If you were looking to select the Bradford League’s top English opening in the past 40 years, it would be hard to overlook the claims of Peter Graham.
With 1,192 league wickets in 25 seasons he was the epitome of consistency. His immaculate line and length kept even the best batsmen in check.
PC as he was affectionately known around the league scene – he had a sportshop in Yeadon called PC Sports – was a captain’s dream.
He provided both control and wickets with the new ball and played the game in a manner which marked him out as both and great cricketer and a fine person.
Graham played for five clubs, Yorkshire Bank, Spen Victoria, Pudsey St Lawrence, Yeadon and Bradford & Bingley.
He had the distinction of winning the league championship five times and did it with three different clubs, Pudsey St Lawrence (twice), Bradford & Bingley (twice) and Yorkshire Bank.
The tall, thin pace bowler first captured the attention when he burst onto the Bradford League scene with Yorkshire Bank in 1977.
Only when compared to the standards he set in the ensuing years, his 25 wickets at an average of 31, appears modest now, but it has to be remembered it was a season when Yorkshire Bank were relegated.
The following year he took 52 wickets at 16.90 as Yorkshire Bank won promotion back to the top-flight. It was the first of 12 occasions on which he topped 50 wickets in a season.
People were starting to notice Graham and in 1979 he picked up his career best figures of 9-36 on his way to a haul of 52 wickets at 14.20.
When Yorkshire Bank won their first Bradford League title in 1980, Graham was one of their stand-out players with 62 wickets at 14.92 including 8-29 against Great Horton.
After one more season Graham departed for Spen Victoria but in five years he had taken 227 wickets at 18.28.
His stay at Spen was a confined to just one season and he moved on to enjoy a hugely successful time at Pudsey St Lawrence
League president Keith Moss was cricket chairman at Tofts Road at the time. He recalls: “I tried to sign Peter from Yorkshire Bank, but he had already given his word to join Spen and promised to join St Lawrence the following year.
“When I look back at the side, we had at the time it was probably one of our finest. Colin Johnson was an outstanding captain and in Peter Graham and Mike Bailey he had a superb opening attack.
“PC gave nothing away and kept the batsmen under pressure with his relentless accuracy. He was a wonderful bowler and a great team man.
“Our batting was also strong with James Dracup, Russell Gaunt, New Zealand Test batsman Mark Greatbatch, Colin Johnson and Keith Smith.”
St Lawrence were second in Graham’s first season as the opening bowler settled in with a haul of 38, but the next two years were to be two of the finest of his career.
His 72 wickets at 14.83 helped St Lawrence to the title and he followed up with a stunning 85 wickets at 10.75 as the championship was retained.
Hauls of 76, 46, 65 and 55 wickets followed as he took his tally of wickets to 437 in seven seasons at an average of 15.43 before moving to Yeadon in 1990. His stay at Tofts Road also included a Priestley Cup win in 1988.
Peter Graham, third from the left in the back row, in Pudsey St Lawrence's 1988 side
Graham’s six seasons at Yeadon brought him a further 305 wickets at an average of 17 before enjoying a wonderful finale to his Bradford League career at Bradford & Bingley.
At Wagon Lane he formed a new ball partnership with another 1,000-wicket man Richard McCarthy and they helped the club to league titles in 1996 and 1998.
Peter Graham second from the left in the front row in Bradford & Bingley's 1998 title-winning side
When Graham called time on his Bradford League career in 2001 his six years at Bradford & Bingley had brought him a further 175 wickets at 21.74.
Graham, who also played Minor Counties cricket for Northumberland, helped Yorkshire win the Over-50s County Championship in 2006 and starred for Guiseley in the Aire-Wharfe League before his sadly premature death in 2015.
Among the tributes paid to him was one by Keith Moss. "In an age of declining standards, Peter was the perfect sportsman. He played very hard and fair on the field and was an excellent companion off it.
"Wonderful player, competitive, loyal to his team and colleagues and liked and respected by all.
It was a fitting description for a player who stood for all that was good in Bradford League cricket.
|PETER GRAHAM'S CAREER RECORD|
|1983||Pudsey St Lawrence||1||314.5||74||878||38||23.11|
|1984||Pudsey St Lawrence||1||417.1||127||1068||72||14.83|
|1985||Pudsey St Lawrence||1||398.1||135||914||85||10.75|
|1986||Pudsey St Lawrence||1||416.5||108||1108||76||14.58|
|1987||Pudsey St Lawrence||1||283.2||60||844||46||18.35|
|1988||Pudsey St Lawrence||1||319||105||750||65||11.54|
|1989||Pudsey St Lawrence||1||381.2||80||1185||55||21.55|
|1996||Bradford & Bingley||1||268||88||622||26||23.92|
|1997||Bradford & Bingley||1||255||73||663||30||22.10|
|1998||Bradford & Bingley||1||325.4||99||723||39||18.54|
|1999||Bradford & Bingley||1||256.1||78||682||26||26.23|
|2000||Bradford & Bingley||1||200.5||36||554||31||17.87|
|2001||Bradford & Bingley||1||183.5||35||561||23||24.39|