Monday, 8 December 2014

Swaledale dries up

posted by John Winn

Not for the first time I am indebted to my neighbour. Mrs June Sanderson, for providing me with source material for a posting. In 2012 she kindly loaned me memorabilia connected with the Hessay and District League, long gone the way of many small cricket leagues, which gave me some inspiration and just last week in researching her family history June came across details of a match played in August 1797 between Wetherby and Scruton.

The match was played at York Gate in Leeming Lane. York Gate appears on today's maps adjacent to the A1*, a little north of its junction with the A61. Wetherby were under the patronage of the Hon George Motson while Scruton relied on the support of a mere commoner, Mr Millburn. The purse for the match was a hundred guineas aside, an astonishing sum of money to be waged on a cricket match at that time. 'The match continued two days, and the contest (which was a severe one) terminated in favour of the Wetherby Club by several notches.' The use of the term 'notches' refers of course to the practice of recording scores by carving notches in a piece of wood. A far cry from Total Cricket Scorer. Cricinfo's brief history of cricket records the first use of 'scorecards' at Sevenoaks Vine in 1776.

A further trip to Darlington  has, I think, brought me to the end of the road in my research into the history of The Swaledale League for last week a morning spent going through back copies of The Darlington and Stockton Times for 1966 and 1967 has led me to conclude that the last matches in the league, which was founded in 1921, were played in July 1966. The league had begun the season with just seven clubs, an awkward number and five of the sides competing were 'works teams' from Darlington. The two village clubs were Barton II and Constable Burton. Barton who play today in The Darlington and District League, lies just south west of Darlington and can hardly considered part of Swaledale, and Constable Burton had for many years been stalwarts of The Wensleydale League, which geographically was their natural home. Here they are circa 1957, a year in which only Middleham kept them off the bottom of the league, Wensleydale that is.

Reports of the 1966 season cease in July but alas there is no final table. The difficulties presented by having seven teams had been solved when Darlington Corporation Transport dropped out in early July having conceded a number of fixtures. How one would love to say this was because of transport problems but the explanation lay in the shift patterns of employees making it difficult for them to raise an XI. There are no scores or fixtures recorded in 1967 so one can only assume that the matches played in late July 66 were the last. A further piece of evidence is that Constable Burton are back in Wensleydale action in 1967, this time only Gilling West denying them the wooden spoon.

Before I finally draw a line under this project there is one last source to explore and that is via phone numbers I have been given of two stalwarts of Barton CC who may, as very young men,  just have played in that 'final season'. Here's hoping.

*Known as The Great North Road at the time of the match.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Getting fixed up

posted by John Winn

What a pleasant surprise to switch on the laptop yesterday and find a well considered response to an emotive topic from a new blogger. Thank you Steve.

Even though for very good reason the publication of the next year's fixtures was delayed by 24 hours pcws have had the weekend to start planning next season's cricket watching. Yorkshire supporters may feel a little disappointed that the champions start with two away games, but New Road and Trent Bridge number among many people's favourite grounds and I suspect that hoteliers and guest house keepers in Worcester have already had  enquiries about vacancies for the week beginning April 12th. For those of the white rose persuasion who do not travel, then they must wait until the 26th when the Bears come to Headingley, an appetising prospect.

Even with my dual nationality and unless I am prepared to travel, I will need to exercise some patience, for like Yorkshire, Durham are not at home until the end of April when Sussex will be at The Riverside and their supporters will be huddled in the long room for warmth. This match of course clashes with Yorkshire's Headingley opener, the first of four such occasions when the two counties are at home at the same time, disappointing for there was only one such clash last year. Championship cricket at The Riverside is rather top and bottom loaded for after the visit of Notts in early May there are only three  games in 14 weeks  before things finish in a hurry with three out of the last four games at home beginning with Middlesex on August 21st.

Only one of my 'must see' matches is on the menu this season, Derbyshire v Lancashire, their first championship meeting since 2005 and lo and behold who should be the first visitors to the County Ground but Lancashire on Sunday April 19th, an early opportunity to tick this fixture off. And should circumstances prevent me making the journey the reverse fixture has the added bonus of being played at Southport, a ground I have never visited.

Plenty to get excited about then, and with just three weeks to go before the sun starts its return journey from the southern hemisphere it will not be too long before  'this season' means 2015. Roll on.

Friday, 28 November 2014


By Steve Bindman

Despite the extreme rareness of such injurious deaths, the recent tragedy in first-class cricket was a death waiting to happen.

Before about 1975, the bowling of bouncers was an exploit used sparingly - apart from the occurance of "bodyline" in the 1930s. It is the over-competitiveness of modern sport which tends to forget the notion that sport needs to have being friendly game as its impregnably strongbasis which ultimately is responsible for the situation ,there was an escalation of the short pitched ball usuage during the Lillee and Thompson period of Australian Test cricket,then the West Indies for quite a period had a cluster of great fast bowlers but at times they bowled 3 to 5 bounchers in an over and the balance of West Indian cricket with their traditional use of spinners as well as quickies sadly declined.

Now a lot of focus is about knowledge. Every team knows and works on the slight weaknesses of individuals opponents and Philip Hughs was said to have a weakness against the bouncer.

I would like to see this terrible tragedy enable a stronger sense of sportsmanship to come back into the game that if a batsman has such a weakness it is simply not exploited in the way it has been in recent years. Fred Trueman and Brian Statham of England and Wesley Hall of West Indies in the 50s and 60s (and Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller of Australia before that) used the bouncer sparingly and prefered to get the batsman out with cricketing skill.

It is also about temptation. Batsmen are tempted to play the hook shot which is a valid and correct run-getting shot- and their preparedness to play this shot even when they are not quite sure they are going to make contact with the bat encourges the bowler to put the fielder in position at long leg for a boundary catch and bowl more short balls than normal wisdom would dictate. Coaches need to teach safety first against the short ball so that the hook is only attempted when the batsman knows he has swayed out of the balls line and is not going to get hit.

I am not imputing any blame whatsoever to the individual players involved who were clearly the best of friends with the victim (their former team-mate) -in particular the unfortunate bowler.It is just that they themselves have become an inescapable part of cricket,s modern ethos. They are victims too!
Umpires are now instructed to try and limit the number of short pitched balls per over but this directive is difficult to apply consistently.

The bouncer has long been a worry in the game. I remember seeing Colin Cowdrey brave an assult from Charlie Griffith in the 1966 Nottingham Test Match to score 96 whilst Tom Graveney played a  brilliant untroubled 109 showing a hugh contrast in their batting styles and confidence against the shorter ball. Many thought Griffith threw his bouncer and this was a constant source of speculation and controversy. I do not doubt though that the more confident player -a Graveney even-could yet get hit and be subject to danger. Iam not sure where the correct balance lies between safety and a healthy contest- but it will be obviously have to move more in the direction of safety.At the same time as Mike Selvey has pointed out in his excellent  article in Tuesday Guardian ,some thought obviously needs to be given to the re-design of the batting helmet. Could it be extended to cover the brain stem towards the neck?Would this prove practicable ?He reminds us however that no protective equipment has a guaranteed safety-an fatalities can occur when other parts of the body than the head are struck -  and have occured to fielders and umpires as well as batsmen.

Thursday, 20 November 2014


By Brian Sanderson,

I was reading todays Daily Telegraph sport section. The headlines were ECB shocked by sharp drop in club numbers. A survey shown that numbers who played cricket dropped from 908,000 in 2013 to 844,000 in 2014.

Yesterday I had a telephone call to say that Woodhouse cricket club is no longer in the Airedale and Wharfedale Cricket League. This was a club that the late and great Mick Bourne  used to visit  as it was near his house.We will have to see what happens to the club now. During the same telephone conversation , I heard that Great Horton club will be no longer playing in the Bradford League next year.

On Tuesday this week, I was asked to trace a match between Farley and Pudsey St. Lawerence in 1949 when the league was very strong.One of the young player for Farsley was Raymond Illingworth who was seventeen at the time. The match was played over five nights and went as follow,

27th JUNE   Farsley scored 250 for 4 innings suspended.

28 th JUNE  Pudsey 132 for 1  Hamer 111 not out.

29th JUNE Farsley 267 FOR 7  with Illingworth 81 not out.

30th  JUNE Farsley 394 all out with Illingworth 148 not out with 17 fours and 1 six.

4th   JULY  Pudsey 298 all out with Waterhouse taking 6 for 74.

Farsley went on to play Yeadon in the final at Bradford Park Avenue. Yeadon won the match with Bryan Stott  scoring 9 at the age of 14.

Both Illingwoth and Stott both went on to better things during their careers.

How things have changed.

Post  scrip in connection with the loss of clubs , Steve James in the Sunday Telegraph has written another article about the state of league cricket. His headline was "Village cricket is dying,and with it goes our way of life ".

He quotes the following stats:

27 %  could play more but the game,s format does not suit them

27% believe games finish too late.

5% matches forfeited by teams unable to raise a team.

47 % want to play more but do not have the time.

I am sure the situation will get worse next season. So more facts to come.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Fixtures out next week

Posted by John Winn

The ECB will release the 2015 county cricket fixtures at 10:30 am on Thursday November 27th, an important date in any pcw's calendar. Make sure you've got your 2015 diary to hand.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

We will remember them

posted by John Winn

Last Saturday I attended a special ceremony at the village church my family attended when I was a young boy. St Andrew's, built circa 1125 in the village of Haughton le Skerne (absorbed in to the Borough of Darlington in 1930) is a fine Norman church, the oldest in Darlington, and the occasion that prompted my visit had been arranged by the local history society to commemorate the 18 men of the village who were killed in the first World War and whose names are on the war memorial at the church gates and on a plaque inside the church.

Amongst the fallen was an older brother of my father, Reginald Anthony Winn, who was killed at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916 and his name is at the head of  the family gravestone in a quiet corner of the church yard. The small cross was placed there by the history society. I have made a note for my next visit to take some gardening tools with which to tackle the ivy.

If you are  wondering what  the relevance of this is to a cricket blog the answer lies in an email I received from Carol Atkinson, the seemingly tireless secretary of the society who has spent many hours researching the backgrounds of the village casualties and in so doing unearthed an article from The Evening  Despatch* of 1915 reporting the death of Sgt G E White (DLI). The article quotes from a letter written by Bob Bamlett, a Haughton boy, to his parents in which he describes the events leading up to White's death from a sniper's bullet. In the same trench with the letter writer and the unfortunate Sergeant was Uncle Reg, three lads from the same small village in County Durham.

The Evening Despatch concludes its article with the following 'It may be recalled that Sergt White for many years was a member of Haughton Cricket Club, and in 1909 he won the bowling prize taking 24 wickets at a cost of 1.75 runs per wicket which was a very creditable performance. Later he became connected with the Railway Athlete(sic) Club for whom he was always a good scorer. He was also secretary of the Haughton Hockey Club for a memorable number of years.'

I assume the Railway Athlete Club is a reference to Darlington RA and that 'a good scorer' is a reference to his skill with the bat rather than the pencil.

  What puzzles me about this is that I have three photographs of the village team from that era, 1906, 1907 and 1912, on none of which does George White appear. Below is a picture of the 1912 team by which time he may have moved to the RA's predecessors, Darlington North Road

Whether Uncle Reg was a cricketer is not known but given that his father (my grandfather) and at least two of his brothers were good players it seems very unlikely that he would not have played. The local press of that time did print scores of some of Haughton's matches and a search may throw up information about Uncle Reg and Sergeant White. A railwayman by trade, White's death is also listed on a memorial to the several Darlington men from that industry killed in the war.

I had lunch yesterday with Brian Sanderson, David Thorpe and Tony Hutton, 'Jim the Thoroughbred' as David described the meeting, and cricket dominated the conversation. The light at the end of the November tunnel is the publication of the first class fixtures, on or about the 25th it is thought, but Tony has discovered that some of the Minor Counties have rather jumped the gun and their fixtures are available on their websites. Amongst these are Cheshire who have published dates but as yet without venues.

*a former sister paper of The Northern Echo known also as The Northern Despatch

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Wetherby chairman fights his corner

posted by John Winn

Since my posting 'Whither Wetherby' at the end of September in which I raised the issue of the number of clubs seeking to leave the Wetherby League and the description of this trend by league chairman Zai Ali as a 'blip', the publication of next season's fixtures for The Aire Wharfe has confirmed that Old Mods have joined Whixley and Great Preston in going through the exit door. Old Mods will start life in their new surroundings with a home game on April 18th when Menston will be the visitors.

At an 'All Clubs' meeting of The Wetherby League on October 9th the 'blip' was addressed in the context of the nationwide problem in the decline in the number of people playing cricket using data from the recent ECB Players Survey which shows 7% fewer players and fixtures in 2014. The minutes of this meeting are available at where the reasons for the departure of Whixley, Great Preston and Old Mods are spelt out. The minutes also show that two other clubs have expressed a wish to change leagues with St Chads having made an unsuccessful application to the Aire Wharfe, and Wetherby CC having sought permission to negotiate with at least two other leagues.

Like marriage changing leagues is 'not to be undertaken lightly' especially where it involves giving up years of tradition and healthy rivalries built up with other clubs but the Wetherby questions whether the departing clubs have 'really considered these other leagues properly' and goes on to list the drawbacks of membership of the Nidderdale, Aire Wharfe, and York Senior Leagues. Issues raised include the amount of travelling, lack of umpires, computerised scoring, matches being conceded and the quality of the cricket being played. Surely no club would apply to another league without full knowledge and discussion of these kind of things.

To its credit The Wetherby League does accept it has had a problem with teams conceding, especially second eleven matches and the October 9th meeting discussed how this might be overcome.. A reduction in the number of overs from the current 45 being one suggestion with the possibility that this might be trialled in Div 5 next year. And of course the Wetherby is not alone in suffering a reduction in its membership: my last posting focussed on the same problem on an even larger scale in the Huddersfield Central. Similarly other leagues suffer from the problem, especially towards the end of season, of non fulfilment of fixtures. 

The twitter accounts of the departing clubs speak of 'new adventures' and 'new challenges' and several of those they leave behind wish them well. Perhaps this time next year the blog might conduct a short survey of those who have sought outfields new asking for their reflections on their first season in their new leagues?