Around our clubs: No 4 - Darfield CC
Posted on 14th May 2022 at 10:56
Darfield Cricket Club is one of our League’s oldest clubs, being formed by 1858. In its’ early years, the club was somewhat peripatetic in nature, playing on several grounds in the Darfield area, including Millhouses, Quarry Hills and Vicar Road, before moving to the current ground at School Lane in 1910. The ground was leased to the club for a nominal rent by the Taylor family of Middlewood Hall – Charles Howard Taylor had been the club president from 1880.
In 1893, league cricket started in the area, and Darfield were one of the founder members of the Barnsley & District League, along with near neighbours Wombwell Main. There were ups and downs in the period between then and the end of the first World War, a period characterised by difficulties in retaining the best players, spells in different leagues including the Mexborough & District League, the Doncaster League, and the South Riding League, and some seasons just playing friendly cricket – all with varying degrees of success. In 1945, Darfield joined the Yorkshire Council, and were founder members of the South Riding Section in 1948; moving into the Freelance Section in 1950. They rejoined the South Riding Section in 1966 and by 1970 had achieved promotion to division A. Subsequent relegation to division B, and then C in 1977, was followed by two promotions back to division A for 1980.
The hard work of the committee under chairman Jack Ennis in the second half of the 1970s was rewarded by the building of a new pavilion. This was extended in 1980 to provide new dressing rooms, scorebox and storage facilities, and in the same year the ground was purchased. The newly-extended pavilion was opened in April 1981, when the occasion was marked by a celebratory match between Darfield CC and a Yorkshire CCC XI.
League Ambassador Terry Bentham has had a long association with the club. He says, “I was invited to join the committee in 1979 and became cricket secretary, then team manager the following year. We pulled a couple of players in and started on a run of success that put the club and league on the Yorkshire cricket map.”
In fact, the 1980s were a period of unparalleled success for Darfield. Between 1982 and 1990 they won the championship of the South Riding League on a record nine successive occasions and were the Yorkshire Council champions of 1985. Amongst the stars of the club’s great side of the time were all-rounder Brian Capstick, opening batsmen Mick Savage and Ralph Swindells, wicket-keeper Arthur Angel, and seamer Arthur Gibbs.
Terry Bentham describes Capstick, who captained the side, opened the bowling, and batted at No 4, as ‘the best all-rounder I have ever seen in league cricket’. Until Steve Foster many years later, he was the only man to top the South Riding batting and bowling averages in the same season. Mick Savage, who lived up to his name through his hard hitting, subsequently became club chairman, and it was a huge blow to the club when he died suddenly at the age of 39. Savage’s name is kept alive now through the Mick Savage Trophy, donated by his family.
After the glory years of the 1980s, despite winning occasional silverware, including the inaugural Mick Savage Trophy in 1993, Darfield endured leaner years, but there is no doubt that the club today is moving forward again. After the Covid pandemic set them back a year, they are now in the second year of a five-year plan, the ultimate aim of which is to become established in the YCSPL Premier Division.
Today, the first team, having failed narrowly to achieve promotion from Division 1 last season, is now challenging near the top of the division again. All-rounder Riecko Parker Cole, his fellow opening bowler Aaron Whitehead, and top order batsman Matt Higgins have all enjoyed fine starts to the season, and overseas batman Kastun Stoute can be expected to regain his outstanding 2021 form before long.
Darfield CC run two Saturday teams in our league and a Sunday team in the Barnsley & District League. A womens’ and girls’ section was formed in 2021, and they have joined the South Yorkshire Ladies Softball League for 2022. A thriving junior section is overseen by current club secretary Kris Jowett, and this year there are 26 sign-ups to All Stars and 12 to Dynamos.
Jowett explains the lower Dynamos number, “The natural progression from All Stars is to our under-nines – Dynamos is more geared to those who have not played before.” In addition, to under-nines, there are under-11s and under-13s sides, which Jowett sees as vital to the future of the club.
The cricket section of the club is run by a small committee of just eight – four men and four women – and they all contribute in different ways, making full use of their different experience and perspectives. Jowett and his wife came to the club as a result of their sons, Ty and Mason, joining it, and Danielle Jowett is currently treasurer and club safeguarding officer.
Equally important are the ‘band of four’; John ‘Mucker’ Adamson, Pete Clarke, John Kendall, and Gordon Lancaster, all now in their eighties, who go down to the club a couple of times a week to assist groundsman Pete Clayton to do all the menial jobs that people take for granted. Their motivation is their camaraderie and the satisfaction of a job properly done – the club benefits from their ‘unseen work’ through a ground properly maintained.
The club is the only sports club in the Darfield village, the ‘only place where the youngsters can represent their own village’, as Jowett puts it – crucially, it is the only real green space in the village. The thriving bar is open seven days a week, and is a community hub. On matchdays, there are invariably a healthy nucleus of spectators, and a good atmosphere is generated inside the enclosed ground – with a healthy banter in evidence at local derby games. In addition to cricket, in the close season, events like the firework display and the Christmas market keep the club’s focus alive in the village. The club are currently also looking at how they might support a local foodbank initiative.
The cricket section tries to be as self-sufficient as possible and raises its own money, largely through sponsorship, at which it is notably successful. There are currently 56 sponsors of varying sizes, mainly from the local community, and the ground itself is sponsored by Smart Door Solutions. They do however receive fantastic support from the bar who ensure that cricket can be played at Darfield and the facilities are maintained to the required standards.
One initiative that the club has pursued through sponsorship is live-streaming. In addition to his other roles, Jowett runs social media for the club and decided that live streaming was something they wanted to have a go at. They did some last year, but the quality was ‘not great’ but this year, thanks to sponsor Energise Energy Solutions, they have a new, improved set-up. Aside from bringing the club more up-to-date, streaming will enable others to watch the club who might not be able to see them live, and the club has launched Darfield CC TV on YouTube. Highlights and bloopers packages are in the pipeline, whilst players are looking at the videos for improvement purposes.
Another link with the community is the club’s strong focus on mental health issues, led by current club chairman Warren Bird, who has worked hard to raise money for the It’s Ok To Talk campaign and other mental health charities, whilst the club have three trained mental health first-aiders, who offer initial support to anyone in the community who needs help due to mental illness.
As I have done before, I will leave the last word on Darfield to our League Ambassador, Terry Bentham, who knows the club better than most, “Without the help and support of the club, my cricket life would have been dull. I owe Darfield CC a lot for the support and back-up they have given me over the years. Despite it being a long time since my association ended, I am very proud to be a VP of the club. It is still the first result I look for every Saturday.”
Glory days - 1988
Back row (l to r): Phil Taylor, Trevor Marsden, Arthur Angel, Brian Capstick, Ian Mann, Ralph Swindells
Front: George Asplin (scorer), Mick Savage, Alan Stringer, Peter Heaney, Arthur Gibbs, Ian Gray, Terry Bentham (secretary/team manager)
President's Trophy Cup action at Darfield in 2022
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