Memories of Calderdale

Cricket Crazy, Centre Vale


Stephen Dobson

Drawing on the excellent book, Cloth Caps and Cricket Crazy by Freda, Malcolm and Brian Heywood, published by Upper Calder Valley Publications 2004; and personal memories.

There are many sports for all to play
Which I have tried throughout my days
But Cricket is the best of all
To test one's skill with bat or ball
On a summer's day, warm and hazy
No wonder I am cricket crazy

All one needs is a beautiful flat field
Set amongst some rolling hills
And one could search for many a long hour
And yet find nothing to rank with ours
In one of Yorkshire's finest Dales
What could compare with Centre Vale

Cricket's been there since days long gone
Established by Sam Fielden, son of John
Its rules were published in 1839
And introduced some punitive fines
So players who didn't turn up to play
Would rue the cost for many a day

Now he would see, who took a look
At the Heywoods' comprehensive book
That TCC was then a club to know
And Centre Vale became a place to go
So our home ground staged a match between
The North and South of England teams

The match was scheduled to last 3 days
With the main attraction being the brothers Grace
The South was captained by W G
Whom a full 2000 turned up to see
The North batted first and got 201
For the South, W G scored but a single run

On the final day, before lunch was eaten,
The North collapsed and were soundly beaten
To placate the crowd a new match was arranged
In which W G batted liked a man deranged
He smashed the ball tremendously hard
Over the National School, into the churchyard

Although Tod's all in Yorkshire now
Not long ago this wasn't so
The Boundary followed the underground road
Of the river across the emerald green sward
A batsman, in Yorkshire, could top-edge a hook
And in the Red Rose County might the catch be took

Tod benefited from its border position
By setting aside its Yorkshire tradition
To play regular cricket with Lancashire teams
At a standard which surpassed all dreams
The famous Lancashire League was under way
It remains at the top of league cricket today

Our Centre Vale ground can proudly boast
That it has played the genial host
To professional cricketers from distant lands
Who raised the standard and filled the stands
Such as Walcott, Weekes and Richards too
The very best: a cricketing Who's Who

Most clubs preferred a bowling pro
Since they could bowl all innings through
So they hired Charlie Griffiths and Wesley Hall
So fast, one could hardly see the ball
Those yet to bat were pale of face
And the toilet was their favourite place

For charging in to bowl, like wounded bison
Came Gilchrist, Lindwall, Donald, Tyson
Brave amateurs stood there, inwardly quaking
But some soon found that they stopped shaking
As the pro overpitched and they played a drive
Unsurpassed by any man alive

The spinners were all the very best
Who had proved their worth in many a Test
There was Tayfield, Gupte and Warne too
Mysterious things could they make the ball do
Many amateurs tried to give the ball a clout
Because their minds were full of doubt

But, as the ball leaves the bowler's hand
The batsman must read the bowler's plan
He must firstly judge the length and turn
And use his feet, as he'll soon learn,
For those who camp within their ground
Won't last long when Shane's around !!!

A memory beside which most others do pale
When neighbouring Bacup came to Centre Vale
The buses were late in arriving that day
And the Bacup fans found to their dismay
That Weekes was out for a measly score
He hadn't seen Sunderland's double-arm action before

Tod's very best season was 1954
When Jim Burke was the Todmorden pro
Batting was thought his strongest card
And opposing bowlers found it hard
To dismiss him from the playing field
Before he'd gained a hefty yield

His bowling quality was not well known
But on Northern pitches, green not brown
He seemed to get some subtle spin
Some said he threw, cos they didn't win
118 wickets, a prodigious haul
At 7 runs each, as I recall !!!

1954's celebrated double success
Was won through good teamwork and great finesse
Those who played in that great year
Must now be fully listed here:
Moncrieff, Brownbridge, Hazeltine
Ingham, Sunderland, Crabtree and Dean
Houghton and giant Ivor Martin
Dawson, Crowther and little Frank Saul
Heywood, Fielden, Walker and all
These are names we'll forever recall

Not many clubs can fairly claim
To have two bowlers who made their name
For England, against the best they played
And their record cannot be gainsaid
Shackleton and Lever served the country well
Let's hope others will follow; only time will tell

With a few memories of the ground I'll conclude
Like the barracking, which was amusing, but crude
Meat pies, teas and all those bottles of pop
Coming under wasp-attack whilst removing the top
Perhaps one of their forebears stung W G Grace?
Isn't Centre Vale such a magical place?

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 10:26 / 30th May 2021 / 6662

Page Ref: M_31

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