To say that Jamie Abbott has now taken a record-breaking 1,192 second-team wickets in the Bradford Premier League, achieving the landmark with the first ball of what would prove to be a hat-trick, his life as a cricketer had a far from auspicious start.
The leg-spinner from Baildon did not play much school cricket at either Belmont Middle School or Salt Grammar School, and maybe when you hear Jamie’s story you will understand why.
He remembered: “We played two games for Belmont when I was 12 or 13. The first game was against Wellington, who made about 120 and we were all out for three. Two of those were wides and I got the one run!
“The game after we improved and got 19 all out against Ladderbanks, but it was probably no surprise that we stopped playing cricket at Belmont after that!”
Being the fourth generation of Abbotts to represent Baildon at cricket, it is no surprise that Jamie ended up at Jenny Lane.
He explained: “My dad David was second XI captain, was on the committee and became chairman and held the club together for a bit.
“My mum Linda was membership secretary for a long time, and both loved their cricket, and my brother Robin played for Baildon too.
“I started with Baildon at under-nines and played right through the age groups, and I can remember for the under-17s team that we signed a promising player from Keighley called Richard Robinson (whose record tally of 17,476 Bradford League first-team runs is set to fall this season)!
“He was our star man and was two or three years older than me, and he sent me a congratulatory message on the record.”
Jamie said of his senior bow: “I made my second-team debut when I was 14, and it was a memorable game against Keighley at Jenny Lane - good weather and Horace Hartley was umpiring, the father of Neil.
“David Jaques, the Keighley captain came in and said ‘How old are you?’ and I said ‘14’ and he said something along the lines of ‘Make sure that you enjoy it’.
“I batted in a match-winning partnership, making 12 in 25 overs batting at eight or nine. I didn’t bowl but played three games when I was 15 and started bowling regularly when I was 16.
“I didn’t always bowl leg-spin, and it was Alan Douglas at the Bradford Indoor Schools’ trials at Nab Wood School who suggested that I change from off-spin to leg-spin.
“He said that my delivery stride was too long to bowl off-spin and that I would be better trying leg spin, and then, when I was 15 or 16, I used to go to some indoor nets that David “George” Batty (Bradford League’s record wicket-taker with 1,823 victims) used to run at Bingley, where his lad Gareth (who went on to play for Yorkshire, Surrey, Worcestershire and England) trained with us a little bit.
“’George’ said: ‘You are not going to spin it a lot, but you are going to be accurate’, and that has always been true.
“I found that I could land it, and in some respects my weakness has been my strength and my strength has been my weakness, and because I am not trying to do too much with it I can be consistent.
“Maybe if I had tried more variations early on, I would have lost my accuracy, so I just stuck to what I knew.
“My googly was bowled by accident, and I have two or three different deliveries depending on the pitch, including the one that goes straight on.”
One obvious question is, knowing how successful he has been over a long period of time (he is in his 40s now), why other clubs did not try to tempt Jamie away from Jenny Lane,
He confessed: “The only offer I ever had to move away from Baildon was from Tong Park.
“When I was younger it wasn’t so easy to approach other people, unlike nowadays with social media, and because my family was so closely associated with Baildon no-one has ever asked me, apart from that one.
“It was an easy decision to stay but I was a little bit surprised that no-one else came in for me, and now I am at an age now where it is no longer practical, but I was surprised when I was younger that one or two clubs didn’t try.”
Another relevant question is why has Jamie, who is modest and under-stated, not played more first-team cricket for Baildon?
He said: “I played for a few seasons in the first team but we have always had outstanding bowlers such as John Marshall, who took 1,000 wickets (1,229), and Mushtaq Ahmed, who took 1,000 wickets (1,028), and even our second spinner was often our captain.”
Because bowlers were restricted to bowling 10 overs in knockout matches, a lot of Jamie’s first-team opportunities have come in cup matches, not that he has any success at the sharp end of the competitions.
He said: “I have played in quite a few of the cup games where we needed five bowlers, and in my career I have played in 10 finals and lost 10 finals! - Priestley Cup, Priestley Shield, Heavy Woollen Cup, Crowther Cup, junior finals, even a Building Society final.”
Some of Abbott’s best bowling displays for Baildon’s first XI have come at very short notice.
He revealed: “I did get six wickets in a Heavy Woollen Cup semi-final at Scholes (Bradford League) when we got a huge score, and Simon Davies got 160 or 170 and (New Zealand Test star) Colin de Grandhomme also got runs.
“Then Mushy said that he had to go to work, so I came on and got six wickets.
“In a similar story, years ago I was playing for the second team at Hanging Heaton and we got a phone call saying that Mushy had pulled a calf in the warm-up so I had to travel back to Baildon to face St Lawrence, and had to wait for a certain amount of time before I was allowed to bowl and then took five wickets.”
Abbott admits that he has been conscious of his chances of breaking the second-team all-time league wickets tally for a long time.
He said: “I became aware about 10 years ago, and I would have broken it three years ago were it not for Covid as we only played half a season, and the statistics didn’t count. If I had played that full season . . .”
A frozen shoulder has handicapped Jamie in recent years, and he admitted: “It has troubled me for the past two or three years – for example I missed the whole of the 2021 season.
“I played the second half of last year at a different level (third XI for example), and this year I am good enough to play at a decent level now that I am pretty much back at 100 per cent.
“Other than the odd broken finger, that has been it injury wise but I will probably never be 100 per cent with my shoulder, It is just bringing my arm round that hurts.”
Abbott broke the record last Saturday at home to Cleckheaton in Bradford Premier League Second XIs Division One.
He admitted: “At one point I thought that it was not going to happen because we took wickets early and I was a bit late coming on (in the 24th over when the score was 72-4).
“But I got a wicket bowled to equal the record (of Hanging Heaton’s Peter Byrne) and then got a wicket to break it, which was a good moment and I waved to my parents who were watching, so that was the first ball of the hat-trick, which was captured on film, but I didn’t want to make a big thing of it.
“The next ball the left-hander edged it to slip, and the third ball a young lad was bowled, which was my fifth or sixth hat-trick for Baildon.”
So how long will Abbott, who works in IT, carry on as a cricketer?
He said: “As long as I am still enjoying it and as long as it is not too painful, I would like to think that I have at least five more years in me.”
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