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Spen Victoria history

Spen Victoria history

Spen Victoria celebrate their stunning 1990 Priestley Cup final win

The early days

The club was formed in 1862 and was originally associated with the Cleckheaton Wesleyan Chapel whose home ground was at Whitecliffe Road. All of the members of that inaugural team had to attend chapel regularly to play and this meant they often struggled to field a side. Although 1862 is often cited as a ‘birth date’, the club was formally established in 1865, by six men: George Wright, George Hardwick, Sam Haley, Alfred Starkey, James Strafford and Robert Corry.

In 1865 the club moved to its current home at Spen Lane in Gomersal and they decided to call themselves Cleckheaton Victoria. In the following year they engaged their first professional, Mr B Doughty. The ground was purchased in 1902 and the club decided to build the existing pavilion and clubroom. It was officially opened in 1909.

Spen’s ground with its high banking has an auditorium feel to it with grandstand views facing excellent facilities. In modern times it’s enjoyed the hosting of many prestige finals- Heavy Woollen Cup, Blacksheep Yorkshire Champions and latterly the Priestley Cup Final.

Spen in their formative years played in the Yorkshire Council and won the Heavy Woollen championship three times, in 1914, 1927 and 1930. They also won the Sunlight Cup – now the Heavy Woollen Cup – in 1896 but were defeated in the finals of 1887, 1895, 1889, 1905, 1914 and 1920.

In 1887 Spen scored 472 in a 2nd Round Heavy Woollen Cup match against Dewsbury Clerks. This remains the second highest-ever score in the competition. In the final they lost to Dewsbury & Savile by a record runs margin for a final of 271 runs.

The 1895 final which Spen lost to Batley by 12 runs remains the lowest aggregate score (100) for two completed innings in a final.

Into the Bradford League

It was in 1931 that Spen joined the Bradford League and they finished runners up in their first season. Spen’s AC Rhodes topped the Bradford League batting averages with 46.88.

After a disappointing second season they very nearly won the ultimate prize in 1933 when they lost the league title play-off by 16 runs to Bradford Park Avenue.

The 1933 side was built around W Halstead who averaged 66.66 with the bat, and C Harrison who took 40 wickets at 11.90.

A more famous name in the side was Yorkshire and England batsman Wilf Barber, above, who played for his county from 1926 to 1947. He also played two tests for England in 1935 against South Africa. An opening batsman with an excellent batting technique, Barber often batted in the middle order. He scored 16,402 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 34.28 with 29 centuries. 

During 1934/35 Spen were half way down the table but possessed a quality bowler in G Mellor who took 9-40 in a match against Farsley in 1935.

The club recorded its first Priestley Cup triumph, despite its lowly league position, when Harold Mortimer led them to a 32-run win over Lightcliffe in 1936. Spen batted first and scored 152-6 which proved sufficient for victory.

Spen improved their league position in 1937 with third place when Mortimer proved himself to be one of the leading batters in the league with an average of 45.44.

First test player at Spen

The first Test player at Spen was Edwin St Hill, above, a fast bowler who appeared during 1937-1939. The Trinidad fast bowler was a prolific wicket-taker in the first class competition in the West Indies and made two Test appearances.

In 1939 Spen reached the Priestley Cup Final for the second time in three years, but succumbed to Eccleshill who chased 197 in a canter winning by nine wickets.  

Spen had the distinction of providing the season’s highest individual score in the league twice in the space of four years:

1937     Fred Wharton         133 v East Bierley
1941     Miles Coope          149* v Undercliffe

County bowling attack

Despite the determined efforts of the consistent Clifford Sykes, Spen were relegated to Section B in 1942. Rather than being a disaster it proved to be the springboard to the club’s finest hour. Armed with probably the strongest bowling attack in their history spearheaded by Derbyshire and England paceman George Pope and Yorkshire left arm spinner Arthur Booth, they romped to the Division B crown. Booth took 78 wickets and Pope (71).

Pope was a right hand batsman and played 312 innings in 205 first class matches, with an average of 28.05. He made eight centuries, with a top score of 207 not out. He was a right-arm fast-medium bowler, and took 677 first class wickets at average of 19.92, and a best performance of 8 for 38, amongst his 40 five-wicket hauls. Pope was Derbyshire's leading all-rounder in both 1938 and 1939, achieving the all-rounder double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in 1938. He played in one Testt match for England.

After Hedley Verity was killed during the war, Yorkshire lacked a slow left-arm bowler when cricket resumed and Booth was recalled. He played in two first-class matches in 1945 and then became a first-team regular in 1946, the first full post-war season, at the age of 43. Yorkshire won the County Championship that year and, in all matches, Booth took 111 wickets at an average of 11.61. He received his county cap and was top of the season's national bowling averages.

Back in the top flight, Spen then enjoyed their greatest ever season in 1944 and achieved a feat only a handful clubs had done previously. They won the Division A and Priestley Cup double as Booth and Pope again weaved their magic for a side which was shrewdly led by Sykes and included the talented batsman Arnold Hamer who scored  605 runs. Pope grabbed 67 wickets supported by Booth who took 61. Pope was the star of the Priestley Cup final. He top scored with 76 and took six for 36 as they defeated Yeadon by 72 runs.

After the war Spen experienced leaner times. They were relegated in 1949 and their plight worsened further when they had to seek re-election in 1953.

This was despite having one of the most consistent batsmen in the league in G Brown who topped 500 runs twice and became one of the mainstays of the team throughout the decade. A L Taylor had an exceptional season in 1952 scoring 628 runs.

They also possessed two excellent bowlers in Harry Hoyle, above, who took 30 wickets in 1952 for a cost of 12.33, and spinner Ernest Lodge who took 45 wickets in 1951 for an average of 12.27.

Hoyle was an effective off break bowler, and a very handy middle order batsman. After retirement he would do virtually every job open to him at Spen.

Percy Watson makes immediate impression

Seam bowler Percy Watson, above, joined the club in 1954 from Salts, after being recommended by Pope. He made an immediate impression taking 84 wickets at 12.13 and helping his side to third in the league. The next year they remained in third place when Watson had an even better season taking 91 wickets at 10.86. The 1954 team is pictured below.

Another top performer of the 1955 team was E Fisk who showed what a good all round player he was scoring 462 runs and taking 38 wickets.

Ironically, Watson was less effective in the 1956 promotion team taking 49 wickets, with J A Carter assisting him with 35 wickets. Carter went on to be a regular 30-plus wicket man right up to 1963 when he had his best season with 48 wickets.

Another achievement in 1956 came when they reached the Priestley Cup final after a terrific run in the competition. Pudsey St Lawrence scored a modest 152 mainly because of an inspired Watson who took a hat-trick. Spen’s batting pulled up short on the day finishing on 131.

Spen became something of a yo-yo team as relegation followed promotion and again in the years 1957 to 1961.

The key players were S Platt, W Brown, E Fisk, J A Carter and of course Percy Watson who took wickets in profusion no matter which division he was in:

1957                66 wickets at 13.09        Division 1
1958                46 wickets at 11.86        Division 2
1959                81 wickets at 11.71        Division 2          Won League Bowling Averages 
1960                69 wickets at 12.71        Division 2
1961                46 wickets at 14.20        Division 1

Watson was deadly accurate and bowled big in swingers at leg stump with three short legs waiting to pounce for the catch. He always preferred to come down the hill from the Spen scorebox end for maximum effectiveness.

In 1962 Spen suffered the indignity of having to apply for re-election for the second time in 11 years. This was despite the efforts of Watson who recorded the best ever Bradford League bowling figures in history of ten for 11 against Yeadon. He ended the season with 70 wickets at 14.13.

Arnold Hamer sparks revival

Things improved in 1963 when Arnold Hamer was lured back to the club and he consequently won the League Batting Averages. He was in peak form that year scoring 909 runs at 69.92 with a top score of 147*.

Hamer, a right-handed opening batsman for Derbyshire, made 15,465 runs at 31.17 in 295 first-class matches. He had a highest score of 227, and made 19 centuries. He scored 1,000 runs in 10 consecutive seasons. He was also an off-break bowler, and took 71 first class wickets at an average of 33.28. He retired from First Class cricket in 1960.

An outstanding cricketer at Spen in 1964 was the little known R Thompson who scored 394 runs at 30.31 and also won the League Fielding Trophy.

Watson continued to take wickets prolifically with sixty in 1964, fifty-seven in 1965 and sixty-two in 1966. In the latter season he was joined at Spen by John Woodford, who was destined to be the club’s most influential player in the next three seasons. 

In 1967, the soon to be Yorkshire batsman John Woodford had a fine season at Spen scoring 580 runs at 36.25. The following season he won the Bradford League Batting Averages with 612 runs at 61.20, and in 1968 scored 589 runs at 53.54 with a top score of 99*.  

Woodford played for Yorkshire  from 1968 to 1973 and appeared subsequently for Northumberland in the Minor Counties Championship. He was a right-handed batsman, who scored 1,204 first-class runs in thirty eight matches with a highest score of 101, his only century. In seventy four one-day games he compiled 951 runs at an average of 21.61, with a best score of 69 not out. Although he only took four first-class wickets, he was more successful in the limited over format, snaring 79 victims with his medium pacers at 21.01.

Woodford’s magnificent season of 1968 helped Spen return to the top flight as Division Two champions. All rounder Peter Rix was equally instrumental in this triumph performing well enough to win the Sir Learie Constantine All-rounder Award after scoring 573 runs at 40.93 and taking 35 wickets.

There was no steady consolidation in the First Division in 1969, team pictured below, when Spen surprisingly challenged for the title missing out to Bingley in second place three points behind. An individual award was won that season when Geoff Hodgson took the League Wicket Keepers Trophy.

Spen’s cup run took them to the Priestley Cup Final when they capitulated to their title rivals Bingley by nine wickets after being bowled out for 109.

 

The lack lustre seventies

The seventies were a lack lustre decade at Spen with solid performers A Tickle, J Crowhurst, D Beaumont, D Hirst, A Baxter and A Simpson keeping them afloat until relegation in 1977.

Tickle in particular was a consistent performer topping 500 runs in three consecutive seasons with 766 his best in 1973. Crowhurst had his most prolific season in 1978 with 742 runs.

There was another Division Two title triumph in 1979 after. Spen had assembled a workmanlike side that played together in unison. They proved be good enough to pip their top five rivals who were all separated by a mere five points. The best performers were J Brogden (490 runs), C O’Rourke (473 runs), R D Clark (460), J Fordham (520) and R Emsley (49 wickets).

Lancastrian Chris O’Rourke was a classy wicket-keeper/batsman who made one First Class appearance for Warwickshire in 1968.

The 1980s were hectic times at Spen with relegation in 1982, 1985 and 1988, and promotions in 1983, 1987 and 1989. In 1990.

Iqbal Qasim disappoints

In 1980 Pakistan Test cricketer Iqbal Qasim was Spen’s overseas player. He disappointed the faithful by just scoring 343 runs, and not managing to make the league averages with the ball. This was odd as Qasim was top class enough to end his career with 171 wickets in his 50 Test matches, at approximately 3.5 wickets a match.

Quasim’s accurate bowling at test level saw his economy rate at a low 2.21. He pushed the ball through quicker than normal, not extracting great turn, but deceiving batsmen through variations in pace and trajectory. He is most notable for spinning Pakistan to victory in the 5th Test at Bangalore of the 1987 India-Pakistan series, and thus securing Pakistan's first series win on Indian soil. He took 9/121, including the key scalp of Sunil Gavaskar for 96 in the last innings of the game.

Another overseas player who failed to impress was 21 year old Lalchand Rajput who scored 382 runs in the 1982 relegation season. Rajput had a distinguished career as an opening batsman for Bombay, and at one time was considered one of the best openers in India after Sunil Gavaskar. However, he did not translate his promise and success at the domestic level to the international arena where he played in two test matches.

In contrast the little known G Cardall had a vintage season in 1981 scoring 828 runs.Another Indian overseas player with a limited performance was Jimmy Sangani who scored 392 runs in the 1983 promotion season. Shaheed Butt was another Indian recruit who had mixed results at Spen.

Local players of note were N Davies, D Weston, I Phillips, J Heaton and R Ford who all topped 500 runs at least once in a season.

John Burton was reliable with bat and ball enjoying his best all round season in 1982 when he scored in excess of 400 runs and also took 32 wickets. Another good all round performer was Andy Baxter, above, who made 437 runs, and took 54 wickets in 1987.

The pick of the local bowlers was G Binks who had wicket hauls of 54, 49 and 44 in consecutive seasons from 1983.

Indian Abdul Jabbar was signed for the 1986 season and he was a great success. Not only did he win the League Batting Averages for Division Two with 923 runs at 61.53, but he also finished second in the bowling with 50 wickets at 10.94. His Learie Constantine All Rounders Award was something of a formality given this record. Despite this effort Spen only climbed to half-way in the table.

Curiously when Spen won the Division Two title in 1987 Jabbar’s performance wilted with just 326 runs at 32.60. Jabbar’s First Class career reaped 4,270 runs at 40.66. He was used as an occasional bowler, with a career best of 4-63. 

The new overseas player for 1988 was Mansoor Akthar had had played for Pakistan at Test level before joining the club. He played in 19 Tests and 41  ODIs from 1980 to 1990, partnering Waheed Mirza in a world-record opening stand of 561 in 1977. The partnership is still the best for the first wicket in first class cricket. He scored one test century and three half-centuries, with a highest score of 111 against Australia in Faisalabad.

Akhtar made a great impression at Spen in 1988 scoring 965 runs for an average of 50.79, and became a draw for the neutrals with his classy batsmanship. Despite this he could not prevent relegation in a season when Chris Pickles first made an impression at Spen with 440 runs.

Promotion was achieved at the first time of asking in 1989 with Indian Tosh Arothe scoring 622 runs. The highest run-getter was Simon Horkin (637 runs) who had a fine sheet anchor reputation.

Solly Adam leads team to glory

Glory was back at Spen Lane in 1990 under the leadership of left arm spin bowler Solly Adam, above,. It was a talented side which included three players who were to go on to play first class cricket, John Wood (Durham and Lancashire), Tim Walton (Northants and Essex), Mike Smith (Gloucester and England), and Indian Tosh Arothe.

Finishing thirdin the league, Steve Foster (879 runs), Andy Bethel (764 runs) and Arothe (619 runs) were the main run-getters, while Adam (49 wkts) and Wood (32 wkts) took the lion’s share of the wickets.

But, it was in the Priestley Cup where the silverware was won, when inspired by the fast bowling of John Wood, Spen crushed Pudsey St Lawrence to lift the Priestley Cup.

The 1990 Priestley Cup Final was eagerly anticipated by the neutral who flocked to Wagon Lane to see Spen do battle with a very good Pudsey St Lawrence side. Instead, it turned out to be a comprehensive defeat for St Lawrence who never looked like overhauling Spen’s handy 231-7.

However, the neutrals could marvel at a wonderful fast bowling display from Spen’s John Wood, above, who destroyed the batting with a haul of 7-20. It was a controlled and very hostile spell of fast bowling that indicated a county career in the future.

Mike Smith became an effective swing bowler for Gloucestershire and played a single Test for England Headingley in 1997 against Australia. Graham Thorpe dropped  Matthew Elliott at first slip while on 29, for what would have been Smith's first (and only) Test wicket. Elliott went on to make 199 and Australia won comfortably by an innings. He never played for England again, but remained one of the most consistent swing bowlers on the county circuit until his retirement in 2003.

Formidable opening batsmen

Steve Foster, above, formed a superb opening batsman partnership with Andy Bethel who would go on to untold glories with Pudsey Congs. Foster achieved virtually every team and individual honour open to him at Gomersal, Hanging Heaton and Treeton, while left hander Bethel was the archetypal sheet anchor batsman who gave his side good starts and was capable of large innings.

Spen’s wicket keeper Gary Brook had claims along with Undercliffe’s Chris Burns to be the league’s finest behind the stumps, and later enjoyed a fine career during Pudsey Congs halcyon days. In 1990 he won the F Milton Watmough Wicket-Keeper Trophy while at Spen.

 For the next two years in 1991 and 1992 Spen were a top.four side with another overseas player who produced the goods. Vinod Kambli, a fledgling left hander who had set a world record opening stand with Sachin Tendulkar in Bombay schools cricket, lit up Spen Lane in 1991 and made his Test debut against England the following winter hitting a double century in his third Test. He finished with a fine Test record of 17 caps producing a high batting average of 54.20.

Kambli scored 943 runs at 58.94 in 1991 at Spen, and he followed this with 683 runs at 48.79 with a top score of 123 in 1992.

Bethel continued his form with the bat topping 500 runs in both years. He had further run aggregates of 514, 712, 761 and 851 before leaving for Pudsey Congs. Twice he figured in the league’s highest opening partnership for Spen with 221 runs in 1994 with Chris Pickles, and 277 runs in 1998 with Wasim Jaffer.

The Chris Pickles years

Despite the profusion of oversees class at Spen one man – opening batsman Chris Pickles, above, – dominated the 90s. The former Yorkshire all-rounder was a prodigious run scorer and topped 1,000 in three consecutive seasons from 1994-96. Used mainly as a bowler for Yorkshire, Pickles tore into the league batting from the first ball and was a big attraction. His 176 v Pudsey St Lawrence in 1995 was not only the league’s highest for that year, but it epitomised his power when he was on top of his game.

Few batters in the league had a 4-year sequence comparable with the one Pickles had at Spen:

1993    901 runs at 40.95           HS 134             42 wickets
1994    1155 runs at 57.75         HS 143    
1995    1313 runs at 59.68         HS 176
1996    1023 runs at 46.50         HS 141

The next big overseas signing came in 1994 when Indian leg break bowler and left handed batsman Seraj Bahutoule delivered the goods in fine style. He scored 800 runs at 57.14 and also took 47 wickets. His performances in the Indian First Class game propelled him into the Test team where his two appearances met with mixed results.

A very young Rohan Gavaskar also played at Spen. Unlike his father he never played in a Test match, but was considered good enough to have played in eleven one-day internationals. He played first-class cricket for Bengal, scoring 5,073 runs in 75 matches at 51.24.

There was an array of good seamers at Spen in the mid to late nineties- Andy Yates, Andy Cutts and David Jones a capture from the Yorkshire League who took 63 wickets in 1995.

The most consistent batsman apart from Bethel and Pickles was former Sheffield Collegiate player Ed McKenna who scored 742 runs in 1996.

Heavy Woollen Cup win

The club had waited a while for trophy success and it came in 1996 when they won the Heavy Woollen Cup. Spen piled up 242-7 at Liversedge against a very good Windhill outfit who replied with 147. Windhill would win the trophy the following year, but in 1998 Spen prevailed again with a convincing 144-run win against Hanging Heaton. Chris Elstub, above, came of age in the final destroying Hanging Heaton’s batting with an analysis of 5-40. In the Spen innings Jaffer scored a magnificent century.

Wasim Jaffer impresses

When Wasim Jaffer scored 586 runs in 1998 three of his team mates actually scored more- Bethel (851), Ed McKenna (617) and Tosh Baker (588).

Following a prolific school career, including an innings of 400 not out as a 15-year-old, Jaffer made his entry into the first-class cricket and scored a triple-century in his second match. This innings of 314 not out helped set a series of firsts for Mumbai. It was the first occasion that a batsman had made a triple century for Mumbai away from home and, in putting on 459 runs with his opening partner Sulakshan Kulkarni; the pair became the first from Mumbai to pass 400.

Jaffer in total scored 13,735 First Class runs and played in 31 Test matches with a top score of 212 in an average of 34.10. He played many of his later years in the Huddersfield League.

Record breaker Grant Lambert

After relegation in 1999, Spen returned to the top flight at the first attempt as runners-up to Undercliffe in 2000. That promotion owed much to one man, Australian all-rounder Grant Lambert, above, who had scored 828 runs and taken 38 wickets in the relegation season. He was so disappointed at seeing the club relegated during his first season that he set about restoring their top flight status in stunning style.

Lambert literally ripped up the Bradford League record book in the 2000 season. He set a new league scoring record of 1,683 runs, beating the previous best by over 200 runs, hitting a record seven centuries, and made the highest score of 170 against Manningham Mills. Lambert finished the season with an incredible average of 120.21 to easily top the league batting averages. For good measure he topped the bowling averages too with 31 wickets at 7.77 each. His award of the Jack Hill All Rounders Trophy was a formality.

Lambert was engaged for a third season in 2001 and despite having to return set off for home in August to take up a contract with New South Wales. He scored 688 runs and took 38 wickets to help Steve Bethel’s side re-establish themselves in the top flight.

Lambert had a mediocre First Class career with New South Wales taking part in 25 matches. However, in 2007 he broke a 63 year old record for the most runs in a Sydney Grade Cricket season. Playing for Fairfield-Liverpool against Northern Districts at Rosedale Oval, Lambert scored 94 to take his season total to 1458 runs. This moved him 45 runs ahead of Bill Alley's record of 1413 runs set in the 1943/44 season. Lambert reached the mark in 20 innings, which included six centuries and five 50s, at an average of 104.14.

The 2002 season saw the club engage Pakistani fast bowler Rao Anjum as their overseas star. He topped their batting (421 runs) and bowling (59 wkts) averages in a season when Spen’s young side finished ninth after an inconsistent campaign.

Anjum starred with the bat in 2003 with 759 runs at 39.95 as Spen surprised everybody and finished second behind Pudsey Congs. The best all round performance came from left-arm spinner Gareth Davies who took 45 wickets and also contributed 449 runs with the bat.

 Anjum was included in the Pakistani team for the one-day series against India and made his Paktel Cup debut seven months later. He was also included in the Pakistani squad to the 2007 World Cup. He played three games, and took 5 wickets, but despite a decent haul, his inability to bowl at the death stood out. He was signed by Surrey as their overseas player for the first part of the 2010 English season.

Spen were a very competitive outfit and they proved it by their Heavy Woollen Cup runs. They reached the final twice in successive years but were defeated.

2003     Spen Victoria 145-9       Mirfield 148-3                at Liversedge
2004     Woodlands 233-8          Spen Victoria 197-9       at Liversedge

Yorkshire contracted opening bowlers

In 2004 the Yorkshire contracted pair Chris Elstub and Tosh Baker really began to make their mark. Elstub took 43 wickets and scored 515 runs, while Baker scored 455 runs.

John Wood, who had enjoyed a county career with Lancashire and Durham, had a solid all round season scoring 503 runs in aggressive style, and also plundered 32 wickets. 

In 2005 disaster struck at Spen after losing many of their experienced side they were relegated after winning only two matches. The big marquee signings were a thing of the past as they cut their cloth accordingly relying on home products. The best two were opening bowlers Elstub and Baker who they had previously blooded together in the late nineties.

However, the over reliance on these two fine cricketers came home to roost. Elstub contributed 474 runs in 2006, and also took 55 wickets which allowed him to win the League Bowling Averages for this section. He was almost as prolific the following year but could not prevent his side having to apply for re-election. This calamity would have seemed implausible a decade earlier.

Elstub played six matches for Yorkshire between 2000 and 2002, primarily as a right arm medium pacer. He took nine wickets at 39.55 with a best of 3 for 37. In ten one-day matches for Yorkshire and the Leeds/Bradfprd UCCE he took 12 wickets at 24.16, with 4 for 25 his best performance.

Elstub moved to East Bierley and retired early with injury problems. Baker, who had returned to the club after spells at Wrenthorpe and Woodlands, carried the fight for Spen but mainly with the bat as he conceded his bowling days were over. Impressive hauls of 730 and 724 during 2009 and 2010 were insufficient to drag his team into the promotion race.

Baker, above, had truncated First Class careers for both Yorkshire and Northants during the period between 2001 and 2005. Played mainly as a right arm fast-medium bowler he played many times for Yorkshire Seconds without breaking into the county side. He did however play four List A matches for Yorkshire in 2001, three in the Benson & Hedges Cup and one in the National League. His solitaryappearanc e was for Northants was against Leicester at Grace Road in 2005. He took the wicket of Darren Robinson caught and bowled for 139, at a match cost of 55 runs.

During these lean times in Spen’s history they could still attract good overseas players and 2008 Naem Ud Din Qazi recorded 818 league runs. 

In 2010 Will Smith had a fine season taking 37 wickets and also scoring 412 runs.

Two excellent All Rounders made their mark at Spen in 2012. Former East Bierley player Robert Burton scored 658 runs and took 45 wickets, after taking 50 in the previous year, and spinner Ben Platt took 41 wickets and scored 631 runs.

From a status of mediocrity Spen eventually assembled a team that would genuinely challenge for promotion under Dan Shuffe in 2013. Most pundits disregarded them but suddenly they overtook the second-placed side New Farnley and built a lead of 29 points at an advanced juncture of the season. A late collapse of form by Spen rendered their promotion push a failure, but it had been something of a renaissance season.

Experienced seamer Robert Burton, above, was the catalyst for this challenge winning the League bowling averages with a tally of 80 wickets at 9.34. Shuffe proved to be the mainstay of the batting with 716 runs, while left arm spinner and aggressive middle order batsman Ben Platt provided the balance for the team with 48 wickets

Struggling times

After losing Matthew West, Shuffe and Platt for the 2014 season Spen struggled all the way. Only Roberts Burton’s efforts saved them from re-election as they avoided the indignity by the small margin of seven points. He took 49 wickets at 14.04, with a top performance of 8-35. He also contributed 372 runs in middle-order. 

Experienced Peter Jackson, who was set to play second team cricket, proved to be the best batsman with 416 runs, while Abid Awan took a healthy 46 wickets at 14.96.

Fortunes improved in 2015 with a respectable mid-table sixth place after ten wins and nine losses. The dominating factor in this revival was the exploits of new signing Adal Islam whose all round ability proved crucial. Islam’s medium pace contributed 44 wickets at 14.14 with a best analysis of 7-21. He also piled up 648 runs with the bat. The next most productive cricketer at Spen was Bilal Ejaz who scored 515 runs at 39.62.

A loss of players for 2016 saw Spen struggle down in 10th place in Championship B with just six league wins, the highlight being a victory against high-flying Wrenthorpe. Oliver Davison was the only batsman to top 500-runs, while Rob Warriner was the outstanding bowler with 35 wickets at 23.20.

Further reliance on young players saw them struggle even worse in 2017 when they finished bottom of Championship Two. They won only five league matches, and it was not until their final fixture that they showed their true potential. Batting first against Carlton they scored an impressive 267-3 with Oliver Davison (132*) and Peter Jackson (75) cashing in, before bowling out their opponents for 113.

Despite their disappointing season, three batsmen in Davison (478 runs), George Deegan (454 runs) and Jackson (359 runs) all averaged in excess of 30. The bowling lacked penetration with no player managing as many as 30 league wickets.

It was very much the same in 2018, when they finished 12th out of thirteen sides, having won only three league matches. The best victory was towards the end of the season when they beat Carlton by 129-runs. Although Nathan Cant had a modest season with ball, he took 6-29 on this occasion, as Carlton was bowled out for 53.

The best performers in a principally young side  were Oliver Davison (533 runs) and Joe Wood (305 runs & 26 wkts).

There was a vastly improved performance in 2019 as the club finished in 4th position after some exhilarating batting feats.

Spen’s most remarkable victory came in May when they beat Hopton Mills by a massive 240 runs. Batting first, Sam Gatenby (94 runs) and Bilal Ejaz (88 runs) led Spen to 311-9, while Abid Awan (5-23) helped to dismiss Mills for 71.

Another impressive win was when Spen successfully chased Adwalton’s 354-7 with Peter Jackson carrying his bat for 155 runs.

The club also had the honour of recording the season’s Highest Opening Partnership in the league when Sam Gatenby (116 runs) and Michael Flathers (87 runs) put on 184 runs versus Buttershaw St Paul’s. 

It could be said that if the bowling strength had matched the batting, a promotion bid would have been likely. Seam bowler Abid Awan had a very good season taking 55 wickets, albeit he lacked tangible support.

The best of the batting came from Sam Gatenby who scored 726 runs at 40.33, and Bilal Ejaz who contributed 689 runs at 45.93.

When Covid-19 hit the nation in 2020, Spen Victoria took part in the Gordon Rigg Division Two League cup competition, and enjoyed a strong season, finishing second in the East Section. The returning Adal Islam, Rahat Shah and loanee Adam Ahmed were the three players that shone.

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