The triumphant Ashton Wood Cup winning team 1964
In 1956 and 1957 Ashton and Rochdale were to meet again in the Wood Cup but on both these occasions it was in the final itself. With the departure of Des Fitzmaurice the club in 1956 had taken on the Ceylon International Bob Bartells, who had played for Werneth during the 1954 season. Bob Bartells received twelve pounds per game from the Reyner Lane club and also took on coaching duties. This was something he had done while at Werneth where he had been described as ‘a traditional coach and highly respected’. Ashton Cricket Club increased its payment to Bartells in the following season by three pounds per game and also allowed him a benefit match. Bartells had been the one mainly responsible for the club making its 3rd Wood Cup final appearance in 1956. He had missed a couple of games due to a broken finger but made a remarkable recovery to take his place in the final. The side’s hopes were raised when they dismissed Rochdale for their lowest score of the season. But on what proved to be a difficult wicket Rochdale went on to destroy Ashton for just 58 runs. The only pleasing aspect for the club was receiving its share of the £404 gate receipts which were divided equally between the two clubs and the CLL. This money helped to balance the budget for the season especially in view of the losses incurred by washed out games. There had been two abandoned matches both away from home but if these had occurred at Reyner Lane the club would have been £100 better off. All the clubs which had taken out insurance on the gate were better off financially if a ball wasn’t bowled. Clubs in the Central Lancashire League in 1956 did well out the insurance as £50 was paid out for completely washed out games. For the 1957 season the insurance companies doubled the outlay from £40 to £80 but it was still in the club’s interest to be in the scheme.
The second Wood Cup final against Rochdale (1957) proved disappointing as it was felt by most that they had the beating of their opponent. The winning of the toss played an important part but Ashton also contributed to their own downfall, a dropped catch at a vital stage proved fatal, and then on the final day Dattu Phadkar was able to return bowling figures which flattered his performance. The Rochdale professional virtually won the match when he got Arthur Booth (now back with Ashton) and Bob Bartells in his first over on the last day’s play. Throughout Rochdale had the right attitude and although their tactics did not please the crowd they certainly played the part in their success. On the other hand Ashton’s tactics miss-fired and batsmen who were accustomed to making strokes were playing an unnatural game and failing as a result. Others apparently failed by trying to get on with the job too quickly. At the start of the final day’s play the match had been delicately poised but Ashton really threw their chance away.
Professional Bob Bartells spent his last season with Ashton during 1958. In his career Bartells besides having played in the Central Lancashire League for Werneth and Ashton also turned out for Walsden and Castleton Moor. He was for a time also professional for nearby Saddleworth. A few years before retiring from the game at the age of 65 Bob fulfilled an ambition by returning to play as an amateur for a season at each of his four past Central Lancashire League clubs.
Ashton, over the years have certainly impressed with the standard of cricket played, unfortunately, as far as trophy winning these occasions have not been frequent. However, an occasion to savour was to come along twice in two years, when in 1964 and 1965 Ashton lifted the Wood Cup.
The 1964 season was undoubtedly the best since the all conquering season of 1940. They finished as runners-up in the league, won the Wood Cup, while the Second XI won their league and together both teams took the Aggregate Cup. The dramatic rally which beat Heywood in the Wood Cup final was a performance as notable as any in the history of the league. The crowd of three thousand which packed Milnrow’s ground had to wait patiently as due to rain the match was delayed for around an hour. Heywood reached a total of 102 which Ashton were confident of overtaking. However, the aggressive bowling and excellent fielding of Heywood soon resulted in Ashton battling for every run. When captain Tim Wood departed Ashton were 42 for five and hopes were diminishing. However, within twenty-six minutes Reg Scarlett and Ken Kelly turned the tide and became Ashton’s heroes. Between them they produced a good stand of 45 runs. Kelly starting things off with a mighty six and Scarlett knocking a number of boundaries. Just as it looked as if the two West Indians would win the trophy for Ashton, Kelly was dismissed. Shortly after, Scarlett in skying a stroke in the hope of a six which would win them the match was caught although Heywood’s De Peiza almost fumbled it. Ashton still needed six for victory when Wilson and Priestley were at the wicket and tension was mounting. Priestley added four runs before Wilson went out for a duck. Jim Fish joined Priestley when a bye levelled the score. With the sky ever darkening and the clock approaching 8.34pm Priestley played a simple shot which provided the required run and lighten the ground for the Ashton players and supporters. A magnificent performance which still remains in the minds of many club members and Ashton public today.
Ashton’s captain Tim Wood had throughout the season been a huge inspiration to his side with his leadership qualities having had a great bearing on the club’s success. Wood had been with Ashton since the early 1950s after arriving in town to take up a teaching position at Ashton Grammar School. On establishing a regular place in the Ashton line up Wood soon became a great favourite with the fans. His knowledge of the game and its players, along with his determination to succeed also won him the respect of his team mates. There is an old cricketing adage that captains are born not made, in 1962 Ashton’s committee saw a born captain within their ranks and Tim Wood was duly appointed.
The following season saw Joe Gregory entering his name into the club’s history books when Heywood were all out for 43 with Joe taking all ten wickets. The next week saw the side hold on to the Wood Cup for a successive year. Unfortunately, a lack of consistency in the league saw the team finishing outside of the top four. The Wood Cup final at Littleborough was an action packed game in which Ashton showed just what they could do when they defeated Walsden to lift the trophy. Along side Charlie Moore’s 78 runs, the inspiration for Ashton keeping the cup came from skipper Tim Wood. It was not his performance with bat or ball that won it, but his leadership qualities and at a time when they were needed the most. Charlie Moore had been dismissed under a cloud of controversy, a disputed catch at mid-on. Ashton were on 119 for six, chasing Walsden’s 165. The crowd was buzzing as everyone discussed the umpire’s decision. Tim Wood, Ashton’s captain swiftly vacated his seat in the pavilion, and before the 3,000 strong crowd marched out onto the pitch in the direction of umpire Dick Wright. A bemused crowd looked on in dismay, the retiring Moore stopped dead in his tracks as his skipper deliberated with the umpire. Deep down Wood knew he had no right to have approached the umpire, he also knew the decision to dismiss Moore would have to stand. But Wood was a man who never backed away from a critical situation, his fight and determination to succeed had won him the utmost respect of his team mates and all connected with the Ashton club. After his brief conversation with the umpire, Wood accompanied a dejected Moore back to the pavilion. Total confusion filled the dressing room as players claimed they had been robbed. Wood showing complete composure and his man-management skills calmed his players down. He stressed to his remaining batsmen that they could and would go out and win the game despite the setback. True to Wood’s words the batsmen, inspired by their captain’s leadership rose to the occasion, Alex Thornhill along with wicket keeper Alan Wilson added 36 runs for the eighth wicket ensuring the trophy remained at Reyner Lane.
THE WOOD CUP YEARS 1956 - 1965