Did you know that Taylors of Harrogate has its own cricket team? The family business has a hat-trick of famous Yorkshire brands in Yorkshire Tea, Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate.
In this content collaboration with Yorkshire Tea, we’ll talk cricket with their captain Matthew Huffer about the origins of the side and how tea and cricket combine in the suburbs of Harrogate.
Beyond the labyrinth of leagues and clubs of Yorkshire, there is a layer of the game you might not know about.
It’s the world of social cricket. Where points, positions and prizes are replaced by laughs and the occasional long hop.
There’s cricketing talent for sure but who wins is less important than everyone having a good time.
The formation of the Taylors of Harrogate XI began after Matthew joined the company in 2011, coincidentally the same year Cricket Yorkshire began too.
The idea for a company cricket team tugged at Matthew, as a cricketer himself and now potentially somewhere with a big enough player pool of those “who played cricket or are prepared to be athletic and run around a bit,” as he puts it.
The team’s tentative early days were a mix of some who could recall cricket from school, a few current cricketers and bolstered by a fair number who’d never given the game a go before.
As someone who captained a pub team that was new, there’s something very exciting about those fledgling steps. I fondly recall dragging a beleaguered Frenchman from a bar stool in the Waldergrave Arms in Teddington to play an evening game.
He looked utterly confused as we strapped pads to his legs and sent him out with a weird wooden wand. A few balls later, he was LBW and had to be coaxed back to where we were congregating under a giant oak. We never saw him again but perhaps we now captains the French national side.
The first-ever Taylors fixture was against Eversheds, their lawyers, and gradually a little fixture list against other companies emerged over time.
It now includes eight or so opponents a year including Pavers Shoes in York, Shepherd Group/Portakabin, York St John University staff, QuantIC research, Lambert Smith Hampton, a commercial property estate agent and Finlays, a tea and coffee manufacturer.
Home games are played midweek at Bilton Cricket Club, on the Northern fringes of Harrogate.
As of the 2023 season, Matthew tells me there are only three of the team who play cricket regularly.
He captains York 3rd XI while Kareem Baqai opens the batting for Ovington 2nd XI in the York Vale League and Kaljit Virdee is at Adel Cricket Club in the Dales Council League.
I remember myself that it can require a bit of adjustment with midweek friendlies if you’re used to league cricket. “Kaljit is super-keen, a quick bowler who likes to win so I have to rein him in a bit as it’s friendly cricket!”
Elsewhere in the bowling department, there is Chris Worts, an HR Director: “He’s a very slow left-arm bowler, had a few games, knows what he’s doing, allegedly played for Somerset juniors and is a good guy.”
The stalwarts; that indispensable heart to any cricket team whether friendlies or league, is made up of four tea buyers who have been involved from the start: Tony Barkataki, Simon Simmonds, Patrick Geldard-Williams and Will Dixon.
Meanwhile, John Hennighan, Factory Manager for Yorkshire Tea, is their wicketkeeper and Steve Jones, International Marketing and Sales, adds bowling firepower.
Katie White (National Account Manager), Grace Ticehurst-James (Category Manager) and Katie Kippax (Tea Buyer) all play too and I get a sense from the range of job roles referenced that it’s a team with lots of backgrounds and abilities.
The great thing about this form of the game is that you’ll discover talents that have lain dormant, as well as just being a lot of fun to get together and socialise out of the office.
The trick with friendly cricket is to make a game of it.
Sometimes, you might be on the wrong end of a result or be the ones who are far too strong. No-one’s there to lose by ten wickets within half an hour.
So, Taylors of Harrogate have some smart rules to level the playing field.
You can’t be out first ball.
(A rule I confide in Matthew I wish I’d had in my fumbling career as a hopeless number eleven for decades at clubs across England.)
You can’t be out LBW.
Again, I like this one as it negates any knowledge of the finer points of the MCC Laws and is a rubbish way to be dismissed in a midweek friendly.
Bowlers can only bowl 3 overs.
Typically, these are T20s, played out in the Yorkshire sunshine as the shadows lengthen over the square, and it means everyone can get involved.
No lobbing the ball to your star bowler to dominate, while shielding your ‘mystery spinner’ who can be reliably counted on to make the ball bounce five times before it reaches the batter.
Batters retire at 30.
Again, if you happen to squint into the gathering gloom to realise that Sachin Tendulkar is striding out for a guest appearance, well, he can only score as many as his team-mates.
As I nod enthusiastically away on the video call, Matthew makes the point that most of these rules can be found in junior cricket. I can’t help thinking that certainly at the very lower reaches of club cricket, we could do with introducing a few limitations to even things up.
Just not cricket? Perhaps. Or it could mean that more contribute in a match and might stay on to play all-year.
Extras are two runs (you don’t have to bowl them again).
To return to my pub league from another lifetime ago, we had automatic legside wides which was extraordinarily strict, looking back.
It led to the comedic time where one of our part-time bowlers delivered a 17-ball over as he struggled to land it in the right postcode, let alone on the green astroturf in front of him (sorry, James).
On the plus side, it spawned a 17-pub crawl in his honour around Twickenham and Richmond so some good came of it.
Matthew shares their scoring philosophy, designed to ensure no-one is unfairly penalised: “Wides and no-balls count as two runs until the final over when it’s one run and you have to bowl the extra ball to prevent any skulduggery.”
I forget to ask how many they’ve won this season, I guess because it hardly matters; it’s about bringing people together through cricket who might not ordinarily work in the same area of the business or know each other.
Before we sign off, there’s just enough time to get a request for me to play for Taylors in 2024.
If it can start with a tea tasting, sign me up. Although I might need to acquire a can of WD-40 for various rusty joints beforehand.
Credit where credit’s due, I recognise the forward-thinking from Matthew. Always considering future availability and next season.
Once a captain, always a captain….
Many thanks to Matthew for the interview. This is a sponsored article for Yorkshire Tea who sponsor the Cricket Yorkshire Tea of the Year – if the mood takes you, click to read Cricket Yorkshire’s policy on sponsored content*
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