Take a look back at the creation of what we know as Sharples Park and Astley Bridge Cricket Club as it is today through these short excerpts from local publications at the time.

Players from Left to Right:
Back Row: UMPIRE, George Meikle, Ray Kay, Colin Colthurst, Norman Beadows, William Beardsmore, Geoff Williams

Front Row: Norman Barry, Ernest Robertson, Chris Thornton, Dennis Atherton, Tommy Worthington, UMPIRE

Circa 1950s



Astley Bridge Wesleyan Cricket Club, Bolton. Winners of the Second Division Cup 1913.

SHARPLES PARK HISTORY

New Astley Bridge Cricket Ground

The work of laying out the new ground of Astley Bridge Cricket Club at Sharples Park has begun in earnest, and many difficulties, which have confronted the officials, have already been smoothed over by the help extended by friends. Even some of the allotment holders, who were doubtless disappointed that they had to move, have done what they could to facilitate progress. The field having been cleared a motor plough got to work in turning over the ground. Many of the best sods from the ground in Cobden Street which was originated 30 years ago this month will be used in laying out the new ground, and here the club professional, Len Tobutt, will have charge. I scarcely need to point out that as a groundsman he has a reputation second to none. A new pavilion will be required, the old one being left at Cobden, which will be used I understand, as a welfare ground, but the spacious tea-room erected a year or two ago will be pulled down and moved across to the new ground. It is a big task to lay out an entirely new ground, but the club officials are tackling the job with a big heart, and they have already been encouraged by the way they have been met in fixing up the preliminary arrangements.

Bolton Journal, October 15th 1926

Astley Bridge and the Ground Question

When the Astley Bridge club commenced work on their new ground at Sharples Park it was hoped that it would be fit for play at the beginning of, or early in the season. However, it is now certain that the ground will not be ready for some considerable time, if at all this season. At a recent meeting of the Bolton and District League, provisional permission was given Astley Bridge to play their first few games on Sir George Holden's private ground, and after hearing the report of Mr. J. W. Massey, who inspected the ground, the League Committee, on Friday gave definite permission. The Astley Bridge representative informed the meeting that Sir George had kindly promised the loan of his ground for the whole of the season if necessary, with the of one Saturday not yet decided upon.

Cricket Gossip, The Buff, April 9th 1927

Astley Bridge Enterprise A Fine Ground

A crisis arose in the history of the Astley Bridge Cricket Club when the Cobden Street ground was taken from them, and many people thought it would mean the end of the club. But a stout-hearted band of officials set about the task of finding a suitable site for a new ground, and obtaining the wherewithal for its purchase and transition into playable condition, and I am convinced their enterprise will receive its reward. The ground is situated near Thorns Road, Astley Bridge, and is over looked on the south by Eden's Orphanage, and the north by Thornleigh School. Eighteen months ago it was allotments; now it is looking "something like." and will be ready for the clubs first home match a fortnight hence. Undoubtedly it is a splendid ground. The actual playing area measures 124 yards by 106 yards, and is laid turf for 60 yard square in the middle. Surrounding the ground is a quarter mile cinder track, and there will be practice pitches apart from the actual playing field. A pavilion purchased from the Lancashire County Council after a recent Royal Lancashire Show in Bolton is a handsome structure, and will include a tea-room for players and enclosure patrons, as well as two dressing rooms.

Cricket Gossip, The Buff, April 14th 1928

ASTLEY BRIDGE OPEN NEW GROUND

OPENING AT ASTLEY BRIDGE BY MR WILLIAM HOWARTH

"It has always been my ambition". Said Mr Howarth, JP. "In opening the new ground at Astley Bridge Cricket Club this afternoon. That we train the young professionals and the lads who ought to come on. So they follow in the footsteps of the men who are carrying the honour of Lancashire so bravely." Mr Howarth was also of the opinion that cricket was the best game of the "Britisher". Because it expressed better than any other game the sporting instinct of the race. Sir Edwin Stockton, chairman of the Lancashire Cricket Club, in a rousing speech moved a vote of thanks to the opener. He believed that it was impossible to exaggerate the value of sport to the character of the people.

This was the big day in the annuals of the Astley Bridge Cricket Club. It was the occasion of the opening of their new ground by Mr William Howarth J.P. Supported by Sir Edwin Stockton. Chairman of Lancashire Cricket Club. These gentlemen along with the club president Mr Roocroft and Mr Grant president of the Bolton and District Association played the first two overs on the ground and Sir Edwin Stockton had the distinction of being the first to register a boundary hit. The attendance at the commencement was approximately 1000.

In the match with Radcliffe who batted first, Crabtree bowled the Rev. H Wearden, T Edge and Llewellyn with the third, fourth and sixth balls of his fourth over preventing the hat-trick.

Evening News Buff, April 28th 1928

The First Match Played on Sharples Park - ABCC vs RADCLIFFE

Match Played April 28th 1928

RADCLIFFE Innings

Rev H Wearden___________b Crabtree______________02

F Cowburn_______________c Dickinson b Crabtree ___  12

T Edge__________________b Crabtree_____________  00

Llewellyn________________b Crabtree_____________   00

W Knight________________b Sutcliffe______________   00

W Hough________________b Dickinson____________   19

P Pickstone______________c H Mitchell b Sutcliffe____    00

H Pearson_______________c Mitchell b Rogerson____    08

E Emerson_______________b Entwistle____________   15

A Pickstone______________lbw b Crabtree___________11

W Spencer_______________not out_________________01

Extras. 06

Total. 84

Bowler..........Overs.....Maiden.....Runs.....Wickets

Crabtree..........18............7.............21...........5

Sutcliffe...........12............1.............30...........2

Dickinson..........4............0..............11...........1

Rogerson..........5.............1..............12...........1

Entwistle...........1.............0..............4...........1

ASTLEY BRIDGE Innings

N C Mitchell_______________b Hough_____________  44

H Mitchell_________________c Llewellyn b Edge_____  09

Crabtree__________________b Hough_____________ 02

R Sutcliffe_________________c Cowburn b Edge_____  07

G Pilling___________________c Emerson b Edge____  08

J Entwistle_________________c Llewellyn b Edge_____00

S Jobson__________________not out______________ 09

H Fell____________________b Hough_____________  01

R Nelson__________________c Knight b Hough______ 00

J Rogerson_________________run out_____________  00

H Dickinson________________c Pearson b Hough____  00

Extras. 05

Total. 85


Bowler..........Overs.....Maiden.....Runs.....Wickets

Llewellyn..........9..............0...........29............0

Hough.............17.1 ..........6............23............5

Edge................16..............2............28...........4

Courtesy of :- Bolton Archives, Civic Centre, Bolton

Bolton Evening News, April 28th 1928 & April 30th 1928

ABCC HISTORY

Puda is the Bridge Hero as Trophy End in a Bowl-Out

THERE was a dramatic finale to this year's Anthony Axford Indoor Cricket Trophy at Bolton School on Sunday as Astley Bridge won a bowl-out against Tonge.

For the first time in the history of this competition, which started in 1976, there was a tie in the final. The scores were level and wickets lost were the same, so there was a bowl out which went to sudden death.

Astley Bridge had batted first and made 96-5, largely due to 34 from Irfan Puda, ably supported by Ismal Patel, with 18, and Joe Ducker (17 not out). Pick of the bowlers for Tonge was Sojab Haji, with 1-17.

In reply, Tonge also made 96-5 with 41no from Dane Hargreaves, which earned him the man-of-the-match award.

Tonge needed 14 off the last over to win and only managed 13 to level the scores.

Each team had to choose two players to bowl two overs each and at the end of this it was one wicket for each team.

Astley Bridge skipper, Millen Patel, receives the Anthony Axford Indoor Cricket Trophy from George Finney, Axford's Timber representative. Pictures by Harry McGuire

Astley Bridge skipper, Millen Patel, receives the Anthony Axford Indoor Cricket Trophy from George Finney, Axford's Timber representative. Pictures by Harry McGuire


It then became sudden death and Astley Bridge ran out the winner when Puda hit the wickets.

To get to the final, Bridge had to overcome Farnworth.

They batted first and were all out for 82, with Simon Booth taking 1-8 from his three overs. Top scorer for Astley Bridge was Ismal Patel, with 22.

In reply, Farnworth were going along nicely for the first six overs, having scored 41-2, when things went wrong. Trying to hit out and score, they were caught and were all out for 59 in the 10th over.

Astley Bridge will now represent the North West Cricket League in the next stage of the national six-a-side competition.

By Karen Knott | Bolton News, January 31st 2024

Inaugural Season in North West Cricket League: Completed

Irfan Puda inspired Astley Bridge secured a top-12 place in next season’s Anthony Axford North West Cricket League by the skin of their teeth following a remarkable Saturday win at Salesbury.

This wasn’t quite a winner takes all game as Salesbury still beat the cut and will be playing top division cricket in 2024 courtesy of claiming seven points from a final round game which saw them bowl Astley Bridge out for 92 but fail to chase the low target.

But both teams started the day knowing they could miss out.

Ultimately, this game was decided by Puda’s heroics. He firstly hit a vital 20 off 47 balls from number nine before taking a brilliant 5-16 from eight overs as Bridge claimed their 11th win from 23 matches, finishing ninth.

One of his wickets was Salesbury sub professional James Bracey caught at long-on for an innings-high 27.

Bracey, batting at number three, played two Tests for England against New Zealand as recently as 2021 and hit a double century for Gloucestershire in last month’s Metro Bank One-Day Cup.

“He got off to a good start, but it did almost feel like every single run was on him,” said Astley Bridge captain Matthew Hargraves. “No disrespect to Salesbury, but I felt they were relying on the pro a bit.

“It’s always a bit daunting coming up against someone like that with the record he’s got.

“But we felt we had a real chance if we got him early, which we did. He came down the track and tried to smash Irfan for six and was caught at long-on. It was a good catch (by Millen Patel).”

Opener Krishnan Patel top-scored for visitors Bridge with 21, while Elliott Simpson claimed 4-32 from 12 overs for Salesbury, who finished 11th, added to Ollie Wetton’s three wickets.

In reply, Salesbury reached 34-1, only for Bracey’s departure to spark a collapse to 60-8. A recovery followed to 83-8, only for Puda to strike again and Haaris Akhtar to take the winning wicket.

“Before the game, there were a few nerves – in both camps, to be honest,” continued Hargraves. “It was a bit of a crunch match.

“We were a bit nervous going into the second innings as well!

“But as soon as we got a few early wickets, we settled down and felt we had a real chance.

“Irfan was absolutely brilliant with the ball and bat. With the bat, I said, ‘Go and play your natural game, build a partnership’. That’s exactly what he did. I couldn’t ask for much more.”

So, once the dust settles on this close shave, how does Hargraves mastermind progression in 2024?

“We need to improve,” he said. “We were slightly unlucky with a few of the rained off games. We had a couple where we were in decent positions.

“A few new signings need to be made. We’re looking for a new pro (to replace Lesiba Ngoepe). We want a definite batter who can contribute a bit with the ball. That’s been a decent fit for us over the last couple of years.

“We’re re-signing Ulli (Bronkhorst, South Africa) as overseas amateur. He’s a great player and a great lad around the club, helping with junior training and things like that.

“A few of the senior players didn’t have the best season they’ve ever had. We need to step up next year.

“If we do, we can hopefully push for the top half of the top division.”

And on the first year of the NWCL, Hargraves added: “It’s been a great year.

“It’s been good to play at some new grounds against new faces. The lads have really enjoyed it, and it’s been fantastic for both leagues coming together like we have.”

By Graham Hardcastle | Match-Day 23 Weekly Round-Up, NWCL.co.uk 19/09/23

Bridge Make History With Their First Hamer Triumph

ASHER Zaidi put in a man-of-the-match display to fire Astley Bridge to their first ever Hamer Cup win in 92 years on Sunday.

The Bolton Cricket League showpiece took place at Farnworth and Zaidi hit a century before taking three wickets to help his side beat league leaders Westhoughton.

Shahzad Patel (23) and Jack Bentham (34) set Bridge on their way with a quickfire 48-run opening partnership before Zaidi, batting at four, hit 106 from 89 deliveries, including three sixes and 12 fours.

Shivan Perera contributed 32 in a vital 98-run partnership with his professional, while Ayaz Tasawar (3-33) and Marlon Welcome-Goodman (3-37) were the pick of the Westhoughton bowlers.

WINNERS: Astley Bridge skipper, Yasir Rashid, celebrates lifting the Hamer Cup with David Cryer, right. . Picture by Harry McGuire

Losing wickets at regular intervals, Westhoughton were indebted to Tasawar for keeping the game alive with his 69 - the last-wicket partnership being worth 49 in their 169 all out.

Zaidi took 3-32 to add to his century, and Haaris Akhtar also took three wickets.

They may have suffered cup heartbreak, but Westhoughton may be just a couple of matches from securing the championship.

By Ray Taylor | Bolton News, August 16th 2022

A photo showing the Hamer Cup winning team. Players from left to right:  Back Row: Shivan Perera, Ifran Puda, Ismael Pate (12th Man), Millen Patel, Jack Bentham, Ashar Zaidi (Pro), Robert Astley (Scorer)  Front Row: Shahzad Patel, Haaris Akhtar, Richard Northrop, Yasir Rashid (Captain), David Cryer, Matthew Hargraves (WK)

Players from left to right:

Back Row: Shivan Perera, Irfan Puda, Ismael Patel (12th Man), Millen Patel, Jack Bentham, Ashar Zaidi (Pro), Robert Astley (Scorer)

Front Row: Shahzad Patel, Haaris Akhtar, Richard Northrop, Yasir Rashid (Captain), David Cryer, Matthew Hargraves (WK)

Astley Bridge in the Beginning?

Halliwell were one of the founder members of the Bolton and District Cricket Association in 1889 and performed with some distinction, being Cross Cup winners in 1897. For some reason they did not appear in the league after 1899 when they finished mid-table. Halliwell Road Wesleyians promoted from section A to the first division for the 1900 season were a different team, and became Halliwell in their own right in 1905, and became Astley Bridge in 1921.

Barry Taylor

Cricket Club's Every Move Dogged By Builders

Over 60 years ago Halliwell Cricket Club had its headquarters at Bennetts, Halliwell, but eventually building development thereabouts compelled the club to seek another ground. Shortly after the turn of the century a ground was acquired in the Cobden Street area of Astley Bridge. In reply to "Curious". tradition dies hard, and it was not until 1921 that a change of name from Halliwell Cricket Club to that of its present place of residence. Astley Bridge, was made. Several years late, land development again compelled the club to seek new headquarters. This time the cause of the upheaval was the construction of Crompton Way, which cut right through the ground. A move was then made to a pitch alongside Belmont Road but this was very short lived, and by 1930 the club had moved to its present ground at Sharples Park. Here again a large slice of land had to be sacrificed for the construction of Moss Bank Way. And in 1948 when the club's landlord, the Bleachers' Association, decided to put the land up for sale, members and local businessmen rallied round to help raise the £3,200 and keep the club's headquarters.

Bolton Evening News, July 11th 1963

The Cobden Connection

All league cricket in Bolton at that time was under the auspices of the Bolton and District Cricket Association, which was formed in 1989, and Halliwell Cricket Club was in the top division. The cricket drew very big crowds, and young boys used to crawl between the feet of about three rows of spectators and sit on the grass in front. To get to the ground we used to go through the fields and use a little gate ; the main gate was at the other side of the ground, and spectators used to crowd to the ground down a short street called Cobden Street. This ran between two gable ends of houses in Holland Street and then some hen pens on the left hand side, and Ashworth's spinning mill and lodge on the right.

From Cricket in My Life. Arthur L Hargreaves

ABCC History File

1925 was a great year for Astley Bridge Cricket Club, winning the championship of the East Section of the Bolton & District League, also the winning of the cup and the flag. They had seven batters on the League averages. N J Mitchell and G Rogerson holding the two top League positions. J Entwistle and Len Tobutt (Pro) having the two top positions in the League bowling averages. The batters scored 3658 runs for the loss of only 153 wickets. They beat Eagley in the Cross Cup Final at Heaton 182 - 184 for 8.

As the champions of East Section played the Champions of the West Section, ABCC defeated Horwich RMI at Bridgeman Park on Sept. 12th. Astley Bridge 177 - Horwich 66 to win the flag.

Little wonder Mr Aspinall at the club general meeting on Friday Dec. 4th 1925 said as Secretary how proud he was of the team's achievements and although £144 was needed for the Pro's services the gate receipts had been £258. 2s 11p

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