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The Derbyshire connection to Undercliffe's 70s triumphs

The Derbyshire connection to Undercliffe's 70s  triumphs

The Derbyshire connection made Undercliffe one of the league’s big shots in the seventies, and the link started in the sixties.

David H K Smith finished fourth in the league batting averages in 1964 with 568 runs, and in 1966 surpassed that feat by winning the league’s batting prize with an average of 47.66.

Smith was a left-handed sheet anchor batsman who was first noticed at Bradford Park Avenue. He guarded his wicket with great zeal and in some quarters was regarded as too slow.

However, he was signed by Derbyshire in an era when one had to be very special to be noticed by Yorkshire. He played 114 first class matches with a batting average of 26.56, scoring four centuries with a top score of 136.

In the same season that Smith won the league batting averages his colleague Les Jackson won the bowling. The 49 year-old veteran seamer bowled an incredible 88 maiden overs in a wicket tally of 63, for the very low average of 9.05.

Les Jackson, pictured above, was a fast-medium bowler renowned for his accurate bowling and particular hostility on uncovered wickets; he layed county cricket for Derbyshire  from 1947 to 1963, and was regularly at, or near the top of, the English bowling averages.

He played in only two Test matches for England, one in 1949 and a second in 1961. Jackson’s absence from Test cricket was largely because his batting was so underdeveloped. His highest first-class score was 39 not out, and he reached 30 on only two other occasions.

Jackson was genuinely quick from a slingy action, and remarkably accurate and economical. He was able to swing the ball both ways and move off the seam, and his six-foot height enabled him to make the ball lift awkwardly from just short of a length.

He bowled from a short run-up, which enabled him to continue bowling for lengthy periods, and was particularly difficult to play on the uncovered wickets used in county cricket.

Jackson retired from Derbyshire at the end of the 1963 season, having taken more wickets for Derbyshire than any other bowler, a record that still stands (1,733 first-class wickets at 17.36 apiece). He played with great success for Undercliffe from 1965 to 1970.

Undercliffe 1970: Back, from left W Jamieson, L Jackson, J White, A Walker, L Higgins, J Brailsford. Front K I D Bell, G Ryder, J Nicholson, D L Bairstow, R Peel.

Alan Ward, above, was another Derbyshire paceman at Undercliffe who would play Test cricket for England. As a 20-year old, he made five appearances for Undercliffe in 1967, starting with a 0-25 against Lidget Green, and ending with an unimpressive
1-70 in a Priestley Cup tie defeat that also saw him endure a duck against second division Spen Victoria.

He did, however, take 7-52 against lowly East Bierley, which made it 13 wickets in five  matches.

Ward made his debut for Derbyshire in 1966, and topped the English first-class averages in 1969. He made his Test debut that year, but injuries negated his progress after being tipped to be John Snow’s long-term bowling partner. His career ended prematurely after taking 460 First Class wickets, including 14 in five Test matches.

The strong connection with the Peak District, and in particular Derbyshire in the seventies, saw many county players joining the club through the seasons. The veteran ones like Jackson came because of lucrative pro fees, but the county club also sent young prospects to further their education in a renowned tough league of cricket. 

The Derbyshire stars who turned out for the club in this page of their history included Test fast bowlers Les Jackson and Alan Ward, as well as batsmen David Smith, John Harvey, Jim Brailsford, Harry Cartwright and Ashley Harvey-Walker, and seamer Les Bradbury.

Probably the most influential in terms of team management was Jim Brailsford who led the team to Division One titles in 1970 and 1971. He had joined in 1965, and the following year in 1966 was his best season recorded when he scored 530 runs.

However, he wasn’t as prolific as the Derbyshire batsmen to come. Brailsford, who played in three first-class matches for Derbyshire with a top score of 41, was mainly a county second teamer.

Ashley Harvey-Walker, above, joined in 1967 and he signalled his intentions from the start with some impressive run aggregates.

The stylish Harvey-Walker scored heavily in the 1970 triumph with 659 runs and a top score of 149*, while Jackson was still going strong with the ball to the tune of 34 wickets at 10.12, which put him second in the league bowling averages.

The 1971 title triumph was built again on Harvey-Walker’s runs (491), assisted by the 35 economic wickets of Derbyshire bowler Les Bradbury.

Harvey-Walker was also a heavy run-getter in cup cricket at Undercliffe starring in the 1972 Priestley Cup final when his side beat Lightcliffe by nine wickets.

The influx of Derbyshire players was not the only class on show in Intake Road during these triumphs. All-Rounder Ray Peel, was one of three batsmen to score a century in 1970, the others being Harvey-Walker and Claude Helliwell who contributed 507 runs and 37 wickets to the title-winning cause.

Peel was a great influence in this period winning the Learie Constantine All-Rounder’s Trophy in 1972 and 1974.

The 1971 title triumph was also attributed in part to the fire of seamer John White, who took 50 wickets. It could be said that Peel, Helliwell, White, and Tony Lush later, was equally as influential as the Derbyshire stars.

 Harvey-Walker played first-class cricket for  Derbyshire from 1971 to 1978. He was a right-handed batsman and a right-arm off-break and medium-pace bowler. Early in his career he played purely as a top order batsman, though he struggled to hold down a regular place in a weak batting side. His best season was in 1974 when he scored 727 runs at 25.96.

Not regarded as a regular bowler, he was regularly employed when selected in the 1978 season, taking  match figures of
10–82, including 7–35 in the second innings against  Surrey on the notoriously uncertain wicket at Ilkeston.

Despite playing in the 1978 Benson & Hedges Cup final he was not re-engaged at the end of the season. On 28 April 1997, at the age of 52, Harvey-Walker was shot dead at a private club in South Africa.

Undercliffe's 1974 Priestley Cup winning team:- Back, from left L Bradbury, D Dobson, L Higgins, C Helliwell, T I D Bell, J White. Front R Proctor, R Peel, B Jamieson, M Brannan, J Harvey.

The crowd at Undercliffe fo the 1974 Priestley Cup final

The seventies proved to be an outstanding decade for the club in not just the league but the Priestley Cup as well. They won the cup in 1972, 1974 and 1975.

John Harvey will be remembered for years to come at Intake Road for his prolific season of 1975 when he topped the league averages with 925 runs at 54.41. He also hit 688 runs in 1977 at 49.14 with a season’s best of 143*.

Harvey was also a good captain of Undercliffe, and often proved how astute he was in the field,

He was picked up by Derbyshire in 1963 and, after three matches, made his debut in that year's County Championship against Somerset. He scored a century against Kent in his second Championship match.

Harvey was a right-handed batsman and played 344 innings in 206 first class games with an average of 24.16 and a top score of 168. He also played 81 innings in 84 one-day matches.

Bradbury was a mean seamer whose best season at Undercliffe was in 1973 when he took 52 wickets at 12.48.

His career for Derbyshire started in the Second XI in 1968, when he debuted against Leicestershire with four wickets. He served the Second XI well for the next three years without securing a place in the first team. He had the distinction of taking ten wickets in a league match for Matlock.

Harry Cartwright tended to score 400 plus league runs in a season, but bettered that in 1975 when his tally was 559.

He had a solid First Class career with Derbyshire, lasting from 1973 to 1979, playing in 82 matches, and scoring 2,384 runs at 21.28, with a top score of 141 not out.

Mike Page took over from Harvey as captain and led Undercliffe to the 1980 Priestley Cup final when they beat East Bierley.

Page’s best season at Undercliffe was 1978 when he scored 649 runs at 40.56, and he also topped 600 runs in 1980.

Page debuted for Derbyshire in 1964, and in August he scored 112 against Leicestershire at Chesterfield, the first of nine centuries he scored, which included a career-best of 162.

He scored 11,535 runs in First Class cricket with an average of 28.55, and surpassed the 1,000 runs in a season six times.

Two more Derbyshire players only played spasmodically for Undercliffe- Phillip Russell and Tony Borrington.

Phillip Russell was a right-arm medium pace bowler who took 339 first-class wickets at an average of 30.53 and a best performance of 7-46. He was a right-handed batsman, and played 170 first-class matches with an average of 12.31 and a top score of 73.

Tony Borrington was a right-hand batsman who played 122 first-class matches with an average of 23.63 and a top score of 137. He also played 150 one-day matches at an average of 21.22 and a top score of 101. He was a leg-break bowler who bowled 22 balls in the first-class game without taking a wicket.

In conclusion, it would be safe to say that a county connection of this scale, benefited Undercliffe Cricket Club in terms of success and interest, and helped the Derbyshire Second Teamers to make the grade in county cricket.

Undercliffe’s Roll of honour (Derbyshire Connection era)

First Division title 1970, 1971

Priestley Cup 1972, 1974, 1975, 1980






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