The pride of York­shire do bat­tle for 135 years of his­tory

John Fuller re­ports on the long­est-run­ning cup com­pe­ti­tion in club cricket - York­shire’s Heavy Woollen Cup

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

The Heavy Woollen Cup is a feast for the eyes; a gor­geous hulk of solid sil­ver hand­crafted by jew­eller Thomas Fat­torini who are the ar­ti­sans be­hind the FA Cup

Alittle over a mile, as the crow flies, from Bat­ley Town Hall is Hang­ing Heaton Cricket Club where this year’s Heavy Woollen Cup Fi­nal pit­ted Brad­ford Pre­mier League against Hud­der­s­field Cricket League.

Many club cricket cup com­pe­ti­tions across Eng­land boast a long and il­lus­tri­ous his­tory but none have been played con­tin­u­ously since 1883, when Heck­mond­wike’s 136 was too much for Dews­bury & Sav­ille.

For the Heavy Woollen, ge­og­ra­phy is every­thing. In that open­ing year, teams could en­ter only if they were within a six-mile ra­dius of Bat­ley Town Hall where the tex­tile pro­duc­tion for a par­tic­u­lar cloth was preva­lent.

Fast for­ward to 2017 and as the sun beat back a per­ni­cious morn­ing breeze at Ben­nett Lane, Wood­lands, third in the Brad­ford Pre­mier League, pre­pared to face Hud­der­s­field Cricket League lead­ers Hoy­landswaine in a re­peat of the 2015 fi­nal.

A stray throw as the squads warmed up shat­tered one of the black match stumps so there was a rum­mage for a set of nat­u­ral wood re­place­ments; as if the crick­et­ing gods were is­su­ing a gen­tle re­minder that tra­di­tion wasn’t to be dis­placed en­tirely.

To catch a flavour of what this com­pe­ti­tion means, Hang­ing Heaton’s sec­re­tary Andy Hunt was on hand to lend his per­spec­tive as the 2013 cham­pi­ons but also as one of the few clubs se­lected to host the fi­nal on a ro­ta­tional ba­sis:

“We con­sider our­selves at the heart of the Heavy Woollen; we love play­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion and to host the fi­nal is a fan­tas­tic hon­our. When we host it, it’s not about our­selves, we’ve got to put on a per­fect day for the two clubs. It’s about giv­ing them and their sup­port­ers a great day.”

The in­ter-league ri­valry is as fierce as it ever was and the Heavy Woollen Cup taps into that though it faces a con­tin­u­ing fight for rel­e­vance among each in­di­vid­ual league’s cup con­test al­lied with nu­mer­ous other club tro­phies up for grabs across the county.

Pud­sey St Lawrence were at home to Wake­field Thornes in the Black Sheep York­shire Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy semi-fi­nal so this wasn’t the only Sun­day cup match be­tween a Brad­ford Pre­mier League out­fit and another league.

Af­ter the mid­day start, the crowd grew steadily with fold­ing seats eased into place, ther­mos flasks un­screwed and sup­port­ers me­an­dered back and forth for a pint or a burger from the bar­be­cue. In­side, or­ders were flow­ing for pie and peas with a vat of gravy loaded with onions on hand to seal the deal.

So, to the cricket it­self. Hang­ing Heaton had scored 291-1 from 43 overs against Pud­sey Congs the day be­fore but it was an al­to­gether more cir­cum­spect in­nings that saw Hoy­landswaine reach 213 all out. Un­der­pin­ning that was a breezy 51 from 61 balls by Chris Hol­l­i­day at three backed by Gur­man Rand­hawa’s la­te­order 57 that dragged the bat­ting up to re­spectabil­ity.

The Wood­lands bowl­ing at­tack was led by El­liot Richard­son’s three-wicket burst, head fre­quently thrown heav­en­wards in ex­as­per­a­tion as ball con­quered bat to be­gin with. Mark Law­son was eco­nom­i­cal yet fruit­less with twin spells; first with pace then lat­terly with leg-spin but it was act­ing skip­per Chris Brice (2-23) who put the brakes on and checked Hoy­landswaine’s am­bi­tions.

The ex­pe­ri­enced left-arm Wood­lands spin­ner was stand-in cap­tain for the day as Tim Jack­son was on hol­i­day; an ab­sence deemed a star­tling sin by a few of the die-in-the-wool faith­ful gath­ered. Miss the cricket? Nay, lad. Not in my day.

Walk­ing the boundary at the break,

the con­sen­sus was that Hoy­landswaine were light on runs but Wood­lands would rely on the top-or­der po­tency of opener Sam Fran­k­land, hav­ing a lean sea­son by his stan­dards in the league.

Match day man­ager Paul McFar­lane, who serves on the Heavy Woollen Cup man­age­ment com­mit­tee, be­lieves the Cup re­tains its pres­tige but man­ag­ing fix­tures con­tin­ues to be a co­nun­drum, given the spaghetti junc­tion of per­mu­ta­tions across leagues and scope for rain to de­lay matches be­ing ful­filled.

Again, the theme of clash­ing com­pe­ti­tions rears its head. Once upon a time, the Heavy Woollen Cup would have been the mar­que tro­phy for clubs but now sides find them­selves less keen to play every Satur­day and Sun­day through­out the sea­son and also have to jug­gle their re­sources.

When prompted for a favourite match in re­cent years, Paul re­calls the 2008 fi­nal at Spen Vic­to­ria be­tween Barns­ley and Wren­thorpe with both sides end­ing level on 237 and the lat­ter claim­ing vic­tory, cour­tesy of los­ing one fewer wick­ets.

Call­ing it was a night­mare: “We had the dif­fer­ent rib­bons on the Cup and we must have took them on and off three or four times be­cause the game swayed so much! It came down to the last ball of the match and there was a dis­pute even about that be­cause it was de­bat­able if it was above waist height.”

Next to us, there was a con­ver­sa­tion un­der­way in sign lan­guage be­tween a group of men in­clud­ing one of Hoy­landswaine’s bowlers, Ad­nan Ghani, a mem­ber of Pak­istan’s team who won the Deaf ICC Cham­pi­onship fi­nal in Shar­jah last year against Eng­land.

The Wood­lands run chase was orches­trated by a telling se­cond-wicket stand of 107 be­tween Sam Fran­k­land (67) and wick­et­keeper Greg Finn (53). Ghani man­aged steep bounce from the far end framed by a wall of po­plar trees but held an­i­mated dis­cus­sions with a spec­ta­tor about the slant of the wicket af­fect­ing his in­swinger.

It was Nasir Ja­mal, She­p­ley’s over­seas bowler, who had claimed 5-29 against Hoy­landswaine in the league on the Satur­day; a handy source of in­side knowl­edge on the side­lines. Ap­par­ently Ghani was at re­duced pace due to a groin strain and Hoy­landswaine suf­fered a fur­ther in­jury when their wick­et­keeper walked off gin­gerly with a jarred shoul­der.

Ul­ti­mately, Wood­lands edged to a three-wicket win, hav­ing built up enough credit that they could af­ford to lose four wick­ets for 14 runs and still sneak over the line.

In truth, it had not been a scin­til­lat­ing fi­nal but still show­cased the qual­ity of up­per tier league cricket in York­shire; punc­tu­ated with eye-catch­ing mini bat­tles and a work­man­like ap­proach to please the purists. As ever, it was those off the field swap­ping sto­ries and shar­ing in­sight of the game with such af­fec­tion that stuck out.

The Heavy Woollen Cup is a feast for the eyes; a gor­geous hulk of solid sil­ver hand­crafted by renowned jew­eller Thomas Fat­torini of Brad­ford who are the ar­ti­sans be­hind the FA Cup.

Win­ners get to lift it only in cel­e­bra­tion rather than act as cus­to­di­ans; a valu­a­tion of tens of thou­sands of pounds breaches a club’s in­sur­ance pre­mium so it is swiftly re­turned to a vault for safe­keep­ing.

The price of mak­ing his­tory, eh? For Wood­lands Cricket Club, they have the con­sid­er­able sat­is­fac­tion of hav­ing their name once more added to the tro­phy with 135 years of York­shire club cricket en­graved across it.

Late con­tri­bu­tion: Gur­man Rand­hawa hit 57 for Hoy­landswaine

Three wicket burst: El­liot Richard­son bowls for Wood­lands

Highly valu­able : The Heavy Woollen Cup

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