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Hunters Cricket - A league of its own
9:09am Saturday 28th April 2012 in Sport
STARS of the here and now first dazzled in the Hunters York and District Senior Cricket League, which this year celebrates its centenary remembering those players who have made a huge impact on the game, writes Grace Newton.
The league’s 100 years of existence have seen a number of noteworthy cricketers emerge from its ranks – as well as several well-known local characters of the crease.
The current Yorkshire county ranks include three former Hunters League players in England international all-rounder Tim Bresnan – who played as a junior for Castleford – and young prospects Adam Lyth and Jonny Bairstow, who appeared in the eight-division York competition before being picked up by top-level clubs.
And back in the day, Headingley legend George Macaulay lit up the county ground in the pre-war years after coming through the ranks at Thirsk. He also earned eight England caps and was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1924.
Another product of the local amateur circuit is Bedale's Paul Grayson, who enjoyed a successful first-class career with Yorkshire during the 1990s and appeared in two one-day internationals for England. Now head coach of Essex, he is also the brother of former Leeds United manager Simon Grayson.
Yet the league still has its own stars who have put in some fine performances over the decades even without county call-ups.
The committee has only recorded statistical batting and bowling averages from 1957, meaning that the exploits of pre-Second World War players live on only in local cricketing folklore.
Easingwold’s aptly-named Walter Skilbeck – great-grandfather of a sporting dynasty which continues to represent the club today – was reputed to be the most feared all-rounder in the league’s formative years.
The Skilbeck boys have been an almost unbroken fixture of the Easingwold team-sheets throughout the past century, and current player and Walter’s great-grandson Paul became the Hunters League’s first player to hit six sixes in an over back in 2011.
The club was also home to the league’s leading batsman from 1957-67, Val Toase.
Since then, Sheriff Hutton Bridge’s Des Wyrill has dominated with the bat in a remarkably long career at the crease.
He continues to make regular appearances for the club and has amassed a league record of more than 20,000 runs despite an 11-year hiatus spent playing in higher leagues.
Today one of the most recognisable faces on the wickets of York is former West Indies international Collis King, the Barbados-born all-rounder who had spells with Glamorgan, Worcestershire and South African province Natal.
Now over 60, he remains a threat with both bat and ball for Dunnington.
Another of the league’s memorable overseas imports was current Pakistan Test player Mohammad Hafeez, who appeared for Stillington as a young cricketer.
Hafeez featured prominently for his country when defeating England in the UAE this winter.
As the league’s clubs, which number more than 50, look back over 100 years of sporting memories, cricket fans will surely be keeping a keen eye out for the next future star to use the Hunters League as a springboard to success.