As the name implies, Pudsey Congs originated from the local Congregational Church and the members were fiercely proud and committed to retaining the club’s traditional identity. Congs played its early cricket at a ground known as Long Close, which is about a quarter of a mile from the church itself. Their present ground was the home of the former Pudsey Britannia club, who were members of the Bradford League between 1912 and 1923. Their most famous player was England and Yorkshire opening batsman Herbert Sutcliffe.
Congs were established in 1892 and were members of the Pudsey and District Sunday School Cricket League from formation to 1969. The club embarked on the search for a new challenge following the decline of the teams that were attached to local churches and chapels. This prompted a move to the Dales Council League where they achieved considerable success playing at the re-named ground known as Queens Park.
Dale Council success
As members of the Dales Council Cricket League from 1970 to 1979 they had considerable success winning the title in 1978 and the Pool Paper Mills Cup in 1972, 1974 and 1975. The two notable cricketers of the decade was Colin Oldfield, who was a feared quick bowler and seamer Ralph Middlebrook, who could also bat well enough to win the Division `A’ All Rounders award in 1977.
The key to their future success hinged on the purchase of the old Britannia Ground in 1977 to secure a permanent home. For many years this was ostensibly an old recreation field that wasn’t even fit for a decent game of football. The transformation made by selfless work by its associated members was nothing short of incredible. The cricket ground when it was finished was conducive to senior league cricket with a definite potential for further development.
The ambitions of the club resulted in their move to the more senior Leeds and District Cricket League in 1979. This would be the last year they would play at Queens Park. Again they were competitive with Brian Newall soon establishing himself by winning the League Bowling Averages. Congs reached the Hepworth Cup Final losing to Colton who was one of the crack teams in the league at the time. Middlebrook ensured they went down with a fight and in doing so won the Man of The Match Award.
Former player Bill Sutcliffe, son of Herbert, and captain of Yorkshire for two years in the fifties opened the restored Britannia ground in 1980. Sutcliffe’s First Class career was often blighted by unfair comparisons with his father. However, he enjoyed a very worthwhile career which included a top innings of 181 v Kent in 1952.
Later in 1987 Congs made further improvements to their ground and celebrated another grand re-opening with the presence of Sir Leonard Hutton. To commemorate this event the Congs played a Yorkshire side captained by Phil Carrick and featuring Geoff Boycott and Martyn Moxon.
After these massive strides the Congs were elected to the Bradford League for the start of season 1987. They assembled a relatively homespun team and settled for a respectable eighth position in their introductory season. The seasoned batsman John Holah finished second in the 2nd Division League Averages with a fine tally of 799 runs averaging 47.00.
The pick of the bowlers was Ralph Middlebrook who took 52 wickets. He would go on and write his own name in the history of Pudsey Congs with his sterling off the field work in subsequent years. Another useful bowler was left arm spin bowler Simon Purdy who took 37 wickets, and went on to have a fruitful career with Hanging Heaton.
The Congs had seen enough in their first year to convince them to have a real go at promotion. In the closest promotion race in years in 1988 the top four clubs were divided by just three points with the Congs taking third place. This was good enough for promotion and vindicated the investment they made in the team.
The key player for 1988 was definitely the overseas star Sahbih Azhar who gave incredible value for money. He won the League Batting Averages scoring 1035 runs at 48.96 with a top score of 116*, and also took 57 wickets at 14.32.
Also in the ranks in 1988 was Paul Grayson who scored 651 runs at 34.26. He was tipped to make the grade on the county circuit as a left arm orthodox spin bowler, but he was more than a useful batsman. Grayson made his first-class debut for Yorkshire in 1990 where he played for five years.
After being released in 1995, he joined Essex and was awarded his capm in his first season. Grayson played for England in one-day internationals in 2000 at the ICC Knockout Competition. He retired from first-class cricket at the end of 2005, having scored 8,655 runs at 31.70, and taken 136 wickets at 44.39. In July 2007, he became the head coach at Essex.
Another up and coming player who got a contract with Yorkshire was Colin Chapman who was a highly promising wicket-keeping/batsman. He helped the promotion push with 403 runs. He went on to play eight first-class matches in a career hampered by Yorkshire preferring Richard Blakey, A decent batsman in his own right, Chapman scored 238 runs, with a highest score of 80 at an average of 21.63. He took thirteen catches behind the stumps and completed three stumpings.
Chapman was the star for Congs in the 1989 season scoring an impressive 808 runs at 35.13. The superb showing of Azhar the previous year was negated slightly in the stiffer competition, but he still turned in some useful performances with bat and ball. His powerful batting led to him achieving the season’s Fastest Fifty in 26 minutes. Congs will have been satisfied with their 7th standing in the division.
When Phil Taylor was appointed as captain for the 1990 season with a new clutch of proven players it appeared that they would challenge for honours. The reverse was true as they suffered the indignity of relegation despite their fine array of talent.
Their major signing was Ronnie Hudson from Hanging Heaton who delivered 632 runs, while John Punchard (618 runs) and Russell Evans (588 runs) also contributed well with the bat. Evans showed what a good all-round cricketer he was by taking the League’s Fielding Prize. However, Paul Topp who took 50 wickets had little support in the bowling.
They were expected to return to the top flight swiftly, but they could only manage fourth position in 1991. They were certainly not short on batting with Chapman fifth in the league batting averages with 974 runs at 51.26, and Russell Murray (903) and Chris Simpson (495) also scoring runs fluently. Skipper Taylor was the most successful bowler finishing second in the league bowling averages with 38 wickets at 11.55.
In 1992 just four points separated the top four teams in the Second Division with the Congs claiming runners-up position and with it promotion. The batting was strong with Simpson (524), Chapman (575), Andrew Bottomley (479) scoring the most runs, whilst seamer Richard Thorpe excelled with the ball with 49 wickets.
Consolidation was the name of the game in 1993 and a final seventh position was highly satisfactory. Chapman made third place in the League’s Batting Averages with 946 runs at 49.74, ably supported by Murray who contributed 753 runs. A real influence on the team was former Yorkshire player Phil Carrick who scored 556 runs, and took 38 wickets. He would make a fine captain at the Congs after Chapman in 1995 and set the scene for what was to follow.
Carrick began his first-class career with Yorkshire in 1970 as the natural successor to Don Wilson. The left-arm spinner, nicknamed "Fergie", took more than 1,000 wickets over his twenty three year career, and fell just six runs short of hitting 10,000 first-class runs for Yorkshire.
His bowling partnership with Geoff Cope was a particularly effective one for the county. He captained Yorkshire to victory over Northamptonshire in the 1987 Benson & Hedges Cup final having had his benefit season in 1985. After retiring from first-class cricket in 1993, he decided to play local league cricket with Pudsey Congs.
The Congs moved up to sixth in 1994 to maintain their progress in the top flight. Yorkshire’s Ashley Metcalfe joined them and scored 537 runs at 35.80. In a First Class career totalling 216 matches he scored 11,938 runs at 34.30 with a top score of 216*. Chapman, who was the captain for 2004, was his usual consistent self with 602 runs and the pick of the bowlers was Carrick with 46 wickets.
However, the club made history in 1994 by winning the Priestley Cup and in so doing recording their first major trophy in the league. The Cup Final victory was at the expense of Yeadon who scored 190 for six. Congs swept to victory by the comfortable margin of 8 wickets.
The hero was Chris Simpson who scored an unbeaten half century and was duly named Man of the Match. The side included a promising young 15-year-old fast bowler who was just making his mark and played a minor role in the cup run. His name was Matthew Hoggard who came up through the Congs Dales Council teams from an early age, and later established himself at Yorkshire.
Hoggard was a specialist orthodox swing bowler, who usually took the new ball for England in Test cricket. His primary role in the team was to utilise the shine on the new ball to test the technique of top-order batsmen against the swinging delivery. If, due to pitch or atmospheric conditions, the new ball did not swing he could be relatively ineffective. In 67 test matches he took 248 wickets at 30.50 with a best performance of 7-61.
The Congs were now on the rise finishing in their highest position so far in 1995 in fourth place. New signing Richard Kettleborough, who was a contracted Yorkshire player, was their most fluent batsman with 533 runs, whilst Chapman and Murray also scored runs consistently. Carrick with 58 wickets at 13.34 easily won the Bradford League Bowling Averages. The developing Hoggard took 38 wickets.
From fourth to third in 1996 saw further progress with a team containing Indian Test star VVS Laxman who won the Bradford League Batting Averages with a stunning 1253 runs at 65.95. Laxman debuted at Test level in 1996 scoring 50 against South Africa. He went on to play 134 Test matches scoring 8,781 runs at an average of 45.97 with a top score of 281. A tall elegant player he was one of the big attractions in the league in 1996.
Kettleborough finished second in the batting averages with 533 runs at 59.22, while Chapman again excelled, this time scoring 841 runs. The left handed batsman Kettleborough played 33 First Class matches for Yorkshire and Middlesex before making the umpire’s list in 2006. Carrick was again the pick of the Congs bowlers with 82 wickets.
Another upwards movement in the First Division league table saw the Congs second and just nine points behind the champions Undercliffe. The Congs were getting ever closer and again they took the Bradford League Batting Averages with their overseas player the recipient. Mohammad Yousuf with an average of 58.00 was on the verge of a test place in 1997 and the Congs were the beneficiaries.
Yousuf made his Test debut against South Africa at Durban and One Day International debut against Zimbabwe in Harare. He has scored over 9,000 One Day International runs at an average above 40 (2nd highest batting average among Pakistani batsmen after Zaheer Abbas and over 7,000 Test runs at an average above 50 (highest batting average amongst all Pakistani batsmen) with 24 Testt hundreds..
He has the record of scoring the most runs without being dismissed in the One Day International match, with a total of 405 runs against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe in 2002–2003. He has also scored a 23-ball fifty and a 68-ball hundred in One Day International. In Test matches, he has scored a 27-ball fifty, which is the 3rd fastest by any player.
A less famous player to shine in 1997 was budding wicket-keeper Matthew Duce who won the League’s Young Player of the Year Trophy.
In 1998 Congs actually fell away to eighth in the league despite reaching another Priestley Cup final. Chapman again excelled with the bat scoring 564 runs, helped on this occasion by former Yorkshire batsman Neil Hartley who also topped 500 runs.
Carrick had his customary productive season with the ball with 56 wickets, but it was the emergence of young James Middlebrook, (son of Ralph) with 46 wickets that captured the attention. His promise was rewarded with the League’s Young Spinner of the Year Trophy.
Like Hoggard, a product of the Congs junior section, Middlebrook left for Bowling Old Lane at an early age to gain more extensive experience. An off-spinning all-rounder, he represented Yorkshire at every age level from under-11 upwards before he made his first-class debut for the senior side in 1998. Though he made a tentative start, he impressed sufficiently against Essex in 2001 - taking three wickets and hitting 84 - to earn a move to Chelmsford the following season.
He was the only Essex bowler to take 50 wickets in 2003, while he underlined his prowess with the bat courtesy of a maiden first-class century against Cambridge UCCE in 2004, a season that also saw him hit 115 against Somerset. In 2007 - he averaged almost 32 with the bat and took 24 wickets - and in the following season took 31 wickets. However, his time at Essex came to an end at the conclusion of the 2009 season and he went on to establish himself at Northants as a vital, versatile performer. He was released at the end of the 2014 season despite being the Player of the Year for his county.
It was to be disappointment for the Congs in the 1998 Priestley Cup Final when they were well beaten by East Bierley. The Congs batted first and made a grinding 168-6 which Bierley knocked off for the loss of just two wickets.
Things were progressing at the Congs with a successful application to obtain a National Lottery grant for new changing rooms adjoining the scoreboard. This released space in the clubhouse area for a new tea and function room.
Then, at the end of the 1998 season, Congs made their best decision in their history when signing Farsley skipper Matthew Doidge as captain for the 1999 season. He was formerly on Yorkshire’s books principally as a spin bowler. His only first class appearance came against the Indian tourists in 1990 at Headingley.
Doidge bowled 24 overs of left arm orthodox spin, conceding 106 runs, but failed to take a wicket. A left-handed batsman, he did not get to bat in the drawn game. It was felt at the time of Doidge’s appointment as captain that this was a clear signal of Congs’ ambitions to win the First Division championship.
In 1999 Doidge felt his way through the season with a team that would finish fourth. He hadn’t really started his rebuilding as he surveyed the scene from the perspective of his first season as captain. He was the leading batsman with 666 runs at 39.18 with a top score of 125.
Middlebrook was his lynchpin cricketer scoring 450 runs and taking 52 wickets as the county scene was just around the corner. Neil Nicholson who was recruited from Windhill scored a solid 648 runs.
Nicholson played five games for Yorkshire in 1988 and 1989 which included a total of 134 first-class runs at 26.80, with a best of 56 not out, and he also took five catches. He also appeared for the Yorkshire Second XI from 1983 to 1990.
Doidge was given a free hand to build a side to realise the club’s ambition. He decided to recruit a line up of proven Bradford League players, and in the near future men like Andy Bethel, Gary Brook, Neil Gill, Babar Butt, Mark Bray, Glenn Roberts and David Paynter would become fixtures in a side that would also contain sundry county players and one of the best post-war overseas players seen in the league.
It could be said that Doidge got his own team in 2000 and it showed in emphatic fashion. After 14 years in the league the dream came true as Pudsey Congs were crowned champions after pippng a very good Bradford & Bingley side by two points.
Doidge was again their leading batter with 514 runs at 36.71, followed by that very efficient sheet anchor opener Andy Bethel who scored 662 runs at 34.84. Left hander Bethel, who they signed from Spen Victoria, would set his stall out to see off the new ball and play long innings for his team. Left arm seamer Gill was the major influence with the ball taking 47 wickets, while overseas recruit Azhar Abbas also took 47 wickets.
Despite the 2000 success changes were made to strengthen the side still further. Fast bowler Naveed Rana-ul-Hassan was signed as the overseas player after impressing in a brief spell for Lidget Green, while former Derbyshire left arm spinner Glen Roberts was recruited. Roberts played eleven First Class matches for Derbyshire during the seasons 1996-1998 with a top score of 52, and a best bowling analysis of 4-23. On release he played Minor County cricket with Herefordshire until 2002.
Rana-ul-Hassan made a huge impression taking 67 wickets as Congs retained the championship by a comfortable 14-point margin from nearest challengers Baildon and Pudsey St Lawrence in 2001. However, Gill beat him in the League Bowling Averages finishing second with 44 wickets, while Roberts had a steady first season with 31 wickets.
Babar Butt who had played many seasons in the Yorkshire League with both Rotherham and Doncaster impressed with the bat scoring 594 runs at 39.60. He was a flamboyant batsman who could effortlessly pull a ball one-handed for six. Other top run-getters were Bethel (903), Middlebrook (615), Nicholson (445) and Doidge (403)
By virtue of being title winners of 2000 they could enter the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions for 2001, and they duly won it after a thrilling one-run victory in the final at Liversedge against Hanging Heaton. Congs had scored 228 largely thanks to Middlebrook’s 63 but struggled in the field against their opponents. Gill came back to dismiss Steve Foster (91) and altered the course of the game.
Congs enjoyed an easy passage up to the semi-finals when they faced Huddersfield League Scholes away. The home team posted a challenging 288-5, but this proved to be well in the compass of the Congs as Middlebrook played a brilliant innings of 154 not out.
In 2002 Pudsey Congs were favourites in every trophy they entered. The fact that they won them all epitomised the heights they had reached in senior cricket.
To add spice to the achievement was the fact that their local rivals St Lawrence were the runners-up in both the domestic competitions. The Congs prevailed by nine points in the league, and was equally decisive in the cup when they beat them by eight wickets. It was an unprecedented feat winning the domestic double and the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy in the same season.
The stand-out individual performance was from Rana-ul-Hassan who won the Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy, and also the League Bowling Averages with 79 wickets, coupled with 399 runs with the bat. Other outstanding performers were Bethel (739 runs), Doidge (425 runs), Butt (523 runs), and Roberts (357 runs) and Gill (47 wkts). Gareth Clough also played when county duties allowed.
Rana Naved-ul-Hassan made such a big stir in the Bradford League that Ray Illingworth thought that Yorkshire should snap him up. They didn’t – until much later when the fire went out of his bowling. Sussex was the beneficiaries of his talent as he helped them win county titles in 2006 and 2007. The impact he made at Sussex was such that a Test career with Pakistan beckoned. In all First Class matches he has taken 626 wickets with a best analysis of 7-49, and also scored five centuries with a top score of 139.
In the Priestley Cup Final Yorkshire contacted Vic Craven was awarded the Man of the Match Award when putting his team well on the way to their target. A left-handed top order batsman and occasional right arm medium pace bowler, he played in thirty three first-class matches, and scoring 1,206 runs at 24.61, with a top score of 81 not out. He also took 15 wickets at 38.93, with a best of 2 for 18.
In 42 one-day matches he scored 580 runs at 17.05, with an innings of 59 being his best, while he took 21 wickets at 16.80 each with a best of 4 for 22. His most successful innings in six Twemty20 games was 44 not out. Craven only had a short spell at the Congs before having successful spells at Methley and Harrogate.
Congs retained the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy in 2002 playing virtuoso cricket. In the First Round at Copley they broke the completion record for the highest score when recording a massive 413-7 with Rana-ul-Hassan top scoring with 101. They then defeated Bilton and Townville (Bray 6-40) with some comfort before facing Sheffield Collegiate in the final at Streethouse. The Yorkshire League team were more difficult opponents but failed to pass the Congs score of 231-9 to lose by 59 runs.
For the historians the regular team for 2002 was: Bethel, Craven, Nicholson, Butt, Clough, Doidge, Naved-ul-Hassan, Roberts, Gill, Brook, Bray. This was probably the Congs finest team of all time.
If Clough was on county duty the bearded Nijat Khan would come into the side as a utility player who could bat and bowl. His abilities were amply illustrated in the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Final defeat of Sheffield Collegiate when he won the Man of the Match Award.
Skipper Doidge had exceeded all expectations, but clearly he thirsted for more success. In 2003 he would have to settle for the title. They were clear leaders from the start and their ultimate 27 points lead on the second placed club Spen Victoria epitomised the gulf in class. The remarkable Butt led the way in the batting with 700 runs at 50.00 per innings, followed by Doidge on 376 runs at 47.00. Rana-ul-Hassan was again their top wicket-taker with 81, while Roberts had a fine season taking 30 wickets at little cost
Disappointment came in the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy when they were caught on a sticky wicket in the final at Adel and could only make 167-7. Harrogate struggled all the way on a wicket that had dried out considerably but sneaked home by 2 wickets. Before the match the Adel groundsman apologised for the water leaking on the wicket but stated it would dry out later. No consolation to the Congs who were striving for a hat-trick of Black Sheep trophies.
In 2004 the Congs were back to their `invincible’ ways when they replicated the treble feat of 2002 taking all before them. They won the league by 23 points thanks largely to Bethel who scored 933 runs. Ironically, Roberts did not make the league bowling averages but managed to finish second in the league batting averages with 59.43 courtesy of eleven not outs. Bray filled the Hassan void excellently with 45 wickets, while the principal seamer Gill took 60.
The emerging Woodlands were expected to extend the Congs in the Priestley Cup Final, but it turned out to be an easy eight-wicket victory by the men from Pudsey.
The Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy returned to the Congs in 2004 after a very impressive showing in the tournament. After defeating Fishlake, Wrenthorpe and Copley with some style they were matched with Cleethorpes in the Final at Streethouse.
The Yorkshire League champions were simply no match for the Congs on the day. On a very good wicket Cleethorpes struggled to 192-6 in front of a big crowd. From the start of the Congs reply they were untroubled with the opening batsmen not being parted when they passed the winning post.
Paul Carroll carried his bat for 119, while Bethel accompanied him in his characteristic dogged style scoring 63. Carroll who was often relatively unsung at Congs amongst the star players was the deserved recipient of the Man of the Match Award.
The regular team for 2004 was: Bethel, Carroll, Paynter, Middlebrook or Clough, Butt, Bairstow, Doidge, Roberts, Gill, Brook, Bray.
The 2005 season was another triumphant campaign for the Congs, but their five-year domination of the league had come to an end.
Woodlands had invested in their team considerably and their bowling prowess had overtaken their rivals. It was a very close affair but Woodlands edged Congs out by three points. Former Yorkshire batsman Bradley Parker scored 488 runs, assisted by Doidge (435), Butt (598) and Bethel (564), while Bray with 39 wickets was the top man in the bowling averages. In the Priestley Cup Final the Congs held sway over Woodlands again winning by sixwickets and Butt picking up the Man of the Match Award.
During 2005 Congs had the services of Chris Silverwood on an ad hoc basis when county duties allowed. Silverwood made his debut for Yorkshire in 1993, and played for his native county for a total of thirteen years.
He assisted his county in winning the County Championship in 2001, followed by the C&G Trophy in 2002. Former England bowling coach Bob Cottam once said he was faster than Allan Donald and he possessed a lively out-swinger and hostile bouncer when the conditions suit. Up to the end of the 2006 season, the six-foot one inch paceman had taken 533 first-class wickets in 164 matches at 26.93, with a best of 7 for 93.
Four times Black Sheep winners
Another trophy was won in 2005 when the Congs lifted the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy for the fourth time. After easing past Elland, Wickersley and Barrowford they faced a powerful York side in the Final at Wagon Lane. Shorn of Silverwood and Scott Cunningham, they turned out with a stricken Gill who wasn’t able to bowl.
Doidge had to improvise with his bowling making a total of ten changes, and on a perfect batting wicket somehow restricted York to 265-7 with Simon Mason blasting 69. Ever confident Congs started well with Bethel (41), Parker (60) and Bairstow (57) making rapid inroads to the score. Butt was uncharacteristically restrained as he saw his team home with 52 not out after 47.5 overs.
It could be said that Pudsey Congs were slightly on the wane in 2006 when they had no trophy to put in their cabinet. They again ran Woodlands close with a nine-point deficit at the end.
Andrew Bairstow’s influence was growing in the team as he topped the batting with 701 runs at 41.24. Other batsmen to top 500 runs were Scott Cunningham, Doidge and Bethel. Gill was the leading bowler with 47 wickets followed by overseas bowler Mohammad Ullah who took 45 wickets. Ullah would eventually play county cricket at Northants after spells with East Bierley and Shelley.
The fabled Congs team was splitting up with Gill and Paynter following Carroll to big spending Wrenthorpe, while Parker went to Gomersal, and Bethel to Whitley Hall. Brook decided to retire. Reinforcements were sought from the Yorkshire League in the form of Alexis Twigg (Harrogate), Tom Glover (Harrogate) and Andrew Bourke (Castleford). They also signed Elliott Wilson and Nathan Bromby.
The new look Congs of 2007 again finished second to Woodlands but this time a distant 72 points behind. Bairstow was again the leading run-getter with 615 runs at 30.75. Bairstow who started with Worcestershire Second XI played three First Class matches for Derbyshire with a top score of 26.
Twigg did moderately well as Bethel’s replacement scoring 537 runs at 25.53. Twigg, who was a prolific scorer for Harrogate, had experience in Minor Counties cricket, making his debut for Cumberland against in 2002 before moving to Cheshire.
Congs still had a liking for the Priestley Cup- winning it again, beating Cleckheaton in the Final. Congs piled up 259-4 with Cleckheaton never being in the hunt finishing on 172. Seamer Glover did the most damage with the ball and picked up the Man of the Match Award.
The Congs could not retain the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy falling at the hands of their arch rivals Woodlands in the Final at Hanging Heaton. It was a missed opportunity to claim their fifth title given that Woodlands were missing their two best bowlers in Chris Brice and Sarfraz Ahmed.
Congs must have been satisfied with their challenging score of 245-7 despite facing a weakened attack. Andrew Bourke, who had struggled to make an impact in the league, scored a brilliant 102. In former years Bourke had played for England U17s, and later broke the Yorkshire ECB County Premier League record in 2003 scoring 1,421 runs in a season.
Woodlands reply was patchy and at the halfway point of their innings looked unlikely winners. But, Tim Orrell (71*) and Adam Goldthorpe (73) put a 140-run partnership together for the third wicket to effectively seal victory. Earlier in the tournament the Congs had beaten Honley in a hard-fought tie, before accounting for Norwood Green and Oakworth. Scott Cunningham set a new record score for the competition with an innings of 210 v Oakworth.
The Congs had to reluctantly accept that not only were their rivals bossing the league, they had also taken their mantle as Yorkshire’s top club side.
In 2008 Woodlands were not quite as convincing, particularly with their batting and that gave Congs hope in their quest to catch them. Again it was a two-horse race between the local cricket protagonists, but Congs fell an agonising two points adrift at the end. This meant they had finished runners up to Woodlands on four successive seasons.
Former Yorkshire off spinner Jeremy Batty was the leading bowler with 49 wickets, followed by overseas seamer Mohammed Naved who took 48. Bairstow headed the batting with 596 runs at 39.75, assisted by Doidge (428) and Butt (641).
Congs couldn’t break the Woodlands monopoly of the league but they certainly had their number in the Priestley Cup final. For the third time in five seasons they clashed in the final and again the Congs came out on top. Andrew
Bairstow, below, sparked a recovery when his team was in all sorts of trouble to enable them to reach 232-7 which was 51 runs too many for Woodlands. He deservedly received the Man of the Match Award for a sparkling 121.
For the first time in the decade Congs were well off the pace finishing the season in fourth place in 2009. After five titles and four runners-up positions it was unusual to see them not in contention for the title.
Further team changes allowed Uzair Mahomed, Andy Siddall and the experienced Mark Gill to make their mark with the bat. But, it was the old crew from the fabled team that led the way with Doidge scoring 497 runs, and Roberts taking 38 wickets.
With Woodlands in decline the title race in 2010 was more open than normal with 3-4 teams jostling at the top. There was not an outstanding team with all the top four losing at least four matches in the season. Congs were in contention all season and made their powerful batting line-up pay as they prevailed over Bradford & Bingley by five points, and in so doing clinched the title for the sixth time in the decade.
Mark Gill was a real asset for the Congs, keeping excellently, and scoring 504 runs at an average of 49.50. Other heavy scorers were Adam Patel (741), Bairstow (646), Butt (607) and Siddall (492). Aire Wharfe signing Eugene Burzler was the leading wicket-taker with 54.
The 2010 title win was a triumph for new skipper Glen Roberts who had taken the reigns from Doidge who only played occasionally. Roberts let by example taking 43 wickets and proved an inspiration through the season.
Congs were back to fourth place in 2011 with a youthful line-up with an eye on the future. The older end got the plaudits with the bat as Butt (462), Bairstow (551) and Gill (335) again caught the eye. Overseas fast bowler Mohammed Naved had a good season with 65 wickets. The Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy no longer shone brightly for them as they were despatched decisively on their own ground by Whitley Hall.
In 2012, with Gareth Phillips taking over the captaincy, Congs were off to a torrid start with a humbling defeat at Roberts Park against Saltaire. Things did not immediately improve and there was a genuine fear of relegation in the camp at the halfway stage of the season.
Eventually they got out of trouble with new recruit Nick Lindley from Harrogate scoring 639 runs for the cause. They finished the season with a flourish to finish at sixth, and also won the Dyson Twenty/20 Competition at Wagon Lane.
Another Congs product to become a contracted player at Yorkshire was wicket-keeper Barney Gibson. He made his First Class debut for Yorkshire in a three-day match against Durham UCCE on 27 April 2011 at the age of 15 years, 27 days beating the previous record held for 144 years by Charles Young who had represented Hampshire at the age of 15 years, 131 days in 1867.
Congs signed former Yorkshire Academy batsman Callum Geldart for 2013 and he did not disappoint with 615 runs at 30.75. A left-handed batsman, Geldart played two first-class matches in 2010 and 2011. These were against Loughborough May 2010, when he scored 17 runs; and Durham MCC University in April 2011, when he contributed 34.
It was a satisfactory season with Congs finishing fifth and several young players learning their trade. Burzler had his best season with 433 runs and 35 wickets, while paceman Richie Lamb impressed with 37 wickets.
Roberts was as usual hard for batters to contend with winning the Bradford League bowling averages with 42 wickets at 12.71. Off spinner Eddie Walmsley won the Ernest Lodge Most Promising Spinner replicating his achievement at Cleckheaton in 2008 and 2009.
Although Pudsey Congs strive for stability as a club it was all change again for 2014 with the departures of Jack Seddon, Eugene Burzler, Richie Lamb and Eddie Walmsley. However, they made some key signings in former player Adam Patel (Manningham Mills), Joe Greaves (Farsley) and James Pearson (Farsley).
It was a bitter-sweet experience for skipper Gareth Phillips in 2014 as he fought off a relegation battle that lasted until the latter weeks of the season. The fact that they finished eighth could not hide the fact that their nine losses put them in great danger of going down. The cups were a salvation for them and gave them undoubted confidence to fight off relegation. An unseemly Priestley Cup exit at the hands of second division Undercliffe did not hamper their Heavy Woollen Cup run.
In the First Round they blasted out famous past winners Wrenthorpe by ten wickets with Geldart (109*) and Lindley (71*) making a statement. Further wins against Mirfield Parish Cavaliers and Delph & Dobcross propelled the Congs to the semi-final. In a high scoring and tense battle at Delph the home team fell short by just 14 runs chasing 266-7 on a heat-wave day. Roberts quelled their victory charge with 4-42 when they were the well placed to win.
In the semi-final Woodlands conquerors Kirkburton were put to the sword when Congs amassed
352-8 to win by a massive 110 runs. At Spen Victoria the Congs triumphed against Townville in some comfort by five wickets in the final.
Townville’s 226 total could have been much higher but for some crafty containing bowling by both Roberts in the latter overs.
Callum Geldart, who was the deserving recipient of the Man of the Match Award for a superb century in the final, had an incredible run in the Heavy Woollen Cup:
First Round-109* v Wrenthorpe
Quarter-Final- 98* v Delph & Dobcross
Semi-Final- 110 v Kirkburton
Final- 102 v Townville
For Andrew Bairstow, Glenn Roberts and Babar Butt, who were the only survivors of the halcyon days at Congs, this completed the full set of for medals in trophies open to the club in their career.
More cup glory came in the shape of the Dyson Twenty/20 Competition at Wagon Lane on finals day when they beat Woodlands after Geldart (114 runs) and Adam Butt (77 runs) had put on a massive 198 for the first wicket.
The end of the season saw Roberts retire to pursue an umpiring career in the Bradford League. Since joining Congs in 2001 he helped them win five league titles, five Priestley Cups, the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy three times, the Heavy Woollen Cup and the Dyson Energy Services Twenty/20 Cup twice.
Roberts, who topped the Division One bowling averages in 2013, remained a key figure in his final season before taking up umpiring.
Babar Butt, above, had something of a renaissance season in 2014 scoring vital runs when most needed. He topped the Congs league averages with 324 runs at 36.00, beating the prolific cup batsman Geldart who scored 503 runs at 27.94. Roberts led the way in the bowling stakes yet again with 33 wickets at 14.48, finishing sixth in the league bowling averages.
Butt, who won 17 trophies in 15 seasons with Pudsey Congs, retired in 2015 after the Sovereign Health Care Priestley Cup second round home tie against Bowling Old Lane.
It was an appropriate moment for the 49-year-old batsman to bow out as he will be playing against the club he made his Bradford League bow with back in 1984. He scored 8,804 Bradford League runs, recorded his best aggregate for one season at Old Lane in 1985 when he made 1,027 and he also hit his highest score of 127 the previous year.
Butt, who initially came to England as an 18-year-old overseas professional with Bowling Old Lane, joined Congs at the start of their glory days in 2000 after eight years in the Yorkshire League, three with Rotherham Town and six at Doncaster Town. He enjoyed one league title win at Rotherham and a league and cup double in 1999, his final season at Doncaster when he was captain.
In 2015 the Congs improved their league position finishing fifth in a season where they had some notable victories but never challenged the title contenders. Nick Lindley had his best season with 861 runs at 47.83, and in addition retained the League’s Fielding Prize, while his usual opening partner Callum Geldart surpassed his tally with 912 runs at 43.43. Pace bowler James Pearson (47 wkts) and spin bowler Kez Ahmed (39 wkts) were the most effective bowlers in a young team well lead by skipper Gareth Phillips.
The cup offered the most highlights with runs to the semi-finals of the Priestley Cup and Heavy Woollen Cup, losing to Lightcliffe and Woodlands respectively. These disappointments were compensated somewhat as Congs proved themselves the league’s best Twenty/20 side again by winning the tournament for the third time in four seasons.
Finals day was at Tofts Road for the first time where the Congs beat their neighbours St Lawrence in a thrilling final in front of a big crowd. This led the way to a Twenty/20 adventure in the NatWest Club Tournament which ended at the Cardiff Swalec Test Match Stadium in front of the Sky TV cameras.
In the Regional Finals at Undercliffe. Congs defeated the South Yorkshire League outfit Wickersley by 22 runs before beating Derbyshire Premier League side Ticknell by 28 runs in the final. Left hander Geldart, who had an umatched record in Twenty/20 in the Bradford League, struck five sixes and eight fours in a thrilling 49-ball 80 against Ticknell.
At NatWest Club T20 Northern finals day Congs had a crushing 97-run win over Chester-le-Street on their own patch with Geldart scoring a rapid 111. In a momentous finals day at Cardiff Pudsey Congs' brave run in the competition came to an end when they suffered a five-wicket defeat to Exmouth, the Devon side edging home with one ball to spare as they successfully chased down the Congs' score of 152-7.
The Pudsey Congs squad for this historic run comprised of Mustafa Raffique, Andrew Bairstow, Josh Holling, James Pearson, Luke Holroyd, Kez Ahmed, Mubtada Akhtar, Adam Patel, NIck Lindley, Gareth Phillips (captain), Callum Geldart.
By the club’s standards season 2016 was a mediocre affair with a final finish of 8th. However, their young team reacted well after being too close for comfort to the drop.
The lynchpin batsman was again Geldart who scored runs with his usual abandon chalking up 847 at 47.06. He was also more than proficient in the field taking 18 catches- the most from an outfielder in the division.
Josh Wheatley had a promising debut season after being signed from Lightcliffe scoring 339 runs, and taking 33 wickets.
Andrew Bairstow brought time down on a 30-year career that brought him in excess of 11,000 runs, and 24 major trophies. His last match against Morley was a characteristic innings of 46 when entering the crease in a crisis.
Bairstow’s retirement, and the departure of key players Geldart and Lindley made for a very inexperienced side for 2017. Babar Butt returned from semi-retirement to captain a side of great potential, but little big-match experience.
The first match against Woodlands epitomised the season in so far as the youthful side just could not get over the line. They reduced a good Woodlands side to 73-7, but allowed them to recover to 153 which proved to be a winning score. In the return match later in the season they were on the verge of overhauling Woodland’s under-par 201 but fell one short when panic set in.
Another close encounter was against Batley when they fell 10 runs short. But, there were heartening performances which kept their survival bid alive. They beat Batley earlier in the season with some panache; setting a score of 250-5 with James Ford scoring a century. Amidst some emphatic defeats they also beat Cleckheaton in sensational style- defending 106-9, they bowled their opponents out for 35 with Jonathan Donnelly taking 6-20.
They were in a precarious position with Batley when entering the last quarter of the season. However, they then came to life beating their arch rivals Pudsey St Lawrence by 8 runs, and later defeating Bradford & Bingley.
Entering the final fixture, only a few points separated the bottom three, and with rain forecast it was a nerve racking Saturday. Their opponents New Farnley could only score 137-3 in their allocated 20-overs, but it appeared to be too many for much of the Congs innings. A late surge gave Congs a realistic chance, but it was not to be as they lost another close game.
One run was the agonising margin between safety and relegation for Pudsey Congs as their Premier Division tenure came to an end. Two runs from the final ball of their match would have earned them a tie to put them level on points with East Bierley. This would have been sufficient to survive by virtue of having one more win.
But, Congs only managed a single and finished on 136-5. Congs opener Mubtada Akhtar hit four sixes in his 45, but it was Zahid Nissar (42no) who put his side in sight of survival.
It was clear by the end of season statistics that their batting was not good enough. Only Irfan Amjad with 580 runs at 36.25 was able to average above 20 runs per innings in the league. The most effective bowlers were Josh Holling (29 wkts) and Josh Wheatley (30 wkts).
Congs decided to put trust in their young players for the 2018 season, and while they never threatened to join the promotion race, played good cricket in fifth position. The lack of experience told several times when they could not `close down’ tight games.
The more experienced James Ford (573 runs) and Mubtada Akhtar (464 runs) brought stability to the batting, while Vikram Sharma, Sam Wisniewski, below, and Jonathon Donnelly all showed great promise for the future.
Fortunes declined somewhat in 2019 when the team finished in 10th place, just nine points clear of relegation.
It seemed much more promising up to June when they were in the early promotion pack, and new signing Yasir Ali adding much needed experience to the team. Their most impressive victory of the season came in this spell when they beat the eventual champions Batley by 126 runs with Ali top scoring with 107.
For much of the season they were in a cluster of clubs on the fringes of the promotion race, but alarmingly they lost their last four matches of the season.
Skipper James Ford tried his best to anchor the batting scoring 380 runs, while Ali provided balance to the team with 359 runs and 40 wickets at 18.35.
The best of the young prospects were Vikram Sharma who scored 303 runs at 37.88 and spinner Wisniewski, above, who continued his progress with 36 wickets.
The high standard of the club was maintained when they were awarded the Tommy Mathers Ground Award.