A Kiwi at Altofts CC
It seems that only yesterday that I was a wide eyed young man on his first foray overseas to experience cricket and life in the United Kingdom. In fact it was 22 years ago. In April 1981 I arrived at Wakefield Bus Terminal, to play for Altofts Cricket Club, with two other young kiwis, Lindsay Crocker and Ronnie Hart. We were greeted by Clive Jackson, the then secretary of the club, Terry Greaves the team captain and others. This was the start of two great years playing for Altofts in New Zealand’s winter.
On the evening of our arrival we were warmly greeted by a large contingent of club members at the Horse and Jockey. This included Clive Jackson, Terry Greaves, Tommy Mason and his son Darren, Neville Pearce, the late Brian Dolan, Arthur and Dave Bastow, Ted Walmsley, their families and numerous other friends of the club. It was some night.
We left the function, having been presented with caps and jumpers, one of which read “Altofts CC, CYL Champions 1980", with no illusions of what lay ahead. It was essential that we had success individually and collectively. There was a need to erase the memories of two Australians, Gary Miles and Steve Coad, who had helped the club to the title the previous year. We had heard a great deal about these two players over a number of pints and it became clear that we would be measured by their standards. I like to think that we rapidly surpassed them.
Much to our disgust, we were also informed that an Australian was to join the side also, and he would reside with us. You have probably heard that Kiwis and Aussies are about as close as Yorkshiremen and Lancastrians. A confident, brash Victorian arrived a couple of weeks later. Dean Mervyn Jones turned out to be a fair player. My recollection is that he played a bit for Australia later in his career.
We lived in a terraced house on Church Road, opposite the Miners Arms and close to the Workingman's Club, which was the home of Altofts CC. No bar in the clubhouse in those days. We each took turns at cooking. This was an interesting challenge. Lindsay was the only one who had lived away from home, having attended university, before leaving NZ for Altofts. Ronnie and I had some idea however Dean was just awful and copped a fair bit of abuse as a result.
Jobs were found for us. Ronnie and I worked at Patons in Wakefield thanks to Neville Pearce. Lindsay was an Accountant and contracted to a firm in Leeds and Dean also had work. We chipped in 7 pounds each for food per week and the rest was for entertainment.
On the cricket front we were all vying for high order batting spots. Lindsay and Ron were openers. Dean took the new ball and was a number three batsman. I arrived at Altofts as an off spin bowler and middle order batsman.
Easter 1981, the scheduled start to the season bought snow, and lots of it. The Lock Lane ground was covered. Whilst cricket was disrupted which was frustrating, snow was a novelty. Ron and I made a snow man and of course the inevitable snowball fights occurred. I received a scare at this time. To my horror wayward snowball delivered by yours truly entered Dave Bastow’s car, disintegrating and covering the big man. The lengthy glare alone was enough to deter me from firing in his direction again…….. ever.
The season commenced the following week with Altofts hosting Thornhill. It was a low scoring affair played in very cold weather and difficult batting conditions. I recall wearing several jumpers and a sunhat. We bowled them out for 44 and scored 46-2 in reply.
History shows that in 1981 we won the Central Yorkshire League with 3 matches to go and went on to beat Liversedge at Heckmondwike in the Yorkshire Council Championship for the first time in Altofts history.
The big final was played in front of a large crowd. We batted first 215-7 in our 46 overs. Lindsay Crocker and I got 74 and 63 respectively and Big Dave and Clive Jackson accelerated the scoring at the end of the innings. We bowled them out for 143 with Dave Bastow 5-60 from 20 overs. The celebrations went long into the night as you can imagine. The Normanton Branch of the Yorkshire Bank were not too impressed when Lindsay and I turned up with 70 quids worth of coins each to bank on Monday morning. The result of our half centuries in the final.
We played many great matches that year. I remember vividly standing on the mid on fence when Dean Jones got hit for six off the last ball of the match at Ossett. They had needed six from the last ball. Unfortunately Dean bowled a wide which could not be controlled by Tommy Mason the wicketkeeper bringing a big hitter on strike. The extra ball was hammered well over the boundary.
The club won the Stimorol Chewing Gum team of July 1981. We each were presented with a box of chewing gum. This resulted in a sore jaw for many weeks after. I haven’t faced Stimorol since.
Some of the club stalwarts who played in 1981 for Altofts were Terry Greaves, the captain, Tommy Mason the wicketkeeper, Dave Bastow and Clive Jackson.
Terry was a very crafty medium pace bowler who secured plenty of wickets. A red head so was fairly fiery and intense on the park. On one particular day he gave himself a good telling off after miss fielding a ball. Very humorous.
Tommy was an excellent keeper with great hands. Tommy never stopped talking. He would often stand up to the pace bowlers, probably to initiate a conversation with the opposition batsman. He kept us entertained with his dry humour and wit.
A man of few words, Dave Bastow secured 40 league wickets at 10.15 average in 1981 and scored some valuable late order runs. You could be almost certain that when Dave appealed for a lbw it was plumb, as he very rarely appealed or said a word. A big hearted bowler and a good man to have around. He and his friend Melvin acted as a minder for us from time to time.
Clive Jackson was our very reliable contact at the club from day one. He must have been in his mid to late forties in 1981. They tell me he is still running around. Jacko is what every club needs. He had foresight, enthusiasm and drive to see Altofts succeed. As a player he also scored well at important times during the season. Not necessarily large scores but very valuable contributions.
In 1982 Lindsay Crocker and I returned to Altofts for a second year. During the off season the rules on overseas players had changed. Probably as a result of us having four player the year prior. Teams were limited to a maximum of two players. Heckmondwike secured the services of Ron Hart and Dean did not return.
Altofts were again competitive in 1982 however we lacked the bowling attack to bowl sides out. My recollection is that we finished fourth and failed to earn the right to defend our Yorkshire Council Championship. At the end of 1982 the silverware cupboard was bare.
We did make the semi final of the CYL Knockout Cup against Heckmondwike at Lock Lane. Crox and I opened and put on 230 for the first wicket in 35 overs. We ended up on 262-1 in 40 overs. After starting the run chase in poor light the rain set in. The match could not be completed and we lost the match on the toss of a coin. Terry Greaves, the skipper, was distraught. Heckmondwike went on to win the trophy. You would have to say we were unlucky.
My career highest score was achieved in 1982. 178 out of 262-7 against Birstall at home. 16 fours and 9 sixes. A lasting memory.
I had two wonderful years at Altofts. I played some good cricket, met some great people, grew up a lot and gained confidence as a cricketer to go further in the game. Unfortunately I underachieved as a player however did have a long career, by New Zealand standards, with Auckland and was granted a benefit season in 1992. I am now involved in coaching cricket. Guiding cricketers so they may fulfil their potential.
Regards to everyone at Altofts.