Evergreen Sheffield cricketer and world’s best Over-50s player still going strong
If you play cricket in South Yorkshire, the chances are you know about the legendary Steve Foster.
At 53, and with a new season approaching, the number one ranked Over-50s player in the world - who opens with bat and ball for Treeton in the Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League – is looking forward to adding to his 15,831 runs for them since returning in 2003.
His list of bowling scalps includes none other than Sachin Tendulkar, and he took 10-44 against Sheffield Collegiate during his first season back in the county after 17 hugely successful years playing at a higher level.
The evergreen Steve, who works as a business rates manager for Sheffield City Council, was also the leading all-rounder at the 2018 Over-50s World Cup in Australia, hitting 243 runs at an average of 60.75 and taking 18 wickets at 7.66.
"As long as I’m not embarrassing myself I will carry on as long as I can,” he declared.
"I’m still classed as the number one Over-50s cricketer in the world, which is a great accolade I’m very proud of. That keeps me going.”
Last month he was named in Wisden’s Hall of Fame, which celebrates titans of club cricket across the country, and he has since received “hundreds” of congratulatory messages.
"The response was overwhelming,” he said. “I just felt really privileged.
“I’ve had some really nice messages, it’s been great.”
Treeton first XI captain Sam Drury described his talismanic run-machine as an “unbelievable player”.
The local legend even outscored former England captain Michael Vaughan in six of the nine innings they batted together for Yorkshire’s Second XI in 1992 and 1993.
"Michael lived in Sheffield then and I don’t think he was driving, we used to meet and travel up and play the games,” Foster recalled.
"When we first started I played at Barnsley and in that age group, Steve Oldham put a team together which included Darren Gough and people like that. I have played with some great people.
"Michael was obviously the one who stood out, who was always going to be earmarked for great things when we were at Yorkshire.”
Foster also coached current England Test skipper and Sheffield lad Joe Root and his younger brother Billy, who plays for Glamorgan, when they were children.
Last year Joe sent the England Over-50s team a good luck video message ahead of the 2020 Over-50s World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa.
"It was unbelievable of him to go to all that trouble to wish us all the best – it’s the type of lad that he is,” said Steve.
“It was brilliant to represent your country, it is an unbelievable opportunity. It’s extremely hard on the body, though. We were there for about 10 days and we had nine games to play in that time, which is very difficult – especially at our age.”
But he only missed one game, taking six wickets in two matches and hitting 20 not out against India, before the tournament was abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
There are, unfortunately, no records for his first eight years of first-team cricket. The totals might otherwise resemble a phone number.
Still, across five decades playing there’s officially been 32,795 runs, with an average of more than 70, 66 tons and 230 half-centuries, as well as 1,434 wickets.
Unsurprisingly, his role in dismissing one the sport’s greatest-ever batsmen is a standout memory.
"It was a benefit game for Iqbal Khan in Huddersfield and he was big friends with some of the India team at the time,” said Steve.
"I bowled at Sachin and he hit it straight up in the air and we got him out. He was unbelievable, he was such a nice person.”
Aged just 19, Tendulkar starred as Yorkshire’s first-ever overseas player in the summer of 1992 while Steve, who turned down the chance to turn professional at Headingley, played for the Tykes’ second team.
"I probably matured as a cricketer a bit later than other people and my better years came after I turned 23,” he said.
"I probably became a better player as I got older. I have no regrets, I probably wasn’t quite good enough at that time and it was a gamble to give up what’s been a successful career for me.
"It’s just been phenomenal for me to have great experiences as an amateur which possibly, as a second-team player, I wouldn’t have had.”
Steve was just 14 when he played his first senior match for Leadmill Old Boys after a friend of his dad John needed a last-minute replacement.
“My dad’s really proud, he’s been involved with cricket for over 60 years now and he’s 80,” he added. “He played all his life for Treeton and my mum Leslie did the teas.”
John was brought up in Treeton, where his son played until the age of 18. He returned aged 35 to settle down with his wife of 23 years, Melanie.
They have two children together – Olivia, 20, and Connie, aged 16.
“Treeton is where it all started for me,” Steve said. “It’s like a big family with the people there I have known all my life.
"Our family holidays were Treeton Cricket Club’s trips to a place called Southsea, near Portsmouth.
"It’s a great club and we have had a lot of success over the last 20 years. Hopefully we can continue it.”
As long as Steve is still around, you wouldn’t bet against it.