|Andrew Bairstow on his way to his memorable 121 against Woodlands in the 2008 Priestley Cup final
Picture: Mike Baker
THE only player to have ever won hat-tricks of league titles and Priestley Cups is to retire at the end of the season.
Andrew Bairstow is to hang up his bat after a 30-year career which has seen him feature in a staggering 22 trophy wins.
He started playing as an 11-year-old in Drighlington’s second team and will finish with the club he has won 16 trophies with, Pudsey Congs.
An attacking left-hand batsman, Bairstow has scored more than 11,000 league runs in first team cricket in spells with
Undercliffe, Cleckheaton, East Bierley and for the last 15 years, Pudsey Congs.
Just like his father David, the former Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper, and his younger brother Jonny- who is currently enjoying a stellar career with Yorkshire and England - he is a whole-hearted cricketer who loves to put bat to ball.
Few who were at the 2008 Priestley Cup final between Pudsey Congs and Woodlands at Bradford & Bingley will ever forget the brilliant 121 he made that day.
Former Yorkshire seamer Pieter Swanepoel had reduced Congs to 12-3 and batting looked about as hazardous as hang gliding in a war zone.
Bairstow had no problems. He recalls: “i think I hit my first ball for six over towards the winter sheds for six. I then hit another four and a six, but to be honest I don’t remember too much more about the innings.
“The ball was turning but it was my day and everything was going for me. Obviously, it was great to score a century in the final and help us win the game.”
It was a performance which earned him the man of the match award and I wrote at the time: “He is one of the most popular and talented players in the JCT600 Bradford League and today he played an innings which will live long in the memories of all who witnessed it.
“In years to come it is likely that this will be remembered as Bairstow's final by all who were privileged to witness a performance that brought a difficult season to a wonderful conclusion.
“Even more fitting was the fact that the smile should be put back on the face of Bradford League cricket by a player who always plays with a smile on his - Andrew Bairstow.”.
Bluey has always worn his heart on his sleeve and nobody can ever doubt his fierce commitment to his team’s cause. The young Andrew Bairstow was a brilliant outfielder and later a fine wicketkeeper too.
But why did he not follow the same path as his dad and his brother to the very top of the game? He did play for England under-18s and England Schools Under-19s after producing record-breaking displays for Woodhouse Grove School under the shrewd guidance of Ian Frost and Roger Howard. “They helped me to understand cricket and I scored a lot of runs for the school,” he recalls.
They built on the excellent work and encouragement the young Bairstow had received from his father. They played together at Undercliffe and Andrew recalls: “Dad was very protective If raucous supporters tried to have a go at me he would make it clear to those people that he was unhappy.
“It was good for me as a young player to play in the same team as my Dad. He always wanted me to do well and enjoy my cricket.”
After making a century for England under-18s against the West Indies, whose side included Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Andrew had had a trial with Lancashire he then signed a professional contract with Derbyshire. After scoring 800 runs for the second team in 1994, he made three first class appearances the following year.
He made his debut against Yorkshire and followed up by facing Leicestershire and Australia A – a side that included Matthew Elliott, Matthew Hayden, Stuart Law, Ricky Ponting Adam Gilchrist, Shane Lee, Joe Angel and Brendan Julian.
“Looking back I didn’t appreciate the opportunity I had,” Andrew admits. He has nothing but respect and pride for the achievements of his dad and his brother.
But Andrew has plenty to be proud of himself. He has carved a niche in Bradford League history and it is probably fair to say that no player has ever featured in so many trophy wins.
His first honours came with Undercliffe where he was in their second team when they won the league and Priestley Shield double in 1994.
The following season he joined Cleckheaton and moved on to East Bierley in 1996 and featured in their side which won the league.
It was that start of a glorious spell for East Bierley under the leadership of Dermot McGrath. They became the first team to ever win the Priestley Cup three years in succession from 1998-2000.
It was a fine side which included such fine performers as Murphy Walwyn, Jaffer Nazir, Anthony McGrath, and Rob Burton.
In 2002 he was asked to join Pudsey Congs who had won the first two of what was to be a record-equaling five league titles in a row.
That first season set the tone for the most glittering spell of his career. Congs won the league and cup double plus the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy.
After retaining the league title in 2003, Congs repeated their treble triumph in 2004 as Bairstow completed his own unique double hat-trick of league and Priestley C
A Black Sheep win in 2005, another championship in 2010, further Priestley Cup triumphs in 2005, 2007, and 2008, a first Heavy Woollen Cup win in 2014, plus three T20 Cup wins in 2012, 2014 and 2015 have swelled the trophy cabinet to breaking point.
There was also a first appearance in the ECB National T20 finals at Cardiff last year for good measure.
It is a record to be proud of and throughout the 30 years he has been playing he admits: “The league has changed massively,every game is more competitive. You can’t predict who will beat who.
“Sadly, we don’t see the county players anymore and we don’t have overseas players like Mohammad Akram, Rana Naveed, Jaffer Nazir or Simon Doull playing. They brought something special to the competition.”
That special quality was also evident in the two hugely successful sides he played for, East Bierley and Pudsey Congs
He recalls: “East Bierley had a mix of experienced and young players. You had people like Murphy Walwyn and David Jay with great experience, Jaffer Nazir was a great wicket taker, and then there was Anthony McGrath coming through along with younger players like myself and Rob Burton. It was a good team.”
There is real excitement in his voice while the engaging smile spreads wide as he recalls the feats of Pudsey Congs
“At Congs we had a team of players who were the right age who wanted to win things. I was fortunate that I got the chance to play in such a good side,” he admitted.
“Our captain Matthew Doidge was a laid back cricketer but he was a winner and knew how to win cricket matches. He understood cricket and we were fortunate to have a pitch which Chris Kaye produced to county standards.
“Neil Gill was one of the best league bowlers I have ever seen and was unlucky not to have played county cricket. He formed a great new ball partnership with Rana Naveed and we had plenty of back up too.
“One of the great things was that we had players like Mark Bray who might not bowl many overs for long periods of time but didn’t complain. Glenn Roberts probably didn’t bowl before the end of May and wicketkeeper Gary Brook would bat at number 11 even though he was good enough to bat further up the order and did when the situation required.
“Matthew created a great team ethic. If he wasn’t happy with your performance he would ring you up to go out for a beer and talk things over.
“We were fortunate to have so many good players. Opener Andy Bethel was somebody we could build an innings around.
“Then we had talented stroke players like Bradley Parker, Neil Nicholson and Babar Butt. We had a lot of respect for each other. If you stepped out of line the others would put you back in your place but everybody knew their role.”
On Saturday he will play his last Pudsey derby at Tofts Road against St Lawrence and his last game will be at home to Morley on September 10.
As he bows out two of his cricketing hopes are set to be unfulfilled. He had hoped to reach 12,000 career runs and despite brother Jonny signing for Congs last year, they have never played on the same side though Andrew did play against him twice for the MCC when Jonny was at St Peter’s School, York.
“I have always enjoyed my cricket but the time is right for me to retire. I have a busy home life and it is time for me to step back, to spend time with family and friends.” says Andrew.
“I still turn up each week wanting to score runs and despite my experience I still get the rush off blood whilst batting. I would have loved to reach 12,000 league runs – he currently has 11,548 - but unless I have a great finish to the season I will fall short.
“But I have no regrets. I will continue to watch cricket and will take the chance to go and see Jonny play. I am proud of what I have done and I have many happy memories.”
|Andrew Bairstow receives the man of the match award from Reg Nelson at the 2008 Priestley Cup final