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How many of the cricket matches you’ve witnessed really stand out in the memory? My visit to Altofts Cricket Club won’t easily be forgotten, simply because it was unusually brief.
The Tofts took just two hours, 20 minutes – including the tea interval! – to dispose of Third Division rivals Brighouse in the Bradford Premier League’s Jack Hampshire Cup, a 40-over Sunday competition for clubs occupying tiers three and four.
Altofts won by nine wickets. The first-round tie was concluded long before any of the others contested on the same, unexpectedly sunny afternoon.
Short can be sweet, of course. The length of my stay at the Clive Jackson Cricket Ground might have been half what I’d hoped for, but it was long enough to gain a positive impression of a club with an eventful history.
“An early finish,” remarked a fellow spectator and folding chair enthusiast, employing a high degree of understatement, as we watched the players troop off the field.
The original Altofts Cricket Club were founded in the 1890s. Unsurprisingly, a colliery owned and funded – partly through a miners’ levy – their Lock Lane ground, at a site which then, as now, is shared with bowling and football.
In 1926, this so-called Welfare Ground acquired a new pavilion, complete with showers and baths. It was opened by Yorkshire and England batsman Herbert Sutcliffe. With a cycle and running track around the pitch, it became the go-to venue for village events.
Things took a turn for the worse in the 1960s. The colliery shut in 1961 and funding for the Lock Lane site was pulled three years later. Ownership transferred to what is now Wakefield Council. Then, in 1965, the cricket club folded. Lack of cash and interest.
Nearby, another colliery closure left Whitwood Cricket Club facing financial problems. In 1969, they reached agreement to play at Lock Lane, becoming a reborn Altofts Cricket Club the following year.
Altofts had many successes in the Pontefract & District League during the 1970s then more than replicated these, during the 1980s, as members of the Central Yorkshire League. Ensuing years, it would seem, were more of a struggle.
Since joining, in 2016, the merged version of the Bradford Premier League, Altofts have won two trophies: the T20 Wheatley Cup (2017) and the Division Three League Cup (2020).
Displays in the spotless clubhouse commemorate Clive Jackson, after whom the ground is now named. A plaque salutes Clive’s “countless years of service”.
A club official tells me Clive, who died in 2020 at the age of 81, was a former player, coach, groundsman, secretary, treasurer and league representative. His service extended to something like six decades.
“Clive did a lot for this club,” he recalls, in a tone indicating the stalwart is badly missed by all.
In 2020, Clive became only the second posthumous recipient of the Sir Leonard Hutton Trophy, the Bradford Premier League’s top accolade. The award recognised formally Clive’s dedication, both to Altofts and to the sport of cricket.
Circuiting the boundary, I spot a memorial plaque to Clive on a bench next to the tiny scorebox. Altofts’ young scorer is pleased to be on a ‘double bubble’ pay weekend.
Earlier, driving into the village, via Stanley and bridges over the River Calder and the Aire & Calder Navigation, I note the infants’ school in Altofts is named after Martin Frobisher.
Sure enough, a Net check reveals it is the famous sixteenth-century seafarer, seeker of the fabled Northwest Passage and a knight of the realm. Frobisher was born in Altofts.
Lock Lane turns out to be an initially residential road that peters out into a track after the sports ground entrance. With time in hand, I parked then strolled down to the canal, its leafy banks now part of the Castleford to Wakefield Greenway. Very pleasant.
The cricket pitch occupies the northernmost part of the Lock Lane site. Its clubhouse, complete with gable, is positioned, ahem, amidships. The football ground has a small stand and floodlights. Close by, bowlers are out on the green, enjoying the lunchtime sun.
Inescapable, unfortunately, is the noise of vehicles thundering along the M62, about 150 yards beyond the cricket pitch’s eastern boundary. Regulars must become accustomed.
The pitch falls away from south to north, with the wickets laid east to west. This pleases me greatly because not only, as the sun moves round, can I grab a sliver of shade in the lee of the substantial west end boundary fence, I am looking over the bowler’s arm. Perfect.
In the northeast corner of the ground is a curious wooden cover. I’ve not seen the like at any other cricket ground.
Each team had lost at home in the league the previous day. Altofts, sixth, went down to Liversedge whilst Brighouse, eleventh, bedding in a much-changed team this season, scored only 81 in defeat by Gomersal-based Spen Victoria.
I overhear a comment that Brighouse’s line-up features several players who aren’t part of the Saturday First XI. Ah, the ongoing problems getting out a strong Sunday team.
Another Net check (how was life worth living before Google?) reveals only four of the side beaten by Spen Victoria are in action this afternoon.
Brighouse win the toss and choose to bat. From this point, it’s pretty much all downhill for the visitors.
Having careered to a parlous 25-5, the men from Calderdale do reasonably well to post 64 from 23 overs. The last two wickets tumble without a run added. No 7 Haseeb Khan (16 not out) is the only batter in double figures.
Brighouse’s shot selection isn’t the best, frankly. To add insult to injury, one of their players breaks his bat.
There is an astonishing dismissal. A snick to second slip is fumbled. The ball drops onto the foot of first slip then ricochets into the gloves of captain and wicketkeeper Jordan Carter.
Patrick Hinchliffe (3-8), Louis Holt (3-15) and Craig Wood (3-20) have the lion’s share of the wickets. Pacer Holt, who opens the bowling, gets several deliveries to rear head high, prompting admiring whoops from team-mates.
Spinner Wood is one of the opening batters. He blasts 42 not out from 23 balls. Each of his two sixes are struck out of the ground.
Elliott Carter, amongst the Altofts club’s bright young prospects, comes in at No 3 and scores a quickfire unbeaten 19. His tally features three fours and a six. Carter’s six takes the hosts to 66-1 in just 41 balls. Wham, bam. Game over. No, really.
In round two of the Jack Hampshire Cup, on Sunday, June 5 (1pm), Altofts will travel to Second Division club Wakefield St Michael’s.