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Altofts history

Altofts history

The Altofts team which won the Central Yorkshire League Championship in 1981. 
Back: Darren Mason scorer. Alan Hunt, Lindsay Crocker, Ted Walmsley, Andy Clinton, Tommy Mason, Steve Wolfenden. Front: Ronnie Hart, Dean Jones, Terry Greaves (capt), Clive Jackson, Ian Frost. 

The early days

Altofts Cricket Club was originally formed in the late 1890s, with the Lock Lane sports ground owned by the local colliery Pope and Pearson. A much needed pavilion was erected during 1922 by miners in the local area.

The ground was maintained by the colliery owners until 1947 when the coal mines were nationalised. CISW took control of the ground and workers at the local colliery paid 5p into the welfare scheme, which helped with the running and maintenance costs.

In 1926 the Lock Lane ground underwent a major change. The football pitch was turned 180º to accommodate the adding of a bowling green and tennis courts. The main attraction however was a brand new pavilion, with state of the art hot and cold showers and baths (in an age when most miners’ houses still had tin baths).

The pavilion had a tearoom overlooking the cricket pitch with a small veranda at each side facing the football and tennis. Freshly painted in green and cream, the grand building glistened as the famous Yorkshire and England cricketer, Herbert Sutcliffe had the honour of declaring it open.

A cycle and running track was built around the cricket pitch and most of the village events took place at the idyllic Welfare Ground. Meanwhile, just under a mile away, millions of tons of coal continued to be dug out of the ground.

The cricket club was initially participating in the Yorkshire League before transferring to the Yorkshire Council where the club was a member of the free- lance section for many seasons.

There is little documentary evidence recorded of the club’s league action history until the later years.

Cricket section folds

In 1961, the colliery was shut down and funding was subsequently withdrawn three years later in 1964. This led to the ground being handed over to the Normanton Urban District Council (later the Wakefield district Council) for the sum of £2,000. The future for cricket looked bleak.

In 1965 the cricket section folded due to lack of finance and interest in the aftermath of the colliery closure. The local council continued to cut the outfield but the cricket square's condition declined.

New club forms

By 1968 Whitwood colliery was closed and Whitwood CC was having financial problems. The cricket club approached Normanton Town Council asking for permission to play their games at Altofts. This was granted and in 1969 Whitwood Colliery CC. played at the Altofts Lock Lane ground.

The Yorkshire Council Management Committee asked Whitwood C.C. to change their name to Altofts for the 1970 season. In consequence the Altofts Cricket Club was reborn in 1970.

Success in the Pontefract & District League

In the following years Altofts enjoyed a great renaissance after their move to the Pontefract & District Cricket League. They won the Division 1 Title in 1972, 1973 and 1975, and promptly decided to join the higher standard Central Yorkshire League for 1976.

Central Yorkshire League

It wasn’t long before Altofts made an impression on their new league by gaining promotion in their first year in 1976, team picture above, under the captaincy of J Gunn. Clearly they had proved the `step up’ was well within their capacity.

Altofts equipped themselves well in the top flight and in 1978 T Green won the League Bowling Averages taking 45 wickets at 10.46. Also in the same year T Mason won the Tom Senior Wicket Keeping Trophy with 36 victims.

The welfare ground in the late seventies saw the tennis courts fall into disrepair. A sports committee was formed and fund raising resulted in the building of the Jack Beddows Football stand in 1979. A major revamp of the pavilion was undertaken and the old tennis courts were floodlit to provide a football training area.

Altofts were making waves and entered the eighties decade in such good health they dominated the Central Yorkshire League circa 1980-1985.

The halcyon days

In 1980 they won the league title under Terry Greaves in just their fifth season in the Central Yorkshire League. This was a remarkable achievement for a very forward thinking club.

Gary Miles, an Australian who played for Altofts in 1980, was later responsible for recommending the young Dean Jones to the club.  Jones, who died recently aged 59, featured int he Altofts side of 1981 which was one of the strongest club sides ever assembled, and is still talked about today.

They retained the league title, won the Wheatley Cup and also triumphed in the Yorkshire Cricket Council Cup to achieve a notable treble. They did have the advantage of being able to play four overseas players in an era when there was no restriction.

Opening the innings was Ronnie Hart, who scored six centuries in First Class cricket, and played a ODI match for New Zealand. Coming in at first wicket down was the Young New Zealand Cricketer of the Year Alan Hunt, followed by another Kiwi First class cricketer, Lindsay Crocker. Crocker played 54 First Class matches for Northern Districts with a top score of 126.

Batting at seven was an 20-year-old Jones, who was used as a paceman in preference of his batting. Learning the game in English conditions, the hard hitting batsman went on to play for Australia in 52 Test matches, amassing 3,631 runs at 46.55, with 11 centuries and a top score of 216.

Altoft’s leading batsman in 1981 was Hunt, who won the League Batting Averages with an aggregate of 753 runs at 68.45. Hunt played in 67 First Class matches for Auckland with a top score of 102 not out, and a best bowling feat of 4-26.

Despite the team’s obvious superiority in the league, the table suggested that they were never out of sight-  Altofts 84 pts, Heckmondwike 73 pts, Ossett 72 pts.

In addition, Altofts could call upon Glyn Cardall and Tony Sutton who were both Yorkshire second-teamers and Tony Frost who played for Notts 2nds. The team was built largely by the hard working enterprise of Clive Jackson, who continued to run Altofts decades later.

Two years later in 1983 they were back on the trophy trail winning the title under sheet anchor batsman and captain Frost. It was a fine team performance, but the bowling was particularly potent with overseas fast bowler Len McKeowan being the major influence.

He took wickets at vital times and ended the season with 65 wickets at 11.63, and in consequence won the League Bowling Averages. McKeowan went on to join Farsley and in 1985 he took 78 Bradford League wickets.

Frost then led Altofts to the Central Yorkshire League Cup Final in 1985 at Mirfield where they beat Thornhill. This completed a haul of four major trophies in the first part of the decade, and Altofts could count themselves as a major powerhouse of league cricket in the county.

Their trophy winning knack was not finished, and in 1984 they won the Yorkshire Cricket Council Cup Final.

Fading fortunes

However, things would never be the same again, and they struggled to maintain their status in the face of bigger clubs with more resources.

In 1986 they began a recruitment association with Essendon CC of the Victorian Cricket Association in Melbourne, Australia. These were essentially young players gaining experience in English conditions. They signed Dave Hampton in 1986 and John Shannon for seasons 1989 and 1990. Both players were later regarded as amongst the best district cricketers in Essendon’s history.

Other players of repute in the nineties were Colin Joseph (West Indies), Barry McCormick and Michael Foster (Australia).

By 1997, Altofts were a lowly tenth in the top flight and resigned to less glory than former years. Consistent performers that season were C Beaumont (606 runs), M Bramley (503 runs) and S Adams (47 wkts).

But, it was Australian all-rounder Matty Jenkinson who proved to be the star man scoring over 400 runs and also taking 47 wickets. 

Altofts decided to recruit New Zealanders as their overseas player in the next two years with Ricky Rotch (1998) and Aaron Bradley (1999) in residence at Lock Lane.

It wasn't until the 2002 season that another Essendon player was to step onto the field for Altofts. Jodi Hutchison, an accomplished district player provided the club with good all-round performances culminating in a rapid century at Mirfield Parish Cavaliers.

The Altofts-Essendon tradition continued in 2003 with Cameron McKinley, a left-handed all-rounder, who made 96 on debut against Northcote in district cricket.

2004 saw the arrival of Faisal Khan, an English based former first class batsman/wicket keeper from Pakistan. Faisal, a right-handed batsmen and off-spinner had a good season finishing second in the league batting averages.

Altofts were now out of the Premier League and in 2005 the Central Yorkshire League decided to ban overseas players outside this division. However, Altofts managed to recruit from Australia the English born Ben Coleman, a left-handed batsman and left arm bowler who played for Frankston.

Much travelled all-rounder Shoaib Latif reached a personal landmark in 2007 with the league’s top score of 212* against Gildersome. 

Overseas players were reinstated by the league and Altofts signed Luke Popov from Melbourne, Australia for 2008.

Altofts regained their top flight status when they won the Division One title under skipper S Palmer, with Popov proving to be pivotal. His influence was such that he performed the all-rounder’s double of 500 runs and 50 wickets for the season.

Altofts were not big hitters in the Premier League, but their thriving youth policy was capable of sustaining the club for future years.

In 2010 they won only six matches under the captaincy of Kevin Watson, above, but possessed in Alan Burton a top pro. He ended the league campaign with 1,001 runs at 62.56 with a top score of 113*. Lee Padgett supported him well with 432 runs, but no bowler reached a personal tally of 30 wickets.

Burton was a prolific batsman who had previously been the professional at Peterborough Town, and also played Minor Counties for Cambridgeshire. In 2011 he was less prolific at Altofts but still scored 775 runs at 40.79 and helped his club to an improved season with ten recorded wins.

The emergence of James Logan

2011 also saw the emergence of 14 year old left arm spinner James Logan who took 33 wickets, and would later be signed by Yorkshire CCC.

In 2012 Barbadian-born All Rounder Simon Steel was the only positive to a dismal season which saw tem finish in the relegation positions in September. However, Altofts were spared relegation because of the re-structure of the league following the departure of New Farnley to the Bradford League.

Steel won the League’s All Rounder’s Trophy after a prolific season with bat and ball. He scored 957 runs at 50.37 with a top score of 165, and also chipped in with 37 wickets.

Altofts, led by Brett Hodgson, still struggled in 2013 with only five wins recorded. Logan, who was now 16, continued his progress taking 37 wickets with a top analysis of 7-29, and also recorded a century as his batting developed. The club would lose his services to the Yorkshire Academy, and he became a regular with the Yorkshire 2XI.

A marginal improvement in 2014 saw Harry Clewett in fine form topping 400 runs with the bat, and also taking 40-plus wickets. Amongst his highlights was a century, and a bowling performance of 8-36. Clewett, a leg-break bowler and middle-order batsman, had played for Grimsby Town in the Lincolnshire ECB Premier League. He also played minor counties cricket for Lincolnshire.

In what would prove to be the last season in the Central Yorkshire League, Altofts had a disastrous season in 2015, ending in a relegation position with just 26 points from two wins.

Joshua Drummond, the overseas batsman, scored 343 runs in nine innings including a 106-ball century against Birstall, However, Arkam Asif was the top aggregate batter with 608 runs.

The Central Yorkshire League had decided to be incorporated into the new Bradford Premier League pyramid structure, and Altofts was allocated a place in one of the two Championships for 2016.

Into the Bradford League Championship

In a tough Championship B it was a difficult first season for Altofts who only recorded seven victories. The dominant performer was New Zealander Matthew Holstein who took 53 wickets at 11.43, and also scored 451 runs. 

In 2017 there were no convincing frontrunners at the top of the second Championship apart from Hartshead Moor. Altofts might have been inconsistent but they were in the mix, and towards the end of the season they were jostling with Hunslet Nelson for the second promotion place behind Hartshead Moor.

They were neck and neck going into the penultimate fixtures, but whereas Hunslet Nelson played and won, Altofts were frustrated at Liversedge where their match was abandoned. This effectively ruled them out of the race as they ended the season 24 points behind second place.

The ten league losses were a bridge to far.

Twenty/20 Wheatley Cup

The club did win silverware in the form of the Twenty/20 Wheatley Cup, when they beat Sandal in the final at Pudsey St Lawrence by 8 wickets.

In the league, two players stood head and shoulders above the rest- Farrouk Alam and Australian Kristian Miller. Alam, pictured below, scored 825 runs at 63.46, and also took 42 wickets at 17.43, while Miller contributed 603 runs at 36.35.

Expectations were high in 2018 for a promotion push, and signings like Tom Glover and Craig Wood only bolstered the optimism.

Inconsistencies negated their chances, and for much of the season they were in the lower half of the table. The fact that they ended the season strongly, and finished in fourth place, can be attributed to Alam’s late arrival.

In eleven games, he scored 845 runs at 120.71 beating all the other run-getters in the league that had batted twice as many times. He also took 30 wickets at 19.77.

Such was his influence with the bat he scored an unbeaten 157 not out in a score of 306-3 against Spen Victoria, and 141 out of a total of 325-6 versus Carlton.

Relegation woes

Alam’s departure to Undercliffe was a huge blow to Altofts in 2019, and they lacked the star quality to put a run together.

The early danger signs were there when Yeadon bowled them out for 48, and then proceeded to win by 10 wickets. Later they would have league leaders Carlton on the rack after bowling them out for 98, but could only score 27 in reply.

There were bright moments- the best was when they beat Northowram Fields by 191-runs after setting an impressive 270-8. Azhar Sharif (86no) and Steven Rigby (78 runs) were the main run-getters, and Ismail Patel the key bowler with 5-15.

For much of the season they were in a cluster of clubs who could stay in mid-table or hover too close to the bottom three. By the last match of the season they were in a two-way battle to avoid legation with Hopton Mills.

Altofts lost by seven wickets to Northowram Fields, while Hopton Mills kept their nerve to beat Buttershaw St Paul’s by eight wickets, to finish four points above the third relegation place.

Altofts could claim that they fell victim to the league’s decision to relegate three clubs in order to revamp the structure. However, they knew exactly what they needed to do approaching the final run-in, but lost their last three fixtures, and this ultimately cost them.

The best players were Australian Sam Huitema who scored 506 runs, and Ismail Patel who contributed 339 runs and also took 29 wickets.

League Cup win

Altofts aspirations for promotion in 2020 were hit by Covid-19 and they had to be satisfied with competing in the Gordon Rigg Division Three Group Cup (East Section).

They won all eight of the Group matches and made the final against Rodley, who they had already defeated twice in inter-divisional matches.

In the final, Altofts looked to be heading for a comfortable win when openers Harry Wilkinson (39) and Dominic Richardson (28) shared a stand of 70 as they replied to Rodley’s 147-9.

However, a collapse to 99-5 necessitated the cool heads of Adam Perry (21no) and Danny Eden (17no) to guide them home.

Rodley, who opted to bat first, found runs hard to come by against Altofts’ frontline bowlers Joshua Hen Boisen (3-19) and Eden (3-20).

The best performers during the season were batsmen Ben Walsh, Wilkinson and Dominic Richardson, and bowlers Hen-Boisen and Eden who finished as the top two Division Three wicket-takers. 

Altofts celebrate their Division Three League Cup win Picture: David Young

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