Steve Wales, Yorkshire Over 50s captain, reflects on representing Yorkshire, culminating in an outstanding 2015 season where the county won the ECB 50+ County Championship convincingly with a nine-wicket victory in the Final at Knibworth CC against Staffordshire.
Three years ago, I was talking to Peter Graham in his Sports shop in Yeadon. He played in the last Yorkshire Over 50’s side to win the competition (2006) and he suggested I played for them.
I didn’t think much to our conversation initially but then at a committee meeting, our North Leeds Cricket Club President, Ian Chappell, also suggested it and handed me a form to fill in which went off to Alan Steers, the captain at the time of the Yorkshire Over 50s.
Early May swung round and I trialled at Northallerton CC against Combined Services and was subsequently selected for my debut against Cumbria, away at Appleby, which turned out to be a five-wicket win.
That year, we got to the last sixteen but lost to Warwickshire and reached the same stage the following year, losing to Suffolk.
It was on a tour to Antigua that November Alan Steers and Martin Ivill asked if I would skipper, which I was proud to accept:
“The guys who put the Yorkshire shirt/cap on wear it with tremendous pride and to play for your county, however you dress it up, is a great honour.
I can remember putting on my cap and shirt for the first time, It was like going back to being a little kid, I felt so proud and chuffed that I got to play for my beloved Yorkshire.”
For the 2014 season, we had a significant recruitment drive due to the fact that five or six Yorkshire players had moved on.
We found some excellent cricketers with a huge passion for Yorkshire who would go on to play their part in the county’s success.
Seasoned cricketers from league action across Yorkshire joined the ranks: Mark “Jocky” Wilson (Wath), Kevin Watson (Brook-Walton), Ash Morton (Anston), Steve Booth (Collingham) and Kevin Bradley (Clifton) were all introduced into the Yorkshire Over 50s.
This influx added to our quality front-line core that included wicket keeper Richard Sykes (Acomb), Colin Frank (Pickering), Martin Watkin (Hull), Neil Grant (Acomb) and vice-captain Rob Keywood (Warley); all of whom made for a competitive side.
Last season, we went unbeaten in our group, defeating Cambridgeshire in the last 16 but then played our worst game of the season in the quarter-finals, losing to Essex. We had got a step closer but again, our squad was evolving.
In early 2015, Colin Chadwick (Pateley Bridge) stood down due to work commitments and Simon Bagnall (Adwalton) had surgery on an injury so we identified the need for at least two quality slow bowlers to really balance our attack.
Luckily, Nigel Doyle (Liversedge) contacted us, was subsequently selected and took no time at all settling into the side very well. This year, we also acquired the services of Paul Langley (Streethouse) who is a sound addition to our strong squad.
To be playing cricket at 50+, and at the level these guys are, is a great achievement. For players, at 50, getting selected for their county is huge and it made all the years of practicing, playing cricket and looking after themselves worthwhile.
Every young boy in Yorkshire who starts playing cricket dreams of playing for their county. Sometimes you have to be patient to get your chance but every player I have selected has embraced it and understood what it means.
The ECB competition is a nationally recognised tournament played from May to September and requires a high level of commitment with understanding bosses as time off is needed and weekends away in the latter parts of the competition.
If you are still playing at 50, you must have retained a high level of competitiveness and every side we play are no different. Here’s to further success in 2016!
BY STEVE WALES