Danny Hall Column: Is it time for Yorkshire Cricket to get more homely in Sheffield again?

Sheffiedl Colleigate v Yorkshire at Abbeydale Park - Yorkshire Coach Jason Gillespie with Umpire Richard Kettleborough
Sheffiedl Colleigate v Yorkshire at Abbeydale Park - Yorkshire Coach Jason Gillespie with Umpire Richard Kettleborough

Cricket in the Steel City dates back to the 18th century, and as early as 1833 a team called ‘Yorkshire’ first played against Norfolk - containing 11 Sheffield players.

In 1861, a committee to run Yorkshire matches was formed. At Sheffield’s Adelphi Hotel.

In ‘The Official History of Yorkshire County Cricket Club’, author Derek Hodgson notes one of the aims of the club was to play”either in Sheffield or in any other towns of the county according as arrangements may be made.”

Bramall Lane was an early home. Until 2006, so was Sheffield Collegiate’s Abbeydale Park ground.

And since then? Nothing. Professionally, at least.

Yorkshire have twice agreed to return to Abbeydale recently in friendly clashes against Yorkshire League opposition. In 2013, Yorkshire celebrated their 150th anniversary with a T20 game; they were due to return to the Steel City on Tuesday for a NatWest Blast warm-up fixture against local players, before heavy rain made the ground unplayable.

To their great credit - weather permitting, of course - Yorkshire also planned to send a squad of first-team players to Middlesbrough for a similar test yesterday.

“We have had a good period of four-day cricket and now there is an opportunity to put in some quality practice ahead of the T20 season,” Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire’s head coach, said.

“To be able to play around the county is a great initiative by the club. We want to showcase our talent against some of the best league players and give something back to the sport in areas that don’t necessarily see Yorkshire week in, week out.

“It will give us an opportunity to continue to work on our limited overs skills at some wonderful club grounds with excellent facilities.

“We know the opposition, the club players, will be excited to be playing against professionals. It is a win, win for cricket in Yorkshire.”

Quite rightly. But is it enough for cricket lovers in South Yorkshire to see ‘their’ Yorkshire side intermittently, and in warm-up games which, ultimately, matter little?

Collegiate chairman Richard Ibbotson remembers fondly a time when Glamorgan came to Abbeydale to face Yorkshire, and the great West Indian star Viv Richards peppered the marquee with huge sixes on his way to 153.

“Many people saw Bramall Lane as the home of Yorkshire cricket,” Ibbotson said.

“But Abbeydale is more of a park-style ground. It’s got a beautiful setting on the edge of the Peak District National Park, on the boundary of the county.

“I don’t think Yorkshire’s record here was particularly good or bad, but in terms of the crowd and the revenue, Abbeydale was better than anywhere [in the county].

“Undoubtedly having the Yorkshire players down and being seen as Yorkshire’s home ground in Sheffield certainly helped the club attract a lot of good players in days gone by.”

Just over 30 years ago, the archives of The Star remember that the combined councils of South Yorkshire were prevailing upon Yorkshire Cricket Club to reinstate first class cricket in Sheffield on a permanent basis at Bawtry Road.

Their campaign obviously failed and Yorkshire now have a modern, Test-match standard ground at Headingley in Leeds. Recently, it was dragged kicking-and-screaming into the 21st century with the installation of floodlights.

No-one is advocating them upping sticks and moving back to their roots full-time. But if the ‘park-style’ Abbeydale ground is an adequate enough venue to prepare Yorkshire for T20 games against the likes of Derbyshire and Lancashire, then surely it is also adequate enough to host one?


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