The Wakefield St Michael's team that played in the 2017 Jack Hampshire Cup final
Like most clubs with a history going back well over a hundred years the origins of Wakefield St Michael's are sketchy. It has been established that a small band of Wakefield pioneers got together to form a cricket team in 1894.
However, records show that in 1893 there was a club under the name of Wakefield St Michael’s Youth Football & Cricket Club, which in August of that year played a game on the Ossett Road ground and were represented by a line-up consisting of Longley, Puliston, Lumb, Kirk, Hinchcliffe G, Alderson, Shepley, Wilkinson, Beardsall, Hinchcliffe W and Fleming.
Then in 1894 the name appeared as Wakefield St Michael’s Young Men’s Society. This name was retained until 1900 when the club became known as Wakefield St Michael’s Cricket Club or St Michael’s Cricket Club.
Until the early 1880’s leagues were virtually unknown in cricket, the main objection against them was that they would obscure the love of the game as a pastime. It was frowned upon to be keener on winning the game than deriving the pleasure of just taking part.
The Wakefield and District League Competition was formed in 1894 and after much conjecture Group 6 would comprise of New Sharlston, Wrenthorpe St Annes, Foxholes Colliery, Wakefield St Michael’s Young Men’s Society, Trinity Free Wanderers and Wakefield St Andrews.
Wakefield St Michael’s Young Men’s Society fielded two teams in 1894, but it wasn’t until 20th April 1895 that they played their first league game at their Ossett Road ground. Hosting New Sharlston, they could only muster 31, but then proceeded to dismiss New Sharlston for 19.
An early stalwart was Edward Puliston, who was a founder member of the club and continued his interest after retiring as a player and later was a life member until his death in 1957.
After Puliston, one of the most prominent players was Bob Barker who famously preached to the younger players that when they have reached 50 they should settle down and go on and get another.
The ground was originally owned by Mr. Ianson which on his death passed it to his unmarried daughter, a regular attendee at St Michael’s Church. She considered selling the land to a local builder who was interested in developing the land, but withdrew his offer when it became apparent that the land was ‘green belt’ and planning permission could not be obtained.
Miss Ianson then offered the land to Wakefield St Michael’s Cricket Club at a peppercorn rent on condition ‘that a member of the club should personally hand over the rent once a year and at the same time tell Miss Ianson what the vicar’s sermon had been about on the previous Sunday.
Sometime later it was decided to try to purchase the ground but finding the finance was a problem. A local man called Mr Oesterlein was approached and he agreed to loan the club £200 @ 2% interest. In addition another local called Graham Woodhead, who was the local tripe dealer, agreed to provide the balance of £250, although no formal agreement of this was made. Players and members agreed to weekly contributions to pay off the loans and these were eventually repaid by various fundraising activities.
In those days the team travelled to away matches by horse and trap, calling at some convenient hostelry and singing later to encourage the horse to go faster. The first recorded evidence of a clubhouse indicates a wooden structure which met the requirements for a number of years.
However, as the club expanded it became obvious that it was not large enough to serve the clubs needs so in 1904 the club purchased another ‘hut’ for £70.
Competition success was a long time coming at the club and it was not until 1909 that the Horbury Cup was won. Cricket in the war years was restricted to evening league knockouts during the 1914-18.
In 1924, the club won the league’s premier KO competition, the Wakefield Cup for the first time. By 1936, a new clubhouse was built, and after the opening ceremony a match was played against the West Riding Mental Hospital, who was league members.
Five years later in 1941 a junior section was formed. This was seen as a progressive step boosting the prestige of the club.
Even more significant in 1941 was the club’s achievement of winning the double of the Wakefield & District Cricket Union League Championship, and associated Wakefield Cup.
The Second World War led to the club’s inactivity during the seasons 1943-45 when fixtures were suspended. In 1957, the club replicated the feat of 1941 by completing the double of the Wakefield & District Cricket Union League Championship, and associated Wakefield Cup.
It was generally acknowledged that the size of the ground needed boosting. In consequence, the club decided to attempt to purchase part of the adjoining allotments in 1960 to enlarge the ground. However, despite the sterling efforts of Club President Mr. R Adamson, the purchase fell through.
A serious fire in 1963 damaged the whole of the pavilion and a new structure was completed in 1965 after frantic fund-raising by members.
The club left the Wakefield & District Cricket Union to join the West Riding League in the early 1960’s. After that they decided to move to the Pontefract Section of the Yorkshire Council in 1978.
Membership of the Central Yorkshire League was approved in 1990 resulting in the club playing at its highest standard in its history.
Ken Sykes MBE was the inspiration behind the club’s Centenary Programme in 1992. Sykes was a tireless worker for the club, joining the club in 1945 from Calder Grove and playing mostly in the 2nd X. His fame on the field came about when he took a double hat trick in one game
In 1996, the present clubhouse was completed. The large letters spelling out the club name which were a prominent feature of the 1936 structure were retained and now adorn the wooden fence on Cross lane.
In the mid-nineties Wakefield St Michael's possessed a virtuoso player in John Cammidge who could win matches with both bat and ball. Playing in the 2nd Division he won the League Batting Averages in 1995 with 534 runs at 76.29, and followed this feat by winning the League Bowling Averages in 1996 with 56 wickets at 9.55.
Cammidge’s wickets in 1996 were hugely influential in Wakefield St Michael’s winning promotion to the top flight. The 1996 promotion team consisted of John Bloomfield, Tyler Kennedy, Richard Horner, John Cammidge, Naweed Aslam, Shoaib Latif, Bob Schofield, Howard Knapper, Andy Turton, Andy McTernan and Andy Jefferson.
The success was short term as they were relegated in 1997. The batting was consistent enough with K Miller (508 runs) and Shoaib Latif (456 runs) guiding them to decent totals, but the bowling was largely ineffective.
By 2001, Wakefield St Michael's were back in the top flight which now had the kudos of being a Premier league. They were a very competitive side; nothing illustrated this better than their titanic match against the runaway leaders Townville who they sent crashing to their first league defeat of the season.
Townville amassed a formidable 275-9 total despite Zaheer Hussain’s best efforts taking 5-88 off 25 overs. His only tangible support with the ball was from Shoaib Latif who returned 2-49 from eight overs.
Mark Boycott and Richard Atkinson started with 58 runs for St Michael's, but it was the third-wicket partnership of 119 between Boycott and Latif that put their team within sight of a memorable victory. Richard Foster, below then joined Latif and as the drama intensified, the pair ran down the remaining runs in an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 72 with just 10 balls to spare. Latif finished unbeaten on 124.
St Michael’s ability to upset the champions-elect occurred again in 2003 when they beat Wrenthorpe. Richard Foster anchored the inning of 194-6 with an unbeaten 52, while Scott Whiteman fired out the opposition with 7-71 to obtain a 31 run victory.
Another notable performance in 2003 came when Iqbal Khan (113 runs) and Mark Boycott (108 runs) shared a second-wicket stand of 167, as Wakefield St Michael's amassed the highest total of the season- 313-2 against Carlton.
In 2004 they were still showing their mettle by beating Wrenthorpe again. Largely due to Usman Malvi’s fine containing spell of 3-49 in 17 overs, Wrenthorpe finished on 186. St Michael's made short work of this by winning by nine wickets with Boycott (103*) and Khan (56*) leading the way.
A few fallow seasons followed with relegation in 2006 and two failed attempts to gain promotion immediately following.
St Michael's gained the services of Simon Stirling, above, an explosive cricketer in his pomp able to dictate games with bat and ball. He was quite a swift opening bowler capable of taking the early key wickets. By this time he relied on his batting with his special brand of power strokeplay.
Stirling was a native of New Zealand who played forty games for Manawatu. He settled in the UK starring for Rawdon, East Ardsley and Wakefield St Michael's, and latterly for Carlton.
He made his mark for St Michael's in 2008 by scoring a massive unbeaten 209 against Moorlands, striking 19 sixes and 15 fours.
It was obvious that by 2009 Wakefield St Michael's had set their stall out for promotion and a return to the Premier league. In August, they stayed on course for promotion with a typical team performance against rivals Buttershaw St Pauls who were challenging at the top. Boycott set the foundation with an invaluable 75 runs, while Michael Carroll (4-59), David Battye (3-38) and Michael Halloran (3-37) finished the opposition off in a 31-run win.
This vital win put St Michael's nine points clear at the top and was the turning point in their eventual title win. Although it was essentially a team performance there were two significant individual awards won by the club. Richard Atkinson won the Vernon Grace Trophy Division One Batting for scoring 958 runs at 63.87, while veteran seamer David Battye took the GD Wolfenden Trophy Division One Bowling after taking 45 wickets ay 11.67.
Battye, who took his 1,000th wicket playing for East Ardsley against Ossett in 2004, moved there after helping Wrenthorpe, for whom he claimed 416 wickets in eight seasons, win their first championship in 2003.
Battye, below, began in Batley's junior team in 1970, making his senior debut two years later and also played for Gomersal, Chickenley, Morley, Birstall, Wrenthorpe and East Ardsley.
Wakefield St Michael's were well entrenched in the premier league in 2010. They had nine wins in the season with a well balanced side. Stirling led the way with the bat scoring 669 league runs at 33.45, followed by Richard Atkinson who scored 557. Opening bowler Michael Carroll took 43 wickets.
The most versatile cricketer in 2010 was 22 year old Jake Thorne who took 48 wickets at 15.54, and also contributed 414 runs with the bat. Thorne, a right handed batsman and off break bowler, played 1st Grade cricket in Australia with North Geelong, and in 2011 scored 784 runs for them at 156.80.
For Wakefield St Michael's, his best feat was 8-44 in a thriller against local rivals Wakefield Thornes who, despite his efforts, won by one wicket. He scored two half-centuries in the league, with his top score of 58 against Northowram Fields.
After two seasons in the Premier league they were relegated in 2011 in a league season of just five wins. Stirling captained a side with little in the way of bowling, but he did possess two powerful batters. He excelled again with 599 runs at 34.24, while Ryan Hercules had a run aggregate of 757 at 39.84.
West Indian Hercules, a fast bowler and genuine batsman, played first division cricket in Trinidad from 2007-2009, before securing a contract as the overseas player for Shadwell Cricket Club. At Shadwell, he scored 1,190 runs (at an average of 38.39) and took 65 wickets at 13.50 apiece. Shadwell retained him for another season and in 2010 he scored 1,090 runs at an average of 41, and also took 75 wickets at 11.10.
His best match for Wakefield St Michael's in 2011 was against Ossett when he scored 91 after taking 2-62 opening the bowling. His bowling did not reach expectation with a tally of just twelve league wickets for the season.
Promotion didn’t happen in 2012 despite 13 league wins. The best all round performance was by Richard Atkinson who scored 387 runs and also took 28 wickets, while Mark Atkinson was the lynchpin of the batting with 541 runs at 38.64. The latter would top that the following year with 745 runs at 46.56.
The emergence of junior cricketer Marcus Leyshon in 2012 was illustrated by his achievement of winning the League Wicket-Keepers Trophy. He did not rest on his laurels because he replicated the deed in 2013, and 2015.
St Michael's, under Captain Michael Halloran, won 13 matches again in the league with Richard Atkinson impressing with bat and ball (483 runs & 36 wickets). In 2014, he won the League All Rounders Trophy, with the more modest haul of 346 runs and 31 wickets.
Another individual achiever in 2014 was James Cooper who blasted 365 runs at 52.14 from only eight innings.
However, the club entered a period of real decline on the field with just six wins in 2014, and worst was to come in 2015, when they finished in a relegation position. The modest league status of the club ensured they would take their place in the Conference division of the expanded Bradford League for 2016.
The club held its own in the Conference League in 2016 with nine wins and a respectable sixth position.
Mark Atkinson was the best batsman with 470 league runs at 36.15, while Ajaz Seedat (353 runs) and James Cooper (363 runs) also showed a level of consistency. Joseph Finnigan (42 wkts) and Michael Halloran (31 wkts) were the main wicket-takers.
After losing their first league match of 2017 against Rodley, the club picked up and had some remarkable victories.
They bowled Crossbank Methodists out for a total of 19 with Finnigan having the astonishing figures of 5-3. New recruit Australian Hugh Birchall took 5-10. Later they would amass 353-6 against Windhill Daisy Hill with Seedat scoring an unbeaten 159.
The club jostled with several others in pursuit of long time leaders East Ardsley, and eventually took over at the top after an impressive late run. When they had entered the final weekend they were assured of promotion, but needed to beat East Ardsley to secure the title.
They batted first and set a target of 171-6 with Mark Atkinson (62) and Richard Atkinson (55*) being the major contributors. In reply East Ardsley could not cope early on with Finnigan and found themselves in trouble at 7-3. However, Haseen Bashir pulled them through as his team won by three wickets.
During their pursuit of East Ardsley they were embarking on a cup run that could very easily have been ended in the First Round against Hopton Mills. They beat Altofts in the semi-final to set up a Jack Hampshire Cup Final at Pudsey Congs against runaway Championship leaders Hartshead Moor.
Hartshead Moor took first use of a good batting wicket and St Michael’s kept it tight to restrict them to 227-2 in their allocated 40 overs. St Michael’s put on 48 before the first wicket fell, and at 96-2 were very much in the game. After that, wickets fell and they were always up against it, and had too much to do despite in the end losing by just 21 runs, at 206-7.
All nine who batted got into double figures with only Andrew Borthwick (39 runs) and Finnigan (34 runs) making substantial score.
In the league Finnigan, above, was the top player winning the League Bowling Averages with 69 wickets at 9.17, which included a season’s best of 8-24. He was assisted ion the seam department by Birchall who took 44 wickets at 13.14. Finnigan also contributed 653 runs at 31.28.
The best batsmen were Ijaz Seedat who scored 580 runs at 36.25, and Mark Atkinson who averaged 58.78 from 529 runs.
After several seasons of mediocrity St Michael’s were back on the map and had their Championship One place confirmed for 2018,
Despite losing their influential all rounder Finnigan to Ossett, the club set a cracking pace in the league in 2018. Although not always convincing winners, their experience could see out the close games as they drew away from the rest with Keighley.
A major blemish occurred on July 22nd when they lost to Buttershaw St Paul’s, after being bowled out for a paltry 72. This halted their progress, but, the only real consideration was whether they would pip Keighley for the title.
They entered the final fixture with a real advantage on Keighley, but failed to beat Hopton Mills and had to settle for second place a point behind.
Hopton Mills set a target of 225-9, and St Michael’s made the worst possible start when their leading batsman Mark Atkinson was run out for nought. However, they were back in the ascendency after a third wicket stand of 98 from Charith Cooray (53 runs) and Seedat (52 runs).
They failed to reach the target as the late middle order and tail could not scramble the extra 22 runs for victory.
The team was built around a strong batting unit with Atkinson, below, leading the way with 685 runs at 48.93, and Cooray following close by with 670 runs at 44.67. Other batting strength came from Seedat (513 runs) and James Cooper (479 runs).
Wakefield St Michael’s was expected to consolidate in Championship One, and despite their erratic form in early season they were capable of a big victory on their day. This was illustrated by their seven wicket victory over eventual champions Batley when Oliver Lightfoot (7-44) shone with the ball.
However, they were gradually `sucked’ into the relegation race as teams around them showed good late form, and in the penultimate match they lost to Hartshead Moor to more or less condemn them to relegation.
The final match could not have been more difficult when they faced Bankfoot who needed a win to confirm promotion. They also needed an extraordinary `points-gain’ on East Bierley to avoid relegation.
St Michael’s brushed aside Bankfoot by four-wickets, but Bierley beat Keighley with some ease to condemn them to relegation.
The calibre of players in their ranks suggested they should not have been in this position, with Mitchell Forsyth, and Ajaz Seedat showing class with the bat, while Imran Mahboob had a very productive all-round season.
When Covid-19 disrupted the cricket season in 2020, the club made the decision not to field a First Team in the late season Gordon Rigg League Cup, They did take part in the Second Team version though.