While the team throughout the 1990s may not have won honours it has nonetheless produced some excellent players and numerous exciting matches. In 1992 the side finished fourth in the league with Bruce Roberts the club professional knocking up 1,183 runs to set a club record. Roberts a right handed batsman and no mean wicket-keeper was born in Rhodesia and has represented Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire and the Transvaal. After his success in his first Ashton season he was engaged once again for the 1993 and 1994 seasons in which he scored 927 runs and 887 runs respectively. Although finishing a lowly 13th in the league in 1995 the club managed to win its way through to the Wood Cup final where unfortunately they were defeated by Walsden at Milnrow. The ability with bat and ball of Walsden’s pro Jason Bakker proved to be Ashton’s downfall and his unbeaten 85 saw him pass 1500 runs for the season. Only a brave innings by David Gandy (73) gave the Reyner Lane outfit any hope, but his team mates failed to rise to the occasion. Only the partnership of David Mellor (20 no) and Roger Mingham (3 no) late on offered a refreshing challenge but could only put Ashton on 185-8. Walsden’s reply was fairly restrained until Bakker took centre stage (Walsden 189-3).
The late 1990s saw the club introducing several young local players including Dominic and Simon Ball. In 1996 Dominic with 73 wickets won the league bowling prize. The lad wasn’t too bad with the bat either and this all round ability saw him being selected to represent the league. Jon Selby as an opening bat and Trevor Gane wicket keeper were also to make good progress.
Since its formation the club has always had two senior sides and thus far we have written very little about the 2nd XI. Under the guidance of Paul Adshead, who has captained the side for an incredible eighteen years the second XI have always been a mid-table side - with the exception of 2002 when they finished third. However, it is not league positions that matter to those involved with the second XI as Paul explained.
“The purpose of a second eleven is, amongst other things to bring young cricketers through the ranks and prepared for the next step, in our case the first eleven of Ashton. It is those promising young players that came through the second’s, after a restructuring of the depleted junior section almost ten years ago who have gone on to help put the first team in their highest league position for fifteen years. Today’s youngsters, talented though they are need to be guided on their journey, as we all do and this is done at Ashton by a very experienced bunch of cricketers. We are blessed with a hardy, loyal and dedicated quad of shall I say more experienced who I am grateful to for their support in helping the kids on their journey to first eleven cricket and who knows even further. “Which reminds me of an occasion some 12 years ago, when on a Thursday night after net practice, we had a cry off. I was about to go home and summon a reserve when a gentleman strode on to the field and shook hands with my brother Phil, who was working on the ground. This chap then explained that his young son was available. As his beloved Tintwistle was deemed not to be playing in a high enough standard to help him progress (where have I heard all this before?). However my brother, who knew the gentleman, Norman Harris as he had once played at Ashton vouched for his integrity. With that, Andrew Harris made his Ashton debut at the age of 16. We were playing over the hills at Walsden and batting first. We had made a paltry 140, on the smallest ground in the league, not enough!
Trying after tea to rally the troops, bowl tight, go for your catches, save every run, and fight till the end, I threw the ball to our trusty opening bowler, Shahid Ahmed. Shahid usually bowled well downhill at Walsden, however on this day he didn’t really need to as the young last minute Charley, ‘A.J’ Harris, bowling uphill and with figures of 6 for thirty odd, Ashton won comfortably. Unfortunately, that was the last we saw of him. Andrew Harris played the next two seasons in Ashton’s first team, before going on to Derbyshire, England ‘A’ and his current county Nottinghamshire, where in 2005, he won a county championship winners medal. Andrew has played well over 300 first class games. Shahid Ahmed is running an off license in Withington, told you I was a good judge.”
The club also operates six junior teams with the under 9s and 10s not actually playing in a league. However, the under 11s are in the Tameside League, while the Under 13s and 15s compete in the Central Lancashire League and the under 17s in the lancashire County League. It is hoped that the talent at this level progresses through to the second eleven and eventually into the first team and as Paul Adshead says “who knows, even further”.
In 2002 the club signed as their paid man the player with the longest surname in first class cricket. Anil Rideegammanagedera – known to everyone as ‘Ridee’. This right handed batsman with a leg break bowling style was born in Galle in Sri Lanka and besides representing them he has also played for the Nondescripts Cricket Club and the Tamil Union & Athletic Club. Since arriving at Reyner Lane Ridee has become one of the club’s most popular players of modern time.
The club was honoured in 2005 firstly when Zafer Zaman picked up the league bowling prize the Clifford Pickup Memorial Trophy, for his 64 wickets. Then the league bestowed upon the club the privilege of staging the Wood Cup final. “Many people had their reservations as to whether the club could cope with such an event” Paul Adshead informed us. But the most prestigious day in the Central Lancashire League calendar was an outstanding success. The scene at the ground was unlike any witnessed on a normal match day, barbecues, beer tents, ice cream vans and hundreds of spectators surrounded the playing area.
The pavilion was reserved for club members, league officials; representatives from the two finalists Heywood and Monton & Weaste and of course executives from sponsors J. W. Lees Brewery. Ashton Cricket Club life member, Alan Jubb amused the crowd with his quick wit as he gave selected commentary on the ongoing match. The overall staging of the event and the amenities provided was a credit to the club and its hard working committee, officers and members. Heywood eventually lifted the trophy but for everyone connected with Ashton it was their club’s big day.
In organising such a prestigious event the club were indebted to their hardworking lady members whose help and dedication proved yet again to be invaluable. Today the club is fortunate to
have such a strong and willing group of women who regularly give up their time and expertise in order to help the club. Some are committee members but all offer their assistance whenever the club is in need. Linda Johnson, May Casey, Angie White, Mandy Woolley and Joanne Gaskin to name a few are tireless workers any club would be proud to have on board. From a financial point of view the Ashton Club also have reason to be grateful to the aforementioned ladies for it was they who organised a Ladies Day event which raised over £1,000 for club funds. The club is today grateful for all the hard work this happy band of females put in. Throughout the club’s history Ashton have been fortunate in that the offer of help from the ladies has always been at hand. During the 1960 (see photo) a group of ladies which included several wives of players would arrive at the ground hours before each game in order to make sandwiches to be sold to the general public. They would also prepare the teas for the players and if both bowls and tennis were being played also, they would find themselves extremely busy. The little girl in the picture is now the wife of David Williams, co-author of this work who recalls, “I must have been around ten years old then and I remember being told off for putting too much salmon on the sandwiches. “I also recall that the teas for the players were invariably salads, either salmon or ham and that the visitors used to say ‘they loved the hospitality at Ashton’”. Well thanks to the ladies of today this is still the case… so let’s hear it for the girls!
Having hosted the Wood Cup final in 2005 the season ended with improvements in the teams league positioning with Ashton’s First Eleven in ninth place while the Second Eleven finished fifth. Overall the season was one of promise which the club hoped to maintain. Under bizarre circumstances the club found itself involved in national news headlines and TV coverage after facing Werneth for what should have been a low-key last game of the 2006 season. Ashton was chasing Werneth’s 156-9 when at 127–5 and looking on course for victory the game was dramatically halted. Werneth’s professional Mark Vermeulen threw the ball in the direction of the Ashton followers at the pavilion only narrowly missing some spectators. For whatever reason Vermeulen was in a dreadful rage and was roaming around the pitch like a wild bull. His team mates were unsuccessful in trying to calm him down and indeed this seemed to have the opposite effect as the pro continued his actions. A boundary marker was wrenched from the ground and thrown and Werneth officials jostled as they tried in vain to restrain the cricketer. The Werneth captain had no choice but to concede the game, leading his dejected and visibly shocked and upset players from the Reyner Lane wicket. Permission had been given for a film crew to attend the match to shoot footage for an upcoming TV documentary ‘The Changing face of Britain’. Their shots of Vermeulen’s antics were shown on Sky News, Sky Sports News, ITV and BBC news programmes. The story which made headlines in the local and national press will no doubt live long in the memory and be a topic of conversation at both clubs for years to come.
The conduct of Mark Vermeulen actually was nothing new for bad cricketing behaviour at Ashton, even as far back as 1899 a similar fit of temper was witnessed. On this occasion the player concerned was the Manchester Club captain S. M. Crosfield. Prior to the match the teams had been dining together at a local hotel, then as now Ashton was renowned for its hospitality, the lunch had taken rather longer to get through, causing a delay in the start of play. A situation which had annoyed the large crowd at the ground. With the game underway Mr Crosfield, usually brilliant in the field could do nothing right, the ball seemed to come to him at awkward angles. This amused the spectators who soon began joyfully barracking him. However, when attempting to stop a hard cut he slipped and fell full length. While still lying prostrate, one Ashton supporter yelled ‘why, you’re drunk’. Picking himself up a furious Crosfield ran over to the direction from where the voice had come - that is the rails in front of the pavilion and exclaimed ‘who the xxxx said that’. He continued with an array of abusive and foul mouthed words before challenging any spectator who fancied themselves to come inside the fence. It was several minutes before he could be calmed down and play was resumed. Unfortunately, things didn’t get any better for Mr Crosfield who was bowled out for a duck and Ashton won the game.
During 2006 the Ashton Cricket team made significant progress and finished in its highest league position (6th) for a number of years. Zafer Zaman had another excellent year while Jon Selby wrote his name into club history with his magnificent 150 against Heywood - A score which equalled Ashton’s record in the CLL set by John Bradbury in 1939. Both Bradbury’s and Selby’s 150 fall just 16 runs short of the all time club record for an individual score.
Selby’s batting was helped by the arrival mid-season of wicket-keeper Martin Lees, which allowed Selby to concentrate more with the bat. Overseas amateur Manjus Wijesinghe was one of the leading all-rounders in the league. While the biggest finds during the season were Imran Yousaf and Morspin Abid two young spinners who took everyone’s eye throughout the CLL. Club pro, Ridee hit his best total score since joining the club with 1,079 runs (and 72 wickets). Under the captaincy of Imran Zaman the side developed an inner strength and a hunger for points something not seen for many a season. In the penultimate game of the season Imran was on a high when he hit an unbeaten 77 against Milnrow. The club can look forward with great optimism especially if they can retain the nucleus of the 2006 side, the blend of youth and experience looks well for the future.
Off the field free of debt and with a hard working committee and the support of its members it is hoped the club may continue for another 150 years. Those past players, committees, ordinary members and all who have played their part in the club’s history deserve praise for giving the town such a remarkable institution. Long may it continue.
RECENT DAYS - 1990 TO 2006
Jon Selby - Record Holder!
The Vermeulen incident was captured on You Tube, but appears to have been taken down (July 2016)