The Orrell Years looks at how one charismatic Lancastrian managed to drag Woodlands from obscurity to be the best league side in Yorkshire.
Ambitious Woodlands had moved from the Bradford Central League into senior league cricket in the Central Yorkshire League in 1994. They were making steady progress while biding their time for their next big league move.
Meanwhile, Saltaire had signed Tim Orrell in 1992, who had played for Lancashire Seconds, in the hope that he would win them enough matches to preserve their Division One status. It soon appeared that he was a top-drawer batsman and he put Saltaire on the map with some fine innings.
Although his style was to `take on’ the bowling, he managed run tallies of 746, 915, 849, and 919, and this alerted the big clubs.
For the start of the 1998 season, Woodlands ambitions had grown once more, and sights were set on further advancement with the joining of the Bradford League the eventual goal.
To this end, Woodlands made their most important signing in their history when they secured Tim Orrell from Saltaire as captain.
He immediately brought discipline to the team and set the standards for further progress.
Orrell had many memorable innings in the Central Yorkshire League, and none better than his remarkable innings of 150 against Methley.
He faced their South African fast bowler Mulligan George who was taking the league by storm, and he blasted him to every corner of Albert Terrace. It was always a case of the faster they come the faster they will go with Orrell, whose only Achilles heel with the bat was good class spin bowling.
By 1999, Woodlands had engaged Indian opening batsman Nanda Kishore, and he was joined by, Richard Spittlehouse, Simon Wood and Nicky Rushworth from Saltaire.
That season was the first indication that Woodlands were capable of going places when the club reached the final of the Heavy Woollen Cup, beating Hanging Heaton, Pudsey St Lawrence and Windhill on the way, only to be defeated in the final by Baildon.
Orrell had spurred his side on and convinced them that they could compete at a higher level.
The club’s seven year tenure in the Central Yorkshire League was an invaluable grounding for their future years in the Bradford League.
By 2001, the club had finally achieved Bradford League status and celebrated by taking the Bowes Section of the Second Division, going through the season undefeated.
They possessed a team not only built for promotion, but also good enough to consolidate in the First Division for the following year.
Led by skipper Orrell, they had a fine array of talent in Russell Murray, Nicky Rushworth, Murphy Walwyn, Richard Spittlehouse and Sarfraz Ahmed. They set out to consolidate in the First Division in 2002 and they achieved that comfortably in eighth position.
The 2003 season saw the club achieve another milestone when they reached the Priestley Cup final for the first time. They were much fancied to win in the final playing Division Two opposition Bradford & Bingley at Wagon Lane and should have scored well in excess of their final score of 210-9.
Orrell had put Woodlands in a commanding position with a superb century which would have normally won the Man of the Match Award. It wasn’t to be as Richard Nichols guided Bradford & Bingley home by six wickets.
Woodlands had tasted the big time and it was obvious they would be back for more. In the league they enjoyed gentle progression to seventh place with Orrell being the star performer with 713 runs at 44.56 with a top score of 122*.
A signing that would prove to be inspired, was that of Chris Brice, who arrived from Cleckheaton with Richard Pyrah.
Clearly the big honours were just around the corner but in 2004 they realised just how far they had to go to overtake the mighty Pudsey Congs. They finished a highly credible fourth in the league with Orrell (725 runs) and Murray (736) leading the way with the bat, and Sarfraz storming to 70 wickets.
Sarfraz also proved his prowess with the bat taking the Fastest Fifty Trophy with an 18-ball innings. But, despite a magnificent run to the final of the Priestley Cup they met their match in no uncertain manner when they were defeated by the Congs by eight wickets.
Compensation of sorts was gratefully received when they won the Heavy Woollen Cup for the first time with a comfortable final victory over Spen Victoria by 36 runs at Liversedge. Naeem Khan outshone Sarfraz for once, taking a match winning 5-19.
Knowing just what they needed to reinforce their challenge for 2005, Woodlands made two key signings - Paul Winrow and former Yorkshire seamer Pieter Swanepoel. This gave the team extra firepower in the seam bowling, and strengthened the batting considerably. South African Swanepoel had played two First-Class matches for Yorkshire in 2003 against Durham and India A.
In 2005 Woodlands were neck and neck with Pudsey Congs who were going for a record sixth successive title, and still dominating the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy.
Ironically, they met in the Priestley Cup final again and the result was the same, but not quite as convincing for the Congs.
This could have been a huge psychological blow in favour of the Congs, but Woodlands had the last laugh taking the title for the first time by a four-point margin. Congs suffered a surprise defeat at Baildon on the last day of the season while Woodlands snatched top spot with a nervy one-wicket win at Bankfoot.
Orrell had broken the domination of the Congs with an aggressive style of cricket, putting pressure on the batting side, and setting attacking fields with himself fielding inches from the bat at short leg.
Woodlands had a very solid look about their batting in 2005 with Winrow (735 runs), Orrell (687), Murray (692), Rushworth (357) and Ahmed with his quick-fire little cameos all scoring richly for the cause. The bowling was now as potent as any team’s in the league with Sarfraz (above, 71 wkts), Brice (48) and Swanepoel (45) all restricting the opposition’s batting.
As Pudsey Congs had relinquished their domination of the title after a sensational five-year period, it was up to Orrell to hammer home their newly found superiority. Firstly, they had to equal the Congs classic trebles of Championship, Priestley Cup, Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy of 2002 and 2004 to obtain the same sort of legendary status.
There was rising optimism at Woodlands in 2006 with Richard Pyrah available more often and the rest of the title winning side intact. In addition, former Yorkshire batsman Scott Richardson was signed from Baildon to bolster the batting.
Richardson played belligerently, always giving the bowler a chance – but usually not before a rich diet of profitable cover drives had boosted the score.
It was clear early on in 2006 that it would be a three-horse race with the Pudsey teams snapping at their heels.
Woodlands appeared to be determined to win the Priestley Cup after three final losses in three years as they made clinical progress to the final where they would play Division Two champions Bowling Old Lane in a low key affair at Wagon Lane.
The first passage was straight forward enough restricting Old Lane to just 144, but they certainly wobbled in reply, edging home by two wickets with Swanepoel taking the plaudits as Man of the Match.
Despite the unconvincing final performance, a great weight had been lifted after their cup bogey and their relentless surge to the title proved to be successful.
They won the title with nine points to spare on the Congs with Richard Pyrah carrying off the Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy after a stunning season.
Woodlands bowling was unbeatable in 2006, with Brice second in the league’s bowling averages with 37 wickets, backed by Sarfraz (42 wkts) and Swanepoel (49).
It would be very doubtful that any league side in the country at the time would have a bowling attack to match Sarfraz, Swanepoel, Brice and Pyrah. This was the main reason why Orrell’s team had started to outdo the Congs.
In the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy, the passage to the final was relatively comfortable with wins against Fenners, Bilton and Honley. In the final at Hanging Heaton it would be against a strong Townville side.
For a time, Townville looked like getting a decent score with former county batsman Tim Walton very much on form, but when the unsung seamer Richard Spittlehouse clean bowled him for 54, it was obvious Woodlands would prevail. Safraz had the sensational figures of 10 overs, four wickets for three runs.
Woodlands chased down Townville’s 178 in a canter with Russell Murray unbeaten on 87 in his last innings for the club, while Richardson made a quick-fire 50. The nine wicket victory emphasised their superiority in a season where they performed the classic treble and caught up with the fabled Pudsey Congs.
For the historians who consider this team the best in Woodlands history the regular side was Richardson, Murray, Rushworth, Orrell (Capt), Pyrah, Walwyn, Brice, Goldthorpe, Swanepoel, Sarfraz, Spittlehouse.
Woodland treble-winning side of 2006
Woodlands were red-hot favourites for the 2007 title and it showed with 21 victories and no defeats in a 26-match fixture list. Pudsey Congs were still their closest rivals but the gap had widened to 72 points.
This was the season that Chris Brice arguably became their most influential player. He topped the league’s batting averages with a massive 83.00 courtesy of 10 not outs, and also took 37 wickets at 15.59.
This inevitably led him to winning the Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy- a feat he would replicate in 2010, and also the League’s Player’s Player award. Brice was never short of giving advice on the field and this was part of the package of a priceless player.
Chris Brice enjoyed success with bat and ball
Sam Frankland, who had been signed from Elland to replace Murray, was the top run-getter with 552 runs. He took the steady role as opening partner to Richardson, but had the ability to play exquisite leg side shots.
Again, the bowling was potent with Sarfraz (55 wkts) and Swanepoel (54) taking the first two places in the league’s bowling averages.
The 2007 title triumph became a notable double when Woodlands won a late-in-the- season Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy final at Hanging Heaton against their great adversaries Pudsey Congs.
After beating Streethouse and Kirkstall Educational they met Barnsley in the semi-final at Shaw Lane. Woodlands scored a modest 175 batting first, but soon had Barnsley struggling with Sarfraz making early inroads.
The Yorkshire League side were beaten by 27 runs with Brice top scoring with 31, and also taking 4-32 to prove yet again that he was the man for the big occasion.
Orrell had scored vital runs in a minor batting crisis and marshalled his bowlers expertly.
In the final, Woodlands showed great courage in battling without two key bowlers in Sarfraz and Brice against a full strength Congs side. To complicate things further, Rushworth dislocated a finger and had to be replaced by Adam Goldthorpe behind the stumps.
This tested Orrell’s resolve and his juggling of the makeshift bowling line-up was good enough to limit the damage to 245-7.
At the halfway stage of the Woodlands innings they were definitely second favourites, and a long rain stoppage negated their chances further. When they returned in the gathering gloom, a defiant and aggressive stand of 140 between Orrell (71*) and Goldthorpe (73) won the day, against all the odds.
A sheer will to win won the day for a team with a developing habit of not knowing when they were beaten.
Man of the match Adam Goldthorpe with captain Tim Orrell after the 2007 Black Sheep win
Woodlands had reached the stage where they were in range of replicating the Pudsey Congs feat of five consecutive titles. However, it was not to be as 2008 proved to be the last of their unbroken run.
Congs had hit back with a vengeance and were only two points behind at the final reckoning. Again, Brice had a great season winning the league’s bowling averages with 38 wickets at 9.92.
Not to be outdone Swanepoel took the most league wickets with 71 at 10.75. Tosh Baker, who had proved to be a useful replacement for Pyrah, won the League Fielding Award.
Openers Richardson (above, 646 runs) and Frankland (573) were the pick of the batters.
This was Orrell’s last season as captain but he would win more trophies at Albert Terrace under Pieter Swanopoel.
Orrell’s abilities as captain are undisputed, and whilst he had quality players in abundance, he started from a modest base and caught up one of the best post-war sides in Pudsey Congs.
He cajoled his side with more animation than his great rival Matthew Doidge, who preferred the cool, considered way, but they were both masters of the art in different ways.
As a batter he was not an `average man’ – he played for the team, and his best innings tended to be when his side needed them the most.
Honours Won Under the Leadership of Tim Orrell
Bradford League Division One: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Priestley Cup Winners: 2006
Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy: 2006, 2007
Heavy Woollen Cup Winners: 2004