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Bowled over by Alex Stead's batting

Bowled over by Alex Stead's batting

From time to time, one gets a Sir Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy winner who is by far a stronger batsman than a bowler.

However, although this might apply to Roger Alexander Stead, his win in 2009 gave no indication of this.

Indeed, there could be no complaints about his award that year as he scored 628 runs at 32.70, with a top score of 116 not out, and took 37 wickets at 17.95 for Pudsey St Lawrence.

This was the season when his medium pace bowling came together to the tune of sundry vital wickets.

Ironically, Alex regarded the season as a slightly disappointing one, “Actually, I felt that I should have scored more runs, and taken more wickets. But do not get me wrong, it was a great to win given the calibre of players who had gone before me.”

He could take the new ball, but essentially, he was a containing bowler in the middle overs who came in from a lengthy run-up and bowled wicket-to-wicket.

“I tried to cut it away from the right hander, but mainly tried to hit the seam pretty hard”, he said.

Alex, who was born in Dewsbury, is a specialist right-handed batsman, and right-arm medium pacer.

He was on Yorkshire’s books for several seasons and played regularly for Yorkshire Seconds. One of his highlights was scoring 170 against Surrey 2ndX1 in July 2002 at Todmorden.

He made his first-class debut for Durham UCCE against Durham in 2001, and played his second and final first-class match in the same season against Worcestershire.

He later joined Cumberland in 2007, making his Minor Counties Championship debut against Staffordshire. He played for Cumberland in seven Minor Counties Championship games before joining Staffordshire in 2010.

Alex explains: “In those days counties had 15 or so core players, and it was very difficult to break in- unlike today with the central contracts and the many different formats of cricket. However, I was happy to complete my degree at university. I do feel sorry for the likes of James Smith, who is one of my best friends, who would have had far greater chances today to break through to the county circuit.”

Alex first caught the eye in the Bradford League in 1996 as a 15-year-old in Lightcliffe’s first team, playing under his father Roger who was skipper. He scored an admirable 606 runs at 27.55.

Later he would join Bradford & Bingley and in 2001 scored 598 league runs for the Wagon Laners.

Alex’s brilliant spell at Tofts Road

However, he started to make waves at Pudsey St Lawrence from 2003, when over the next eight seasons he topped 600 league runs with the bat, his best being in 2005 with 865.

He also recorded the highest league score of 2008 when he rattled up 187 not out against Brighouse.

Pudsey St Lawrence 2007  Back: Gary Severn, Duncan Butler, Alex Stead, Iain Priestley, Tom Stray, Steve Brown Front row left to right: Mark Robertshaw, Taimour Shahid, James Smith, Kasir Maroof, Graeme Wrightson

Pudsey St Lawrence 2010: Back: Chris Marsden, Gary Severn, David Hester, Matthew Lumb, Steve Watts, Alex Stead, Craig Thomas.  Front row. Steve Thompson, Mark Robertshaw, James Smith, Gareth Clough, Iain Priestley

His 281-run opening partnership with Mark Robertshaw also represented the league’s highest opening stand of the year and set a new club record. He hit two sixes and 26 fours to enable St Lawrence to declare on 339 for two after 46.1 overs.

Alex is full of admiration for Mark, he said:  “He was old before his years, he found a way of safely utilising his strong shots early in his career, and was never fazed.”

Alex enjoyed his time at Pudsey, but regretted they came up short regarding honours, “Pudsey Congs were the dominant side and we didn’t get a look in. We were short of an opening bowler to support Gary Severn. But, it was a top club.”

Alex Returns to Lightcliffe

When Stead returned to his home club Lightcliffe in 2011, eyebrows were raised. The club might not have been as fashionable as St Lawrence, but they were a side on the up. With former Yorkshire player Chris Taylor averaging 95.77 with the bat, they just pipped Saltaire to the Second Division title.

Stead’s contribution was a telling one as he scored 672 runs to go with his 31 wickets.

Back in the First Division in 2012, they didn’t merely consolidate- they challenged Woodlands and East Bierley strongly for the title. On the final day of fixtures, each of the three sides could have taken the title on the day.

Well after the tea interval, it appeared that Lightcliffe were the favourites and the championship trophy was actually being driven on Huddersfield Road towards Lightcliffe.

Unfortunately for them, Woodlands spoilt their party in an incredible game with Bradford & Bingley. Spectators at Albert Terrace still scratch their heads with amazement as to how this game was won and lost.

After being bowled out for 153 by a depleted Bradford & Bingley side, Woodlands were facing certain defeat with their opponents poised for victory on 149-6.

Somehow the Bingley batters conspired to get themselves out and didn’t manage to score another run to hand Woodlands the title.

Priestley Cup Win

Lightcliffe 2013 Priestley Cup winning side included the current England seam bowler Ollie Robinson. Back: Moin Ashraf, David Hester, Josh Wheatley, Ollie Robinson, Jonathan Wilson, Mahmood Rasool, Suleman Khan. Front: Mark Horne, Alex Stead, Chris Taylor, Charlie Roebuck, Danyaal Ahmed, Jack Booth (scorer)

If 2012 had a bittersweet ending, 2013 fulfilled all Lightcliffe’s new ambitions as they won the Priestley Cup by beating Hanging Heaton  at Farsley. Stead scored 705 league runs that year, and top scored in the final with a solid 45 as his side, which included England seamer Ollie Robinson, eased to a seven wicket win.

Although Lightcliffe began to falter and were relegated in 2019, Stead was still a model of consistency with the bat.

In 2014 he scored 766 league runs at 42.56 with a top score of 152, followed by season tallies of 724. 792 and 549.

He would build an innings based on taking every ball on its merit but would ruthlessly punish the bad ball when offered.

However, a particularly bludgeoning century in 2004 would stand out in his mind when he hit seven sixes and six fours against Saltaire when Pudsey St Lawrence successfully chased 286-9.

He also scored centuries in the Priestley Cup competition - none better than the 122 runs he struck against East Bierley in 2018 when he hit two sixes and 15 fours in a Lightcliffe score of 314-4

Since the turn of the century, Alex is up there with a small band of batters in the league that can claim to be the best. In the decade of 2010-2019, only Mark Robertshaw scored more league runs in the top flight, as Stead hit 6,359.

He has now scored in excess of 14,000 league runs, but regrets one thing. “I would have loved to have got a thousand runs in a season, but just fell short. I’ve batted on two of the best tracks in the league in Pudsey’s and Lightcliffe, but probably played too many shots early on in my innings”.

“But, I’ve scored a century in every premier league season I have played in” said Alex.

For the future, Alex is at the centre of getting Lightcliffe back to where they belong, “Looks like I won’t be retiring anytime soon! We have some highly promising young lads like Tom Burton, and we’ll just have to see how it goes. There are a lot of `new’ teams to play this next season”.

One of them is Buttershaw St Paul’s who Alex admires a lot: “I know Paul Carroll quite well and I know the club is doing things the right way, catering for teams of every type”.

Looking back to last season Alex said: “It was a good standard in the First Division last season, and we soon found that out after being beaten heavily by Birstall in the first league game.”

 Tribute from Chairman Bob

Lightcliffe’s Chairman Bob Horne had this to say about, Alex: “He made his Lightcliffe debut as a 15-year-old in 1995, with his dad Roger, his captain. The following season he scored more than 600 runs, whereupon he was snapped up by Bradford & Bingley, to play Division One cricket.

“He stayed with them through his years at Durham University, where he played First Class cricket under the management of Graeme Fowler. He also toured South Africa with the university. He obtained a Yorkshire CCC contract on leaving Durham”.

“He played in the seconds for a year but batted low down and was given little chance to bowl. He was moved up the order and hit 150 against Surrey but was not retained.”

“He was back with us for a season in the First Division in 2001 but moved to Pudsey St Lawrence when we were relegated. It must be said that Keith Moss is a great admirer of him. He came back to us in 2011.

“He is a stylish, correct and utterly destructive batsman and has played many memorable innings for us during the past 10 years. He now bowls less, which is a pity because he always takes wickets when he comes on.

“Apart from his ability, he is a pivotal member of the side. He knows the game, captained us for a couple of years, and is never overawed by individuals or strong teams because he is at least their equal.

“He also does much work with junior cricket at Lightcliffe, and further helps with other areas of running our club, as you'd expect from a member of a family who do so much. A further link is former Yorkshire & Derbyshire batsman Chris Taylor who is his brother-in-law”.

 

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