From the Yorkshire Post Country Week section 5th August 2006 (and Bob's letter to the editor)
Squeezed between two encroaching cities, Tong still captures the essence of rural cricket. Chris Berry reports.Squeezed between two encroaching cities, Tong still captures the essence of rural cricket. Chris Berry reports.The opening ball of our destined-to-be-majestic innings bounced off what had been a pristine white Mercedes. It had been parked by a member of the opposing team who obviously knew little about the hazards of the relatively tiny cricket ground of historic Tong village. The direct hit was marked (as was the vehicle) by gasps from one side and roars from the other.Seconds later, the gathering throng at tables and benches behind the Greyhound Inn dispersed mighty quickly as the ball hurtled towards them. Watching this, Stewart Duxbury, headmaster, all-rounder and soon-to-be part of the match's finest moment, said: "It's a nice little postage stamp of a ground – and it was even smaller at one time."White boarding around three sides, and fields rising up beyond, along with a traditional wooden cricket pavilion, give the ground that quintessentially English pastoral feel. It's almost as if you were within a painting, except that the cricketing attire on display tended to be less than picturesque. Either some washing-machines had not coped over the weekend or the heatwave had forced a change from traditional flannels to an abbreviated kit of shorts and T-shirts.Tong, in marked contrast to my earlier Have Bat Will Travel exploits, is not situated miles from anywhere. It's a cricket ball throw away from Bradford and a golf course length from Leeds, but it is firmly rural, and the string of horses and riders that amble leisurely into the village, along with a tractor trundling through, serve to emphasise just that. The village pre-dates even the Norman Conquest and was the seat of Tong Manor between the 13th and mid-20th centuries. The manor remained in the hands of the Tempest family, who resisted the expansion and industrialisation of the village for some 400 years before selling the hall and estate in 1941. That resistance of industry remains today."We're very much still a farming village even now," said David Darbyshire, captain and chief organiser of The Taverners, the team for whom I was turning out and who play friendlies throughout the season representing both Tong and their local hostelry. This is situated, as every good pub should be, to the corner of the ground. "We still have three farms in the village, but we don't have any farmers playing in the team at present."David lives opposite the ground in this community of just a few hundred that some of the villagers refer to as an oasis between the two burgeoning metropolises on either side. It still manages to put out a first and second team at weekends, as well as The Taverners during the week and on occasional Sundays. Stalwart, elder statesman and smiler of the side is Mick Spargo – affectionately nicknamed both Shaky and Silver Fox by his team-mates – who has lived here since 1981. "I actually came here because of the cricket. I played here before I lived here, starting in 1976. We're a pub team more than a village team (hence the name) and the idea, when it was first formed in the mid-'60s, was to give everyone a game, no matter how good they were."Richard Darbyshire, David's brother, pointed out that the cricket is nonetheless extremely competitive and that this season The Taverners have won every game bar one.Openers Phil Anderson and Andrew Daisy start off in sprightly fashion but perish early, bringing international all-star batsman Eamonn Burke to the crease. Eamonn once played for Zimbabwe 'B' against Young Australia. He sets the tone for the rest of the innings and I join him following the fall of Jason, son of Mick.Together the man who has played against Steve Waugh (Eamonn bowled a maiden over at him) and the man who was twice stumped in the same match by Ken Houghton (ex-Hull City midfielder) "because he gave me a second chance" put on a partnership that sets us up for another Taverners victory. It's yet another interesting batting strip. The ball scoots through as though it needs a periscope at one end, and flies up at the other – all quite reassuring. Eamonn retires at 30 and captain for the evening Mark Moorby (David was caught up in traffic at the time) joins me, although not for long. Inside two overs he's gone – 26 runs in 12 balls and I don't face one.Ten overs into my innings, I incur the wrath of the headteacher. "You've got to get on with it!"I wonder whether I should be doing lines and finally make what I feel is a highly creditable 28. Brothers Richard and David Darbyshire are apparently famed for their running between the wickets, but more by way of notoriety than excellence. They have allegedly contributed more to each other's dismissals than any bowler has ever done.Tonight, Richard is on his own but, in honour of his brother missing out for the evening and no doubt wanting to keep up his average, he dutifully runs out two of his team including the Silver Fox who shows how much performing still means to him by drilling his bat into the pavilion steps as he returns. We finish on 163 and polish off the opposition – The Halifax (Bank) led by regular Tong player Tony Heslop – in customary style thanks to some redeeming bowling from Richard, a brilliant night of fielding from Jason Spargo and a sensational run out involving myself and the headteacher, sending back the man who must have been their leading batsman. Special commendation award must go to the Fax's white-vested Gary Wells (at least he was wearing something white) who belied his 25 years away from the game with some terrific shots.Everyone adjourns to the Greyhound where landlord Paul Stafford lays on a spread that is every bit as sumptuous as our batting and David tells me of the Tong Pot. "It takes 11 pints and the losing side had to fill it at the end of each game. We stopped doing it when half the team wanted lager and the other half bitter. It didn't work after that."The club's history goes back to Tong Manor Cricket Club, first recorded in a journal in 1871 and 135 years on the people of this village are still playing and smiling. None more so than the Taverners who all play their matches at home, as they confess to being hopeless travellers."We only play one away game every season. We go to the same ground and we still lose half the team before we get there." Looking at their lovely little ground and the surroundings, you can easily understand why they don't see the need to go anywhere else.
And from Bob:
The EditorYorkshire PostWellington StreetLeeds LS1 1RF
Re: The article in the Country Week section of the Yorkshire Post Saturday 5th August 2006.
It is a pity that Chris Berry did not speak to more people at Tong Cricket Club who have an in depth knowledge of the club and its history. The article gave only brief mention to the Saturday league teams who over the years have played in several leagues not the least being the Bradford League! In fact, Tong CC (or Tong Manor CC as it was originally called) was one of the founder members of the Bradford League, a fact recognised on the recent Centenary Tie produced by this league.
The records of Tong CC in the National Village Cup (with various sponsored titles), the Bradford Evening League, the Dales Council League, the Leeds League and now the Leeds-West Riding League are all testimony to the history of a club that has been in existence in one form or another far longer than many of the present Yorkshire clubs.
The Taverners team was originally formed by the regular customers of the Greyhound Inn who did not play cricket but who, nevertheless enjoyed the sport. Not many of the Taverners today are "regulars" although they may be described as frequent visitors!
To say "the ground was even smaller in the past" is inaccurate as it has always been exactly the same size since the Tempest family made it into a cricket ground in 1871. It has been altered by the extended car park being built in the late 1970's, but an equivalent amount of ground was provided for the club by the brewery.
The club is supported purely by member's efforts, and the contribution of the present Taverners cannot be underestimated. The generosity of sponsors has also helped to maintain what is still a village cricket club but with a tradition that I am afraid was not made evident in the article by Chris Berry. A journalist is only as good as his or her sources of information and I feel that Mr. Berry could have produced a better illustration of Tong Cricket Club, although he did at least capture the essence of what is still a rural village club despite being surrounded by two great cities.
W.R.McCutcheon (Hon. Secretary Tong CC)