilliver scored 1,328 league runs, while Robinson topped the Second Division Bowling Averages.

Future county men also won individual honours. Richard Pyrah (Cleckheaton) won the Gordon Bowers Young Cricketer of the Year Trophy, while Mark Lawson (Farsley), won the Ernest Lodge Young Spinner of the Year Trophy.

Robinson was a huge influence on Keighley’s team, and he drove them to a fifth place in Division Two, and a surprise Heavy Woollen Cup final triumph over Baildon. During a period when Bradford League clubs were dominating this competition Keighley shocked a previous winner – Baildon 212-6, Keighley 216-4.

Birstall top dogs in Central Yorkshire League

The Central Yorkshire League Premier League was won by Birstall after being on top virtually from the start.

Ostensibly, it was a side with few stars led by Paul Marlowe, but it gelled together well to produce a top team spirit. It contained a mixture of youth and experience and remained unbeaten for the first half of the season. They finally won the league by the end of August having lost just three matches.

Paul Blakeley (above) was the inspiration and topped the League Bowling Averages with 51 wickets at 17.33.

He had a reputation of bowling extremely accurately and was exceedingly difficult to score off in league cricket. His batting ability was also unquestioned; often scoring runs when they were most needed for his side. To prove his all-round class, he won the Premier League All Rounder Award in 2000 and 2001.

Blakeley, a right-handed batman, and right arm medium-pace bowler played Minor Counties cricket for Shropshire from 1993 to 1994, making 14 appearances.  He made only one List A appearance against Somerset in the 1993 NatWest Trophy.

New Farnley gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time, while Methley won the Jack Hampshire Cup.

Great Preston trophy winners in the Wetherby League

Great Preston enjoyed their most successful period in the Wetherby League during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Led by Ian Newton and including overseas player Danny Ward, they 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, they ‘swept the board’ in 2003, adding the Fred Fleetwood Cup to the League and Evening League Cup.

Top picture: Pudsey Congs' Famous five, Neil Gill, Gary Brook, Matthew Doidge, Andy Bethel and  Babar Butt who all features in the 2002 treble-winning side.

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