THE future looks bright for Airedale Cricket Club after a tough 18 months during the pandemic.

And with a focus on developing their junior section, newly-elected chairman Scott Ritchie is hopeful that the club will bounce back stronger than ever in 2022.

Airedale CC were founded in 1956 as WASK’s Works Cricket Club by Ken “Biff” Smith and Ken Sharp, who soon moved their base from Marley Tip Top to the club’s present home off Bradford Road in Riddlesden.

Originally members of the West Bradford League, they joined the Craven & District Cricket League in the 1970s, where they still compete today, with teams in Divisions Two and Four.

Their ground, nicknamed the ‘Airedale Oval’ due to its large shape, is bordered by the picturesque grounds of East Riddlesden Hall and farmland, with players regularly becoming acquainted with the inquisitive cows and sheep when retrieving a ball.

A traditional cricket pitch, the Oval’s first major renovation came at the turn of the century with the construction of a new cricket pavilion, named in honour of the late David Mills, who drove the project through to completion.

Despite their low-lying ground flooding often, the pavilion managed to escape the 2015 Boxing Day floods by just inches, prompting work with the National Trust to secure further investment in a new score box, and a defibrillator, kindly donated by sponsors Airedale Chemicals.

Their clubhouse bar, appropriately named The Last Drop by player Matt Gill, is also a hive of activity after matches, with the club priding themselves on their friendly atmosphere.

And with the fully-licensed facility, run by a range of volunteers, Airedale have earned a reputation across the league for their fantastic hospitality and cricket teas.

But on the pitch, the lockdown, and restrictions that came with it, began to take its toll, as Ritchie explains.

He said: “During the pandemic, we unfortunately lost a number of players. Some retired from sport altogether and some found other sports, due to cricket being one of the last recreational sports to return.

“Even when it did return, the restrictions that were put in place made the games longer and the social aspect was almost non-existent.

“We were required to sanitize the ball and our hands seven or eight times an innings and the traditional ‘cricket teas’ which we pride ourselves on were not allowed.

“We also had to arrive already changed into our cricket whites and couldn’t use the clubhouse at all – it was really difficult.”

Opting out of the Craven League’s 2020 Covid mini-leagues, Airedale instead used the pandemic to play a range of inter-club friendly matches, as well as developing their long-term future by securing funding from the BMDC Sport Community Chest for their junior section.

They would return to league action the following season, with their first team finishing sixth in Division Two, and their second team eighth in Division Four.

But despite restrictions cancelling their annual “Biff Day” fundraiser, the highlight of the club’s calendar was the Cowling Cup finals day, eventually won by Oakworth CC, who claimed a clean sweep of honours in the process.

“It was very refreshing to return to some normality after the challenging times,” Ritchie added.

“It was a time in which restrictions had been lifted and we were lucky to have been able to play host to a fantastically competitive competition played in great spirits.

“All four of the teams involved were wonderful guests, and along with all the spectators, it made the event a huge success.

“Everybody who attended agreed that it was a great day and were very complimentary about the pitch and our hospitality, which made us all very proud.”

Anybody who is interested in sponsoring the club or joining as a member for the 2022 season is urged to contact Scott Ritchie by emailing