One of the proudest moments in East Bierley's history when they won the National Village Cup at Lord's in 1979
The early days
The club was formed in 1865 and played their earliest games on land known as The Shay behind the New Inn before moving to their present South View Road site. At first the ground was rented and in 1905 it was levelled with a viewing embankment created. Eventually the club bought the ground in 1932 from Saville Estates. Some early levelling work created the embankment that is still the main feature of the ground today.
The ground at South View Road has always been noted for its many great vantage viewing points- on the club side it is a grand stand view where one looks down on the action auditorium style, whereas on the walled short boundary side one could shake the hand of the opening bowler as he marks his run at the commencement of the innings, such is the close proximity to the action. The opposite side has seats looking down on the action also grand stand style. Perhaps the bottom scoreboard end is the least popular when one has to look up at the action on a more exposed side.
On a good clear day when the cricket has a lapse in action your eyes can wander towards the Huddersfield Pennine area where the towering Emley Moor mast dominates the eye line. If there is a pending gloom as the rain clouds head towards the cricket the Bierley weather scientists can predict the exact time the play will be interrupted.
Little is known of their matches before entering league cricket. One of the club’s earliest recorded fixtures was at home to Morley Britannia, while in 1875, they met Windhill away. In 1885, the local press mentioned an away game at Dudley Hill.
East Bierley’s earliest success came when they won the Bradford District League in 1895, 1898 and 1899. This spurred them on to join the emerging Bradford League in 1912.
Entry to the Bradford League
Success on the field was difficult to gain and they were very much also-rans for the first two decades. In 1916 Bierley’s A Hepworth won the League Batting Averages with an excellent average of 62.20 in a team that just scraped half-way.
East Bierley bowler J T Newstead had a remarkable bowling analysis of 9-5 against Queensbury in 1918.The League Batting Averages were won for the second time by a Bierley player when in 1920 T G Dobson averaged 48.41.
After finishing bottom of a 20-strong league in 1924, East Bierley took a three-year sabbatical from the Bradford League from 1925.On rejoining they have been perennial members ever since.
Bierley reached the 1930 Priestley Cup Final after the bad weather meant that the semi-final and finals were not played until the following summer. When the final was eventually played they were defeated by Idle who made 128 for four in reply to East Bierley’s 127.
In 1933 East Bierley reached the final again and put up a great fight against Undercliffe who scored 251. Bierley replied with 246 and lost by the slender margin of five runs. In 1933, a clubroom was added to the existing facilities at the ground.
West Indian Edwin St Hill thrills the crowds
Apart from the Priestley Cup adventures the thirties were relatively undistinguished with few thrills for the locals apart from West Indian Test player in Edwin St Hill.
Edwin St Hill was a legendary performer for Bierley taking 63 wickets in 1935. He did even better in 1936 with 87 wickets at 10.60, including 8-50 v Pudsey St Lawrence. The Trinidad fast bowler was a prolific wicket-taker in the first class competition in the West Indies and made two Test appearances.
Local performers of distinction during those years were batsmen G Dawson, F Scott and C Sykes who scored the bulk of the runs. Easily the most prolific bowler, apart from St Hill was H Cawthray.
Desperate times at South View Road
Times were hard in the late thirties and relegation from the top section in 1939 heralded the most desperate decade in Bierley’s history.
In 1940 they had to seek re-election despite their ace all rounder F Berry contributing 537 runs, and taking 62 wickets.
This was followed by re-election pleas in 1941, 1942, 1944, 1946 and 1947. In 1942 both teams were bottom of their respective divisions, while in 1944 the First Team only won one match with no players appearing in the official league averages.
A revival in 1948 was brought about by the excellent bowling of G E Govier who took 65 wickets at 11.69 and finished second in the league bowling averages. Bierley finished third, but this proved to be a false dawn as in 1949 they avoided the re-election placings by the skin of their teeth. Govier excelled again with 50 wickets, and as bonus scored 396 runs with the bat.
Priestley Cup Final heartbreak occurred again for Bierley in 1950 when Lightcliffe won by one run, albeit their opponents could have batted again as they had suspended their innings as per the ruling at the time.
Harry Waterhouse carries the batting
Despite this disappointment the 1950’s saw a massive improvement with prolific opening batsman Harry Waterhouse scoring 500-plus runs every season from 1951 to 1956. This was no mean feat in an era of uncovered wickets. He had a very orthodox, correct technique and would not known give his wicket away rashly.
Waterhouse played for the Yorkshire Colts side at the time, but could not force himself into the senior side with Hutton and Lowson holding sway as openers.
In 1953 he won the W.H.Foster Jubilee Batting Trophy with 874 runs at an average of 62.42 with a top score of 98*. More often than not in this era Waterhouse would carry the Bierley batting to such an extent that he was the only batsman from the club in the league batting averages.
Bierley began to make real headway and in 1953 finished 3rd and in consequence just missed out on promotion.
Apart from Waterhouse the other influential player was fast bowler Brian Hall who was a Yorkshire Colt. After taking 53 wickets in 1952 he followed this with 69 wickets in 1953. This included a magnificent 10-52 against Bowling Old Lane. Later in the match he was at the crease on 29 not out when Bierley knocked off the runs.
In 1954 in the scorebook for the East Bierley v Farsley fixture there was an entry “wind stopped play”. The umpires called a halt when the wind became too strong for the match to carry on as players caps blew off constantly. They did eventually return and Farsley duly won.
In 1957 Bierley at last achieved promotion under wily skipper Gordon Phillips. Waterhouse failed to score his customary 500 runs, but still had the top aggregate with 457.
Phillips was one of the renowned captains in the league who lead his team shrewdly in an unassuming manner. It was said at the time that he was under consideration for the Yorkshire captaincy during the troubled times when Ronnie Burnet took the job.
But, 1957 was all about seamer Norman Kitson who had a devastating season taking 81 wickets at 11.02. In the next two seasons Kitson was instrumental in consolidating his team taking 103 league wickets in all.
An indication of the club’s progress was their appearance as a second division club in the Priestley Cup Final against Bradford Park Avenue. In a spirited performance Bierley lost by 4 wickets but proved they could mix it with the top flight clubs.
A further boost for Bierley came in 1959 when Terry Gunn won the League’s Wicket Keeper’s prize after taking 23 catches to add to his 10 stumpings.
Gunn was immensely brave and capable of standing up to the medium quick bowlers even on sporty wickets. He made his first-class debut for Sussex against Gloucestershire in 1961, but made limited appearances over the next seven seasons, mostly due to the presence of England’s Jim Parks in the Sussex squad. He made 41 first-class appearances, the last of which came against Gloucestershire in 1967.
A specialist wicket-keeper with limited batting skills, he scored a total of 179 runs at an average of 5.11, with a high score of 19 not out. Behind the stumps he took 109 catches and made 5 stumpings. He gained his Sussex cap in 1965 and left following the 1968 season.
Notable players join in the sixties
At the onset of the sixties in 1960 prolific batsman Brian Lymbery, above, introduced himself at Bierley as a star in the making by scoring 552 runs.
Bierley started to recruit players with county associations or prospects in the sixties and 21 year old Jackie Birkenshaw, a right arm off-spinner with a yen for attacking shots down the order, first made his mark in 1961.
He had limited success with the ball, but in nine innings scored 353 runs at 70.60 with a top score of 85*. He continued to play spasmodically for Bierley in the following two years but met with limited success apart from a not out century in 1963.
Birkenshaw couldn’t break into the great Yorkshire side of the sixties and turned to Leicestershire to play county cricket. He took a long time to establish himself but did so to such an extent he played five test matches for England, with a top score of 64 and a best bowling feat of 5-57.
His First Class record suggested he was a genuine match winning all-rounder scoring 12,780 runs with a top score of 131, and taking 1,073 wickets with a best return of 8-94.
In 1962, despite a top pro batsman in Eddie Slingsby (667 runs), former county player Lewis Pickles (461 runs), and the redoubtable seamers in Brian Redfearn and Kitson (51 wkts), Bierley still finished in a lowly position. This was indicative of the strength of the league at the time.
Pickles made appearances for Yorkshire's Second Eleven, before joining Somerset. He played twice in 1955 before he became the regular opener for the 1956 season. He did well enough to win his county cap, scoring 1,136 runs at an average of 24. His county career was short lived.
Bierley showed more form in the Priestley Cup reaching the Final only to lose yet again. Batting first they only lost three wickets but were pegged back to 186 which Bradford Park Avenue chased with relish by the margin of seven wickets.
Openers Slingsby and Pickles put Bierley in the box seat with an opening stand of 148. But, when Pickles was run out for 96 trying to accelerate the scoring rate, the innings meekly came to an end.
Yorkshire Colt Peter Stringer joined the seam attack in 1963 taking 31 wickets. He improved his haul in 1964 taking 47 wickets and assisting his team to yet another Priestley Cup Final that ended in defeat. This time it was a much closer affair losing to Lightcliffe by 12 runs.
East Bierley's 1964 team are picture above.
Lightcliffe batted first and scored a competitive 200-8. It was difficult to predict a winner at the mid-point of Bierley’s innings, but they ran out of steam in the closing overs to finish on 188-9.
Stringer played 19 matches for Yorkshire from 1967 to 1969, before moving to Leicestershire and making 37 appearances. A right arm, fast medium bowler, he took 88 wickets at 31.50, with a best of 5 for 43 for Leicestershire against his old county Yorkshire.
East Bierley made little impact in the league in the sixties, flirting with relegation in 1966. But, they had some fine performers.
Brian Redfearn was an effervescent performer who was worth his weight in gold as a team player. He scored runs and took the difficult wickets to provide balance to the team in his ten year spell at the club.
Eddie Slingsby was solid with the bat topping 500-runs in 1962, 1963, 1965 and 1966 with a season best of 766 at 40.32.
Quality players like Joe Phillips, formerly of Bradford Park Avenue, and Dennis Bateson both had cameo careers with East Bierley.
Veteran leg-spinner makes impact
In 1968, the 57 year old Johnny Lawrence took 54 wickets for Bierley with his characteristic leg break and googlies in a struggling side. Lawrence first made his name in the Bradfgord League in the 1930s, but was not able to break into the strong Yorkshire side though he played in their Second Eleven.
He qualified by residence to play for Somerset at the end of 1939 but then had to wait until after World War II before making his debut, by which time he was 35 years old.
Short and enthusiastic, Lawrence was a pugnacious batsman who, according to one account, "could on occasions bat with irremovable resolve". As a bowler, in the description of the cricket writer Alan Gibson, "Lawrence was one of the slowest bowlers I have ever seen."
He was an instant success in Somerset's 1946 side, winning his cap in his first season, scoring 968 runs and taking 66 wickets. The wickets were fewer and more expensive in 1947, but he took his first five-wicket haul in an innings with six for 53 against Hampshire at Weston-Super-Mare
Lawrence went on to have a fine first class career as a genuine all rounder with 9,185 runs to his name in addition to a wicket haul of 798. After retirement he ran a well respected coaching school.
Despite disappointing league positions for Bierley in 1969 and 1970 batsman Brian Lymbery excelled with the bat to such an extent that he won the W H Foster Jubilee Batting trophy in both seasons. Later in his career he replicated this deed with Idle on two more occasions.
Brian Lymbery was an accomplished left-handed batsman who would have surely played county cricket today in the era of central contracts. Although he had all the shots he gave his wicket away infrequently in a league career that amassed 13,739 runs at 34.09.
Gilchrist spearheads the Bierley attack
His 675 runs at 48.21 in 1970 should have ensured a better season for Bierley, especially with pace bowler Roy Gilchrist, above, in their ranks and firing on all cylinders.
The 36 year old Gilchrist took 61 wickets for an average of 19.92 which earned him the bottom place in the league bowling averages for qualified bowlers.
Gilchrist in some ways was one of the pioneers of the West Indian fast bowling tradition. He occasionally resorted to the beamer in league cricket when things were not in his favour.
Gilchrist's Test career might have been longer had he not been sent home halfway through West Indies' 1958–59 tour of the Indian subcontinent after disagreements with captain Gerry Alexander. One cause of this was Gilchrist's penchant for bowling beamers from 18 yards as well as off-field arguments. This involved deliberately overstepping the bowling mark by four yards to come closer to the batsman and intimidate him.
In 13 Tests Gilchrist took 57 wickets with a best return of 6-55.
Bierley finished bottom in 1971 and consequently relegated in a season when Lymbery went close to retaining the W H Foster Jubilee Batting trophy again averaging 43, and Gilchrist took 58 wickets.
It got even worse in 1972 when they finished bottom of the second division without a single batsman in the league averages. This resulted in an application for re-election in a season when only two victories was recorded.
All together they stayed five seasons in the second division while they slowly built a side to challenge in the top flight.
Seamer Phil Taylor, above, was making his mark with 42 wickets in 1972, while there was a significant introduction of a young Murphy Walwyn (388 runs) in 1974. Freddie Jones, G Aspinall and Claude Defoe were the main batters of this era.
The old Jer Lane stalwart Brian Nurse was finally persuaded to move from the Bradford Central League and he eased his way into the better competition with 362 runs in 1975.
When promotion was achieved in 1976 it was built around the solid batting of Graham Robinson (568 runs), Walwyn (557 runs) and P Hennessey (449 runs), and the penetrative bowling of Taylor (57 wkts) and pace bowler T Foy (62 wkts).
Limited success of future test player
They scarcely survived in the top flight in 1977 vying with Spen Victoria on 36 points who went down. This was despite having the limited services of the 19 year old Nick Cook who was destined to play county cricket for Leicestershire amd Northamptonshire, and later England.
Cook’s limited appearances brought him 20 wickets at 12.65, while with the bat he averaged 24.00 from seven innings.
Cook was a slow left-arm orthodox spin bowler and a lower order right-handed batsman who played first-class and List A cricket from 1978 to 1994. He made his international debut against New Zealand and picked up 32 wickets in his first four Tests, including four 5-wicket performances with a best bowling match return of 11 for 83 against Pakistan at Karachi. His career total of 52 Test wickets was taken at an average of 32.48.
Cook’s Leicestershire team mate Les Taylor was also on Bierley’s books in 1977. A former miner Taylor's first-class career started somewhat belatedly at the age of 23. Aged 24, his season at Bierley was of mixed success as he took 20 wickets for an average of 19.53.
A solidly-built fast-medium bowler and a reliable county performer over many years, Taylor's chance of Test selection seemed to have gone when he received a three-year ban for joining the rebel tour of South Africa in 1982.where he was the leading bowler with 11 wickets at 18.72 to his name.
He didn’t cover himself in glory in his two official Test matches taking only 4 wickets at a personal cost of 44.50 each wicket. By the time he had retired from first-class combat in 1990, Taylor had taken 581 wickets at 25.21 apiece.
It was a rude awakening in for Bierley in 1977, but things got better the following year when they finished 5th.
1978 was the year when the West Indian influence of Claude Defoe (517 runs) and Walwyn (427 runs) came to the fore, assisted by Nurse who scored 518 runs.
Cook got little encouragement from the Bradford League batsmen as his 27 wickets were at a cost of 19.96, while he averaged 23.33 with the bat from 14 innings. He only played a handful of games the following year taking 7 wickets at 16.71.
The Bradford League activities were overwhelmingly overshadowed that year when they embarked on a run in the National Village Trophy that took them to Lord’s under the captaincy of Phil Taylor.
This was a team containing Murphy Walwyn, Claude Defoe, Freddy Jones, Brian Nurse, Paul Topp and Tony Pickersgill amongst other top class league cricketers who were supported on the day by a large contingent of Bierley supporters.
Over 2,000 spectators packed inside the Bierley ground to see the semi-final against opponents from Cambridgeshire. The embankment was crowded and spectators were standing three-deep on the other three sides of the ground.
Coaches were taken to Lord's on final day when the whole of the village appeared to be represented to see their team despatch their Welsh opponents Ynsygerwn by more than a hundred runs. Bierley’s score of 216-4 was a record for a final at the time.
Local cricket historians regarded this triumph as the catalyst for the forthcoming glory years that followed in the eighties.
But, there was to be one more disappointment when they lost their seventh Priestley Cup Final in 1980. After their National Village heroics they thought they had turned the corner – but it was not to be as Undercliffe’s 195-7 proved to be too much for a Bierley side that struggled to 163-9.
Bierley’s fortunes would change dramatically in 1981 when not only did they take their first Bradford League silverware at First Team level, but they achieved the classic Division One title and Priestley Cup double.
The 1981 cup final was against Farsley and an eighth defeat looked on the cards when openers Mark Brearley and Billy Holmes put on 114 in reply to East Bierley’s 195 for five.
But Bierley proved they were made of sterner stuff than previous years and Paul Topp showed his quality as he took six for 44 as Farsley crumbled to 158 all out.
Outstanding medium pacer
Paul Topp was the deserved recipient of the Man of the Match Award to highlight what an excellent bowler he was.
He only bowled at military medium but such was his control few batsmen took liberties with him. Many a time he bowled the full fifty overs with an action that allowed him the stamina to hardly break sweat. He is one of a handful of bowlers to take a career 1,000 wickets in the league.
The key figures in the double side, so expertly led by the astute Taylor, included opening batsman Brian Lymbery, seamer Tony Pickersgill and the ever-dependable Topp.
Curiously, his skipper at the time Phil Taylor also joined the inclusive thousand club with a career of seam bowling from a short run-up. He was deceptively quick with an action that made full use of a set of powerful shoulders. In later years he would turn to off spin.
The title win went to the wire with Pudsey St Lawrence only three points behind. Lymbery (771) and John Punchard (549) were the major run-getters, while Taylor (48) and Topp (54) and Pickersill (42) were the chief wicket-takers.
Yorkshire Club Champions
The title win allowed Bierley to enter the prestigious Yorkshire Champions Club Trophy and they reached the final of 1982. They ensured that they would do the Bradford League proud by beating Huddersfield League Golcar in the Final and in doing so completing a momentous two-year chapter in their history.
As reigning winners they were allowed to enter the following year and duly retained the trophy beating Shepley in the final. Bierley developed a real thirst for this tournament and during this glorious decade of success completed a third win in 1989 when they accounted for Lascelles Hall in the final.
Nobody could take away the accolade of supreme club of Yorkshire on three occasions in the eighties.
East Bierley had to wait three years until 1984, team picture below, for their next domestic silverware when they won the Priestley Cup for a second time beating Keighley by nine wickets with Man of the Match Tony Pickersgill bowling his side to victory.
Seamer Tony Pickersgill, who was a survivor from their National Village Cup triumph, was the model of consistency in this era forming a three-pronged attack with Topp and Taylor.
Another consistent contributor in the mid-80’s was opening batsman Steve Rimmington who topped 500 runs regularly with 1986 being his most productive year with 861 runs at 50.52.
Back on the trophy trail
A further four years passed until their second title win in 1988 and again it was a case of pipping Pudsey St Lawrence, but this time it was by the convincing margin of 17 points.
Yorkshire contracted batsmen Bradley Parker (668) and Neil Nicholson (698) scored the bulk of the runs with Steve Leathersdale (702), while the crucial bowling came from Dean Hoffman (39) and Cobus.Nolte (74).
Bradley Parker, who played for Yorkshire went on to become one of the most prolific batsmen in the league’s history with 13,836 career runs. A right-handed batsman, Parker averaged 30.14 in first-class cricket; scoring 1,839 runs including two centuries with a best of 138 not out against Oxford University.
His only County Championship ton was 127 against Surrey. He played in 80 one day matches, scoring 1,176 runs at 19.60, with his highest innings being 108 for Northumberland against the Yorkshire Cricket Board.
Murphy Walwyn a major influence
One player who had a massive impact on their golden period was all rounder Murphy Walwyn. He twice took all ten wickets in an innings and produced many match-winning innings with his cavalier brand of stroke play. His first all ten came against Farsley in 1986 and came at a cost of 47 runs. Twelve months later, Yeadon were on the receiving end as Walwyn took ten for 45.
If the eighties were triumphant – the nineties were even better for East Bierley. Further championship successes in 1993, 1994 and 1996 were a reflection of their consistency while the ensuing Priestley Cup wins in 1991, 1998, and 1999 underlined their toughness in sudden-death competition.
During this period Dermot McGrath was a constant at Bierley compiling run- tallies of 691, 785 and 1064 at 56.00 during the title winning years. McGrath guarded his wicket with great care and was often a modest not out score at the half-way mark. But, he knew when to accelerate and had a full array of strokes on both sides of the wickets.
Future Yorkshire man
His brother Anthony who forged a long and successful career with Yorkshire CC made his mark with Bierley in 1994 with 785 runs.
McGrath’s First Class record was 14,698 runs, with a top score of 211, and also 134 wickets with his `little seamers’. He could consider himself unlucky to have just played in 4 test matches for England having averaged 40.20 with a highest score of 81.
Part of the 1991 Priestley Cup winning side was former Yorkshire & Nottinghamshire left arm seamer Mike Bore who took 47 league wickets at 18.36.
A doughty campaigner on the county circuit he took 372 first-class wickets at 30.22 with a best of 8-89. He conceded 2.43 runs per over, bowling a mixture of accurate swing and seam. He was a noted rabbit with the bat, with a highest score of just 37* in 158 innings, and an average of 8.24. He took 139 wickets in one-day cricket.
Opening bowlers Andy Cutts and Mark Bearshall formed a formidable pair in this era, with effective back-up from spinner David Jay who was destined to join the thousand wicket club.
Jay was in the all-conquering Bradford League Representative side who won five consecutive titles under Chris Gott. When the wicket wasn’t conducive to spin he would frustrate the batsman into giving his wicket away with a flat negative line and length.
Beardshall was another player with county links having played eight matches for Derbyshire. In his first class career he took 12 wickets with a best performance of 4-68, and a top score with the bat of 25. In league cricket he was known as an abrasive fast bowler who thrived on taking no prisoners.
Former West Indian batsman Collis King was introduced in 1991 and he didn’t disappoint with 623 runs, while left-arm spinner Ian Fisher who would make the grade at Gloucestershire took 31 wickets in 1998.
The swashbuckling batsman King played ninen Tests and 18 one-day internationals for the West Indies. He scored one century and hit two fifties, and in ODI cricket, his highest – and swiftest – score came in the 1979 World Cup final when he came in at 99 for 4 to hit 86 off 66 deliveries, and added 149 with Viv Richards.
In a varied first-class career, he played for his native country Barbados in the West Indies domestic competition, but also played for Glamorgan. Worcestershire and Natal in South Africa. In scoring 123 on his Worcestershire debut in 1983, he became the first player in more than fifty years to score a hundred in his first match for the county. After playing at Bierley he had a prolific spell at Dunnington CC in the York Senior League where he played into his sixties.
Another notable player in this era was fast bowler Neville Lindsay who’s 44 wickets was very influential in assisting East Bierley in winning the 1996 title.
The overseas player of 1998, and very much part of the cup winning side, was Nicholas De Groot who scored 617 stylish runs at 34.28. A right-handed batsman and medium-pace bowler he played for both Canada and Guyana..
With few chances at Guyanese cricket from his start in 1994/95, he turned to Canada for the 2001 ICC Trophy, making crucial contributions for this competition and qualification for the 2003 World Cup. He played in all Canada's World Cup matches in 2003.
In the late nineties a trio of young cricketers would make an impact- Ryan Robinson, Andrew Bairstow and Robert Burton all contributed manfully to the winning of silverware.
The Jaffer Nazir years
Bierley struck gold in 1999 with overseas quick bowler Jaffer Nazir, above, who topped the league averages with 51 wickets, before repeating the feat the following year with 66 wickets. Astonishingly he performed this achievement again in 2005 and also averaged 43.84 with the bat ensuring that the Learie Constantine All-Rounder’s Award would inevitably go to him.
He was invaluable in making early breakthroughs with the ball, and could also accelerate the scoring down the order with the bat. He was many pundits’ choice as the best overseas player in the league.
The 2000 team above completed a hat-trick of Priestley Cup wins from 1998 under the leadership of Dermot McGrath. It was a considerable feat and one that no other club has ever achieved. Appropriately the Man of the Match Awards went to Bierley players Dermot McGrath, Robert Burton and Anthony McGrath respectively.
However, the hat-trick was immediately preceded by a Cup Final defeat.
1997 East Bierley 182-3 Pudsey St Lawrence 182-3
1998 Pudsey Congs 168-6 East Bierley 169-2
1999 East Bierley 224-9 Yeadon 151
2000 East Bierley 241-7 Hanging Heaton 173
East Bierley entered the 21st Century as a cup team as they struggled to revive their previous title credentials. The emergence of Pudsey Congs and latterly Woodlands stifled Bierley’s chances as other major clubs found themselves in the same predicament.
They had teams containing virtuoso players but often they were unable to field their strongest side. Opening batsman Richard Gould emerged as a prolific batsman scoring 1133 runs in 2003 and 845 runs in 2004.
Another batting star was Jonathan Proud who was elegance personified as a left hander who preferred to score his runs in the classical way. He came an agonising one run short of the fabled thousand in 2003, before scoring 845 in 2004.
Lee Goddard, above, arrived on the scene in 2003 with 456 runs which he bettered the following year with 731. He was to emerge as a Durham contracted player. He had a spell away at Methley before returning and enjoyed his best season in 2012 with an average of 43.79 which was good enough to earn him the League Batting Averages and Player’s Player Award.
Taylor’s 1,000 runs
Yorkshire contracted batsman Chris Taylor scored 1,100 runs in 2005 to take the League Batting Averages in a strong side only a handful of points away from the title.
His tenure of eight seasons at Yorkshire was a frustration in many aspects because of the lack of first-team playing time, although he saw plenty of action in the Second XI. Taylor initially broke through into the first team and made his debut in the County Championship-winning season of 2001.
In November 2006, Taylor signed for Derbyshire on a two-year contract, and, within a month of the start of the season, Taylor had hit two centuries, one against Glamorgan and the other against his old club, Yorkshire, in a match winning innings at Headingley..
Taylor became the first Derbyshire cricketer in their history to score a century on his first-class and one-day debuts for the club. At the end of his first season at Derbyshire, Taylor had made five first class centuries, was named One Day’ Player of the Year, and finished second in the national One Day averages.
Another interesting cricketer on Bierley’s books in this era was left-handed batsman William Porterfield who made modest contributions to his team’s cause. He went on to play county cricket with Gloucestershire but found greater fame skippering his native country Ireland in the World Cup, scoring 104* against Kenya.
In 2007 Left-arm spinner Luke Jarvis, above, signed from Bilton and made an immediate impact taking 49 wickets. In 2008 there were two marquee signings from the Yorkshire League in the shape of Andrew Rennison and Greg Wood. Both batted in exciting style with the former scoring 641 runs to finish second in the league averages. Wood made 783 runs and played one more season before moving into the Huddersfield League.
Paceman Greg Lambert was another signing from the Yorkshire League during this period. His histrionics on the field were legendary but there was no faulting his endeavour to take wickets. In 2000, he played two first-class matches for Yorkshire against Surrey and Kent in the County Championship. In those matches, he met with moderate success taking four wickets averaging 33.25.
In 2010 Pakistan pace bowler Mohammad Azharullah, below, joined the ranks taking 59 wickets and 54 the following year. He left to join Shelley in the Huddersfield League before being signed by Northants and ultimately representing his country in limited over cricket.
More Priestley Cup successes
Cup glory came knocking again in 2009 when Bierley amassed 272-9 in the final to win the cup by a massive 123 runs against Farsley with Andrew Rennison making the key innings.
They reached the final again in 2011 only to lose to Pudsey St Lawrence despite posting a handy 243-7. This proved to be insufficient as they were defeated by 5 wickets.
However, they would win it again in 2012 against a Manningham Mills who had the definite upper hand at Spen Victoria in the final only for rain to prevail. On the rearranged date Mills was also in the ascendency until a batting collapse rendered them 30 runs short.
Gavin Hamilton’s influence at Bierley
Former Yorkshire bowler Gavin Hamilton, pictured above right with Anthony McGrath, signed for Bierley in 2003, and featured in his team's Priestley Cup victories. Losing his bowling rhythm latterly in his First Class career he played as a specialist batsman with great success at Bierley.
He began his senior career in 1993, taking 5–65 on his debut in Scotland's annual game against Ireland. He also played a few times that year for Yorkshire's Second XI, making his first-team debut for the county in 1994.
He took a few years to become established in the side, but by 1998 was an important team member: that summer he took 59 first-class wickets at 20.54 as well as scoring six fifties, and claimed 34 one-dayscalps at 18.94.
In 1999, Hamilton represented Scotland in the World Cup. His place in the squad was announced late, as there had been a possibility that England would select him for their World Cup squad, but when this did not happen he was free to play for Scotland. He rose to the occasion well, scoring 217 runs in his five One-Day internationals and holding the innings together on several occasions.
In 1999–00 England toured South Africa and this time Hamilton was included, his World Cup performances for Scotland having impressed the selectors. He played in the first Test at Johannesburg but had a nightmare match as England slumped to an innings defeat, scoring a pair, taking 0–63 with the ball and not holding a single catch. He was dropped for the second Test and never played for England again.
His First Class career consisted of 249 wickets with a best return of 7-50. His batting was less impressive but he did record a top score of 125.
In 2012 Bierley finished fifth in a season when Kez Ahmed topped the League Bowling Averages with Jarvis in second place. Ahmed was appointed captain in 2013 in a season of few thrills. The highlight was Rennision’s 668 runs which took him to second place in the league’s batting averages.
Uncharacteristic struggles at Bierley
Player shortages in 2014 put East Bierley in great difficulty in the league with relegation a great possibility. Key batsman Rennison had an early injury that put him out for the season, while other non-availabilities of senior players rendered weakened First Teams on a regular basis.
A heartening Priestley Cup run to the semi-final was reminiscent of the old days when a big crowd saw them lose a high-scoring thriller to Pudsey St Lawrence.
Eventually they survived helped by a surprise victory over champions-elect Cleckheaton, which in consequence assisted a 19-point gap on second bottom Morley who were relegated. The plight of their league season can be measured by the fact that they failed to have a batsman in the League Batting Averages for the first time in 44 years.
Luke Jarvis, despite his several absences, was the one positive of 2014 when he finished 5th in the League Bowling Averages with 40 wickets at 14.10. For a bowler of his class it’s surprising he has not registered a 50-wicket feat, but his seven year sojourn at Bierley has brought him 290 league wickets.
2015 was East Bierley’s 150th anniversary year and they celebrated by having a match against a team made up of past star players. Being mindful of this momentous year they strived doggedly all season to avoid relegation with a limited team.
This they achieved largely by shocking the top three- Pudsey St Lawrence, Cleckheaton and Woodlands, while contending in mediocre fashion against the lesser teams. James Ford was the heaviest scorer with 443 runs and seamer Awais Ejaz (30 wkts) and Jarvis (34 wkts) were the best bowlers.
It was little different in 2016 with relegation averted after surprise wins over the upper echelon sides. However, the slim margin of nine points couldn’t hide a perennial struggle to recapture their glory days. Again, the lack of a settled side blighted their chances of consistency.
Fahid Rehman (453 runs) was their highest run-getter, while Tuseif Arshad, Awais Ejaz and Matthew Lumb all scraped 30 wickets.
Hopes were high for 2017 despite some notable departures. Adam Patel was appointed captain and assembled a side containing talented players like former county player Shaaiq Choudary, Adal Islam, Umar Yaqoob and Amar Rashid. They began well and were spoken about as Bierley’s most competitive side in years. However, injuries and availability problems saw them slip into the relegation zone.
By the last weekend only the odd point separated Batley, Pudsey Congs and Bierley, and it would two out of these three to go down. Batley, although losing to Woodlands would have been safe if Bierley had lost, but despite being in trouble at 75-5 in response to Bradford & Bingley’s 186-6, the rain came and afforded them the three extra points they needed to survive.
The best performers in the league in 2017 were Choudary (443 runs and 23 wickets), Adal Islam (517 runs) and paceman Umer Yaqoob who made a good impression with 45 wickets.
Relegation from the Premier League
There was a certain resignation about Bierley’s prospects for 2018 as emphasis was on club refurbishment rather than investment in players.
The previous year’s team all departed and frantic recruitment was the order of the day, and the side they assembled were by large untried at the level they were playing.
From the start it was clear that they would struggle, and although they were by and large competitive, they lacked the class to steer away from danger. They only won two league matches, and would have finished bottom, but for a 40-point deduction for Scholes who went down with them.
Only Shabir Rashid (415 runs), and Ibrar Younis (32 wkts) made substantive contributions, in a season with just one bright spot. This came when they astonishingly bowled Bradford & Bingley out for 20 after Younis had taken 7-10, and then proceeded to knock the runs off without losing a wicket.
After a sticky start to the 2019 season in Championship One, Bierley brought in experienced batsman Gulsheraz Ahmed and seamer Umar Farooq.
These two perked the team up, and the team were largely in a cluster of clubs that one week was on the verge of the promotion pack, and a couple of weeks later closer to relegation danger.
They finished in a lowly ninth, only 12-points in front of the relegated Wakefield St Michael’s. However, despite the turbulent ride, they had some impressive victories that signalled that they had the talent to do better.
They scored a winning 262-7 against Baildon, with Ahmed scoring 120 and Indian overseas player Ompel Boken contributing 53 runs, and also taking 4-72. A few weeks later they beat the eventual champions Batley by 186 runs.
In this match Boken hit an unbeaten 125 in a total of 248-8, while Rizwan Ali (5-20) and Farooq (5-35) bowled Batley out for 62. The same bowlers bowled Keighley out for 24 in the last match in a nine wicket victory.
Boken was the highest aggregate run-scorer in the division with 601 runs at 42.93, while Farooq was the club’s leading bowler, taking 35 wickets in twelve matches for 14.06 per wicket.
With extensive improvements to their clubhouse completed, and a new captain in Adam Brown in situ, things had an air of vibrancy for the club in 2020.
Brown had completely reassembled the First Team squad, and although Covid-19 was a huge disappointment, they got stuck into the Gordon Rigg Division One League Cup with gusto.
Debutant Matthew West hit an exhilarating 134 in the first match when Bierley successfully chased Ossett’s 274-7.
They were edged out of top spot in the group when they crucially lost to Birstall in the penultimate match.
However, with Paul Martin and Daniel Cross both averaging plus-50, with the latter also taking ten wickets in the eight-game programme, it augured well for 2021.
Murphy Walwyn - East Bierley legend
If a young Murphy Walwyn came on the scene today there would be counties queuing at his door. In his early days he was ostensibly a lightening quick bowler who could hit the ball for miles in middle order. Later he would be a top-class league batsman who bowled swiftly as first change.
Whatever role he played in his peak years he was the real thing in both skills. The only real surprise was that he only won the coveted Sir Learie Constantine All-Rounder’s Award on one occasion in his lengthy career. He had few peers in league cricket for extreme pace as illustrated by his two all-ten feats.
He had a long and rhythmic run-up that would psych the lesser batsman out before he even reached the crease. He soon discovered he could clear all league grounds in six-hitting and change the balance of the match in a matter of overs. In an era of conventional linseed treated bats as opposed to the heavy scientific wedges of today he hit the ball astonishing distances.
Cricket bars would empty when he strode to the crease and he’d rarely disappoint as his record of scoring the season’s fastest fifty amply demonstrates. If he didn’t score heavily he’d entertain with an exciting little cameo. Later he would develop into a specialised batsman who would begin his innings more prudently and build before launching into an attacking onslaught.