BOWLING Old Lane have a storied history in the Bradford Premier League, and the club appears to be on the rise again after battling back from adversity and a double relegation in the last decade.

Many famous names have graced the Old Lane pitch, including Pakistani legend Mohammed Yousuf and former England Test opener Bill Athey.

Founded in 1905, their early 20th century superstars included all-rounder Charles Grimshaw, who finished the 1924 league season with a bowling average of 6.38, and fearsome fast bowler and World War One veteran Fred Root.

Those days are long gone now, but after falling on hard times, the club’s famous “Three Musketeers”, Geoff Hanson, Michael Hope and Brian Clough, worked tirelessly to keep the side going.

All three were popular Old Lane players in their day and continued to give their all during their many decades on the club’s committee.

Sadly, only club secretary Hanson is still alive today, and there would have been no prouder man than him when first team captain Farakh Hussain lifted the club’s first piece of silverware in 39 years, the Jack Hampshire Cup, last August.

They had a disappointing mid-table finish in Championship Two after relegation from the second tier in 2017, but stormed to cup success with a six-wicket win over Keighley in the final.

Hussain felt it was easy to explain their contrasting fortunes, saying: “We were able to get a strong XI out on Sundays for the cup, but we struggled for that on Saturday because of work and religious commitments.

“We said we could have won the league if we’d had our best team every Saturday and once we’d made a strong start in the cup with that XI, we realised we had a good chance of winning it.”

Hussain scored an extraordinary 426 runs in the tournament and he stressed the importance of setting an example.

He explained: “It’s important to lead from the front as captain and I got runs in all the cup games. The others would see me doing it and think they could do the same.

“A lot of us grew up together and played cricket as kids and I have to show leadership as the captain of our close group.”

Ahsan Butt was the side’s other prolific run-getter in the Jack Hampshire Cup and Hussain was full of praise for the experienced new recruit.

He said: “Ahsan is such a pro and he’s got more cricket knowledge and experience than all of us.

“He’d won the Jack Hampshire Cup before and he knew its importance to this club. He’s a great player and hopefully he’ll be just as important for us in 2019.”

Asked what next season holds for Bowling Old Lane, Hussain said: “The number one goal has to be promotion, though hopefully we can retain the Jack Hampshire Cup too.

“This club needs to be back in the top division as soon as possible because there’s no justice in us being down here with our history.”

Bowling Old Lane’s junior development officer Haqueq Siddique is proud of the club’s progression over the last two decades.

He said: “A few us came in around 1998 and sorted out some of the historic problems like vandalism.

“I am head of the West Bowling Youth Initiative and the cricket club is a big part of that. We use it all year round for youth projects, social functions and weekly events.

“For six or seven years, we’ve had a dads and kids night every Wednesday (6-8pm) for them to spend time together and give their mums a break.

“We also help about six excluded kids from schools in the area with their GCSEs every Monday-Thursday.

“There’s the chance to do cooking, eating and reading here and it’s essential as there aren’t many places big enough to do this.

“Kids also get the chance to play indoor cricket at the Parkside Centre in West Bowling.”

Siddique believes that cricket has an important role to play when it comes to the area’s youth population.

He said: “There are high rates of youth unemployment, especially in the inner cities.

“In West Bowling, we are trying to engage 16-25 year olds through volunteering and sports, and lots end up being involved in cricket, with projects on the side.

“We look to combine cricket and social aspects. We’re hoping to link up with teams outside the city and create a “buddy” project with a similar club.

“There’s also the “Breaking Boundaries” scheme which Bradford is involved in. It is linked to this year’s Cricket World Cup and aims to engage the whole community, of all genders and ethnicities.

“It’s no good if we just offer opportunities to men. We want to target women and children too, with a particular focus on getting girls involved in the sport.

Siddique says that Bowling Old Lane as a club have benefitted from tireless work in the community.

He said: “There’s plenty of negativity surrounding the area but a lot of good has been done through fundraising.

“Money has gone into the club and invested in facilities. We now have seven teams at Bowling Old Lane, Under-8s, U13s, U15s, U19s, as well as three senior sides, including an Over-50s.

“Cricket has always been popular in BD5, and with us giving winter coaching in local primary schools, it helps get kids involved.

“The first and second teams both won cup competitions last season, so the seniors are doing okay, despite us going through a couple of years of turmoil.

“We want to prepare people who come to us in West Bowling for good jobs and to be good leaders. We basically have seven clubs, and we want seven leaders.”