White(rose)wash! Yorkshire v The Potteries
This is a fixture I had been looking forward to since the pandemic laid waste to the 2020 season. Yorkshire versus Potteries & District – the two counties I’d managed to represent and two shirts I will treasure.
The gulf between these two in terms of size couldn’t be bigger; Yorkshire with its membership stretching from Skipton to Scarborough, whereas the P&D, as the name suggests, covers the proud city of Stoke-on-Trent as well as outlying districts (Congleton, Newcastle, Alsager and Leek). Yet size isn’t everything and Yorkshire had been underperforming in recent years before their talented young side lifted the championship last season (was it the Crosfield Cup? If not, it should have been!). On the other hand, the Potteries narrowly lost the 2017 championship final against North Midlands, then threw away a winning lead in the 2018 semi against South Yorkshire (I was part of that and it hurt!). All in all a good record for a small county and, to boot, the Potters could look back on past glories against Yorkshire at venues now consigned to the past by our game’s sad decline.
For me the Potteries would be the underdogs today against the current champions, but the home venues would be key. Yorkshire had won well recently at Ossett Cricket, but it’s not a green the Yorkshire lads will play in the big Tuesday night games of the Mirfield League. That said, many of the travelling Yorkshire away team would already know what to expect of the slope of Birches Head Hotel. The Potteries used the same venue against Yorkshire in 2013 and several will have played it in other competitions.
To the game at Ossett Cricket I went, accompanied by my non-bowling daughter, who (like me) also fancied an afternoon outside in the unseasonal cold drizzle away from the BBC’s blanket coverage of the weekend’s other event. Actually, a blanket might have been handy given the chill in Ossett.
Reserve Joe Cranston came in for Yorkshire at number 1 in place of Scott Fisher. ‘Big boots to fill,’ were my words as young Joe strode onto the green to face the Potteries’ oatcake maestro, Kerry Morris, one of the Potteries’ all-time greats. Joe told me after the game that it had been his third county match but he had lost his first two games away from home. After a couple of nervy ends Joe got into his stride and truly looked the part, dangling a tricky finger-peg mark towards the hard corner and leaving Kerry looking uncomfortable at times. Kerry scrapped to a very hard-fought 13. Bowled Joe lad. Many more to come.
Joe’s was the performance of the first four for me. Elsewhere, Pudsey’s Tom Hanson ground out the same 21-13 scoreline against Gaz Stanway. Congleton Railway’s evergreen Lee Dale shot off into a 7-0 lead for the Potters against Mark Hughes, only for ‘Sperks’ to grind out another 21-13 in the corners. In the final rubber of the first four it was nip and tuck between Denby Grange perfectionist Gareth ‘Bank of HSGC’ Coates and Matt ‘Shaggy’ Hill. Hilly was rueing lost chances after the game, quite rightly. Gaz seized his chance and planted his last two bowls on top of the block. 21-19 and the first four all went to Yorkshire, ahead by 26 already. Potteries needed 21s to stem the flow, but they just didn't happen.
The other half of the fixture in Stoke at Birches Head Hotel had been delayed by half an hour due to a waterlogged green, an ominous sign from the Potteries’ perspective. Nobody could have predicted, though, the one-sided scores that followed from the Hotel. Josh Mordue started the rout with a 21-6 against ‘Midnight’ Matt Stevenson, a lad with a good county record and lots of green knowledge. Gary Siswick posted the same 21-6 scoreline against the vastly experienced Joe Melvin and Crosland Moor teammate Wayne Moseley carded 21-9 against Barry ‘Mad Baz’ Booth, for many years a BHH homester. Another ex-BHH man, Gary Owen, pipped Graeme Wilson 21-20 in the hotly anticipated game of the day, but his win still left Yorkshire 41 up away from home and 67 up overall.
In the middle order at Ossett Cricket, Dave ‘Wasp’ Fox did what he does time and time again, upping his game for Yorkshire, leaving the natural talent Andrew Owen on 11. Steve Parkin started really well for the Potteries, before Josh Brown ground out a 21-15. Danny Ferris never got going against Pudsey’s Gary Wike. I always feel a bit for Gary; he’s a good bowler and a good lad, but it must be difficult answering to the bowling nickname ‘Wicky-Woo’. Danny Fezz, resplendent in salmon-coloured trainers took the banter from the crowd in good spirit. And there was a lot of banter following Danny’s game. ‘He’s got their lass’s pumps on,’ shouted one card from the balcony. There were lots of helpful shouts explaining the difference between uphill and downhill as poor Danny struggled to get a length. 21-7 to…erm…Wicky-Woo. The best match of the middle four came with James ‘Floyd’ Hanson pipping Chris ‘Macca’ McDonald. Chris, leading out in the corners at 20-19 to claim the Potteries’ first away win, delivered both bowls into the banking close to the mat, ending short. Floyd still had to deliver and duly put them both in the counting house. 21-20 to the Pudsey man and Yorkshire up 57 after 8 blocks at home. Still no Potteries 21.
Over at Birches Head rampant Yorkshire continued to romp home, Stuart ‘Juan’ King clicking his castanets to a 21-4 win against Ant Lloyd and Chris ‘T-Rex’ Mordue carding 21-8 against Mark ‘Judda’ Melvin. Whilst Mark didn’t demolish Chris on the green, I’m reliably informed that he did demolish the buffet afterwards. Bowled Judda. Matt Fellows hit back for the Potters, beating newly-crowned Yorkshire Merit winner Jack Dyson 21-20. Josh Towey also carded 21 for the home side, beating Craig Gant 21-16. Yorkshire led by 65 away after 8 blocks and 122 overall.
Game over. All that was left for the Potteries was to drag the scoreline back to some level of respectability. Darren ‘Daft Clutt’ Clutton set off well against Ash Tattersley, only for ‘our Ash’ to dig in and prevail 21-14 for another Yorkshire win. Equally Mark Norcup started better against Kez Smith, but couldn’t sustain his form, the game finishing 21-15 to the more consistent Kez. Craig Podmore came in as reserve at number 11 for the Potteries in place of Waterloo champ Paul Dale. Poddy also had his chances but just came up short at 21-16 to Alex ‘Wolf’ Wolfenden, the howls from the crowd unsettling the inhabitants of Ossett and Horbury. The final game of the day would see Crossgates starlet Jonny ‘Future’ Wood take on Lee ‘Bomber’ Brown from Meir, sorry Wolstanton, sorry Queens Park, sorry Lightwood, sorry Fenton….sorry, where are you lads playing this year, Lee?!! Bomber is used to playing either number 1 or number 12. Future only played his first county match for Yorkshire last season. I was there that day and he looked the part immediately. And Future immediately looked like a Yorkshire back man today too, romping away. Bomber scrapped and battled for a hard-earned 12, but it wasn’t to be the clayheads’ day. A white(rose)wash at Ossett and Yorkshire 84 chalks to the good.
The final scores came in from Birches Head. Former homester Richard Clay took the Potteries sweep with a 21-8 against Mark Regan. Two more wins followed for Yorkshire, with Ash Daykin carding 21-9 against Paul Charlesworth and Ian Booth 21-17 against Dave ‘The Lunger’ Lunn. Nicky Tideswell brought home the Potters fifth home win, beating Jimmy Davison 21-19, but the home defeat was a thumping 66 chalks and an overall 150 point victory to the White Rose County.
Such a one-sided game was the last thing I wanted to see. Hopefully the Potteries will regroup from this hammering. And Yorkshire? This young team will be around for a long time. They are now – finally – after far too long - once again the team to beat.