Rupert Jones reflects on his time batting in the Central Yorkshire Cricket League; of cricket clubs now sadly no more and the might of Altofts Cricket Club.
These are the 1981 league tables for the Central Yorkshire Cricket League, often referred to as the Heavy Woollen Cricket League.
It was in some ways a very significant season that would have a long-term influence on Yorkshire cricket & I will come to that in my detour story.
I am Rupert Jones; a very average cricketer who largely opened the batting for Hunslet Nelson CC between 1977 & 1985 & then Olicanian CC between 1997 & 2006.
Finally, it was semi-retirement with cricket for St George’s CC at Harewood House.
You will notice the 12-year gap. I was then in Botswana where I continued playing cricket in the Gaborone Cricket League.
In total, I have occupied hundreds of overs played a dead bat to thousands of balls, barely hit a six & scored 24 fifties.
There were never really enough overs in a game for me to score more or even get one ton. I was Boycott-esque in my ability to play a maiden over.
Now let’s go back to the photograph of those league tables. What you notice is that nine of those clubs have long since ceased to exist. Two more have changed names.
On top of that, one club had already dropped out from the 1980 season which was Brook Motors who played their cricket on their beautiful ground in Fartown, Huddersfield.
The 9 clubs are Wakefield, Thornhill, Chickenley, WYCO, Staincliffe, Slazenger’s, Dewsbury, Huddersfield ICI & Kings Cross.
Heckmondwike disappeared but have come back, adding Carlinghew to their name. Dewsbury Cavaliers changed their name to Moorlands but is it the same club?
My debut 50 came at ICI’s ground in April 1978 followed by a 2nd 50 at Brook Motors. Fifties followed at Kings Cross, Cavaliers & Thornhill. Then a memorable 48 run out at Chickenley. So for me, the loss of these clubs moves me.
My favourite grounds were always Heckmondwike & Mirfield who have also had their ups and downs.
The saddest ground was Savile Town, Dewsbury. It just seemed to convey its past with a huge, dilapidated pavilion which I once explored when playing for the first team in 1978 while Genesis played Knebworth.
I was probably quite lucky not to put my foot through the floors they were so far gone. The ground was huge and the grass never seemed to be cut very short.
It’s no wonder I once took 39 balls to get off the mark there though I did at least get 29 in a memorable Crowther Cup win. WYCO was another huge ground with a walk past the bowling greens to get to the changing rooms.
These league tables certainly mark a sad nod to what was to come. It also marks the start of the computer and video game era. I wonder if there is a connection?
Now to that detour. The Altofts side of 1981 was, in my opinion, one of the strongest club sides ever. They had no less than four overseas players. Opening the innings was Ronnie Hart, with a One-Day International appearance for New Zealand.
Coming in at first wicket down was the Young New Zealand Cricketer of the Year Alan Hunt, followed by Lindsay Crocker who managed the last NZ Test team to tour England! Batting at 7 was an 18-year-old Australian called Dean Jones.
In addition, Altofts could call upon Glyn Cardall & Tony Sutton who were both Yorkshire second-teamers & Tony Frost who played for Notts 2nds. All this was thanks to the genius of Clive Jackson still running Altofts today.
In 1981, I was in the summer term of a blissful end of my first year at Manchester Polytechnic. We had no summer exams so could largely just indulge which included travelling back on Saturdays to play cricket.
After a 36 at home to Heckmondwike (Reg Parker keeping wicket) I found myself selected for the first team. Our opponents were Altofts.
Well, after 26 overs, they were 52 for 2. My dad even popped down to have a chat with his fellow Aussie, the young Dean Jones. He moaned to him that he was not getting much of a bat and was largely relied upon to do the bowling.
Jones came in with less than 7 overs left and scored 76 not out. That sort of striking was unheard of in those days.
Ray Bebbington (Three-time winner of Central Yorkshire League’s Bowling Award) went for 64 in 4 overs.
A new star was born. We were quickly dispatched, I made a duck & Altofts won the league. And I mentioned consequences for the future of league cricket.
Well, they were responsible for every club rather than just the elite getting an overseas player and for it soon becoming one player per club.
The following season, Ronnie Hart brought his mate over but Altofts had to give him to Heckmondwike.
His name was Gavin Larsen who would finish with 121 one-day international appearances for New Zealand and bowl his miserly medium-pace in three World Cups.
And another little curio. Despite their total dominance, Altofts only scored one individual hundred that season.
This shows you how much club wickets have improved since. As it happens, our last game of the season that year was against Altofts 2nds and I carried my bat for 61 not out.
In December at the WACA, Dean Jones took 199 off Western Australia with a certain DK Lillee bowling.
Thanks to Rupert for his article and to Brian and Clive for the photos. If you’d like a further article then have a read of Central Yorkshire Cricket League: History at Methley which was the last day of the league and I was there to watch Methley win it.
Here’s the news on the Yorkshire CCC website of the Yorkshire Premier League restructure that shook up the top level of recreational cricket in Yorkshire.
Last but not least, some photos of the Yorkshire Premier Leagues Championship Final (2018) as Wakefield Thornes beat Great Ayton.
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RICHARD LOWTHER says
I remember going with my Dad to Altofts to watch Collis King in action. I don’t remember if he played for Altofts or the opposition at the time.
It is a memory that sticks out as we didn’t often go to cricket games but it must have been that Dad wanted to see the great player in action and it was too good a chance to miss.
John Fuller says
Thanks Richard…I went to Dunnington to watch Collis on a scorching hot day about 5 years back…he was out for a duck from memory but a good day out.
Alan Anslow says
I found this article fascinating, especially being a former Hunslet Nelson player myself, mostly before Rupert’s time. Having also played at several of the grounds that Rupert mentioned. I particularly remember Dewsbury being a massive field where it was almost impossible to hit a boundary and yes a dilapidated pavilion.
Particularly remember Reg Parker who was legendary and known as the Peter Pan of cricket. He played for Hunslet Nelson in the 60’s, then moved to Heckmondwike before finishing up at Adel, I think he played until his late 60’s. He was teetotal and legend has it that following a Nelson league title win (2nd Division) he got drunk on Orange juice. As far as I am aware he is still going strong, we get a Christmas card from him.
Sadly the same cannot be said of Ray Bennington, who died a few years ago. He was a great bowler who could bowl seam or off spin. He was also one of the funniest men you could wish to meet, his favourite expression was referring to a bowler as being a ‘‘Tingalary’’ bowler.
It is sad to see the demise of some great clubs, but sadly that is a sign of the times. I don’t see things getting any better and feel we may lose several more in the next few years, especially follow Covid. I hope I am wrong.
John Fuller says
Thanks Alan, good to hear from you and glad you liked Rupert’s article. It’s always great to get personal stories like yours from across club cricket over the decades.
Club cricket faces an extraordinary challenge over the next year. I’m sure there will be some who can ride it out and others who can’t.
I remember playing with you. How are you? Reg is still going though struggling a bit. Andrew Stoddart chatted with him this month & he didn’t realise there was a pandemic on. He had a stroke & heart attack in spring 2019. We all wish him the best. I do look forward to either seeing him down at Adel CC or the Arthington festival when some normality returns.
Keith Nicholson says
I was just trawling and came across your note, last year regarding Reg Parker. I watched him at Holbeck in the 1950’s and was delighted to see your note. Although he would not know me personally I played for Holbeck Juniors in 1958. Is Reg still around?
Hi all, ,I’m Reg Parker’s daughter and have just seen these lovely comments about Reg. Yes, he’s still with us, though now has dementia. Molly is still able to look after him at home. And he still remembers lots of his ‘old’ cricket pals!!
Terry Greaves says
I remember when we had 4 overseas players at Altofts and at that time I was the captain, it was an honour to play with such talented players not just the overseas players but home grown ones as well. That is something that I will never forget.
Ben Wood says
My dad played for Chickenly and ran the club in 80s they had a great 86 to 89 team. I was 15 and played in first team sonetimes.
I always follow the West Yorkshire leagues it has a certain spirit. The issue was always the standard of wickets that were often uncovered. The Bradford league had the edge in this way encouraging faster bowlers and spinners.
I played in Sydney and Auckland and Perth and although the cricket was ok great wickets of more nurturing talent I never ever had more memories than playing for clubs in West Yorkshire council, lovely article !!!
Now I play social cricket in Shanghai bowling trundlers
John Fuller says
Hi Ben, thanks for the comment and great to hear your cricketing journey all over the world. Enjoy your bowling in Shanghai.