Chapter 12 - First-class Matches
Chapter 12 - First-class Matches
In July 1939 Derbyshire informed Collegiate that they would like to play a First-class match at Abbeydale Park in 1940 and the proposal was agreed in principle by both Collegiate and the Sports Club, though of course it came to nothing owing to the war.
During the war Charity Matches were organised at Abbeydale each year from 1940 to 1944, the proceeds going to The Sheffield Newspapers War Fund and Service Benevolent Funds. Though the organisation of the matches was done mainly by the Sheffield Newspapers, a great deal of hard work was put in by L. C. Barber, up to the time of his sadly early death, and by Mark Barber. An interesting sideline was the difficulty of obtaining cricket balls. In 1942 Sir Pelham Warner, as Acting Secretary of M.C.C., in reply to a request for help, wrote to Mark Barber: "Your best plan is to apply to the Welfare Officer at the local Ministry of Labour". Ernest Bevin had apparently given strong support to such matches in industrial centres.
Abbeydale Park, 22nd May, 1974. Yorkshire v. Warwickshire - M. J. K. Smith retuming to pavilion.
In 1942 the profit of the match between very strong XIs of Armed Forces North v. South was £649-16-3. The stars of the match were Sgt. L. G. Berry, L/A/C R. T. Simpson, Cpl. R. Howorth and Sgt. J. F. Parker. The 1941 match was between Roy Genders' XI, including Herbert Sutcliffe, Maurice Leyland, Eddie Paynter and Constantine and Martindale, and a Collegiate XI, including Len Hutton, Reg Simpson, George Pope and Bill Copson. Hutton made a beautiful 100 with, according to Charlie Jones, his arm still red and sore from it's resetting after his gymnasium accident. Charlie also recalls that George Hirst said to him: "I don't know why people bother to play at Bramall Lane when they're got a ground like this available". George Hirst was one of the umpires, the other being Emmott Robinson, as splendid a pair as one could hope for.
A happy footnote to this 1941 match is a letter from Learie Constantine to Mark Barber after they had taken away each other's pads. Learie's pads were a talisman for Mark, but Learie had other fortune.
3 Meredith St. Nelson, Lancs. 18/8/41
Dear Mr. Barber,
I do not know what exactly to claim for myself, but one thing I know - the fallibility of human nature exempth (sic) us not. At some other time we shall meet and settle who erred in the first instance.
I am afraid I cannot claim for me the same good fortune which you say attended you in the strange rig-out. It might be coincidence it might not be-that my first L.B.W. decision this season was last Saturday, on the occasion I disported myself in a "clean" pair of pads. I make no reflection on the pads, but mine it seemed had been taught certain lessons and learnt them. In the face of these facts-they could be nothing else-the inclination of the umpire to err notwithstanding, I have mailed you per parcel post your pads and hope you get them quite safe and sound.
You will not get them in time for to-day's game, but the weather is foul and gives no indication of a game to-day. Besides the success that has attended you in "borrowed plumes" suggests certain things to me which I hope will not be without their appeal to you.
With thanks and best wishes for all times.
Charlie Hayes Jones was, as usual, scoring in this 1941 match, a job which he did with much efficiency for Collegiate from 1925 to 1968, in which time he became the respected friend, as well as keeper of articles of value, of several generations of members. In addition to being a charming man he was, and still is, a singer and teacher of singing of distinction and an England draughts international.
The idea of a match at Abbeydale was taken up again by Derbyshire after the war and matches against Sussex and Kent were played in 1946 and 1947. However the weather was not helpful, the crowds were not as large as hoped for and it was decided that the experiment was not worth repeating. A Derbyshire XI did continue to play an early season match against Collegiate for several years. These were enjoyable occasions and certainly Cliff Gladwin and Les Jackson provided a formidable start to the season for batsmen without much practice.
Yorkshire v. West Indies. Abbeydale Park, 30th June, 1976 West Indies in the field.
In 1973 Sheffield United decided to build a new football stand at Bramall Lane and therefore to close down the cricket ground, a decision which cricketers say has brought a curse on football at the Lane. As a result Yorkshire had to look for another ground in the Sheffield area and their choice fell on Abbeydale Park. Collegiate welcomed this move enthusiastically, but, understandably, some of the other clubs in the Sports Club were not so keen. The Sports Club would only agree to mid-week matches and two were played each year from 1974 to 1979. They were much enjoyed by reasonable crowds, though the facilities are a bit limited, particularly in poor weather. Apart from the Roses match and games at Scarborough in holiday time the attendance figures at Abbeydale, considering that theirs have been mid-week matches, have been better than at any other Yorkshire ground. For 1980 it was agreed that one of the matches could be over a week-end but sadly it was cursed by weather. It is hoped that 1982 will see two midweek and one week-end match.
If the scheme for a new ground at Tinsley, quite near the old home of Collegiate, does come to fruition, county matches at Abbeydale will presumably cease in a few years time, though many spectators will be loath to exchange the trees of Abbeydale for the steelworks and motorway of Tinsley. The thanks of all are due to the hard work put into the organisation of the county matches by David Fleetwood and Tim Reed, who is himself now a member of the Yorkshire Committee.