Remembering Syd Rich

 

A native of the West Country, Syd’s family relocated to Yorkshire and he followed his elder brother Ken down to East Leeds, making his senior debut as a fast, but slightly wayward bowler in 1958.

Syd’s performance improved over the following seasons and he soon became Alan Bowden’s regular new ball partner in the second team.

In a career which lasted through to 1982, he amassed a club record of 898 wickets at the impressive average of 13.49 and taking five wickets in an innings on no fewer than 41 occasions; another record.

Three particular performances stand out in the memory; firstly, a 17 over spell of 6-46 against a strong Woodhouse 1st XI in 1974 when he mastered the notorious hill at the Meanwood Road end, taking off from the top to land neatly at the bowling crease; any quick bowlers who have played at Woodhouse will testify for the difficulty in adapting to the hill, yet Syd, in a leap reminiscent of a National winner tackling Beecher’s Brook did so; and to great effect.

The following year, back in the 2nd XI, Syd wrecked the Great Preston line-up with 8-15 at home which included a hat-trick to match that taken by John Mellor in the 1st XI’s corresponding fixture at Berry Lane the same day.

1976 saw Syd demolish Garforth 2nd XI at home in a spell of 9-25; the last man being run-out. This analysis Alan Weir’s 8-8 and stood as a record until Michael Roberts’s 9-16 in 1997.

To watch Syd bowl was a comforting sight for whilst his pace dropped, (though not as far as his arm), his accuracy was such that he rarely came in for serious punishment as his career economy rate of 2.64 testifies. Shaping the ball away from the right-hander, when conditions suited he could be devastating and each delivery was preceded by a consistent and unshakeable ritual; firstly, Syd would peer over the top of his glasses to inspect the condition of the ball before slicking back his black hair, polishing the ball on his flannels which were then ceremoniously hitched up and turning to commence a galloping run to the crease. When he did take a wicket, he generally seemed momentarily bewildered before cracking into a wide and infectious grin.

A batsman of negligible gifts, Syd did, nevertheless have an impressive cover drive in his armoury which he demonstrated to great effect against the hostile bowling of Alan Dickinson at Great Preston in 1979; promoted in the order to a nose-bleed inducing number three to allow an early departure to pick up his family for a week at the East Coast, (he would return on Friday!); Syd’s quick fire 30 drove the belligerent bowler out of the attack. In all, Syd scored 1,646 runs at an average of 7.38 with a highest score of 37 for the 2nd XI at Kirkstall in 1977.

As a fielder, Syd possessed a strong and accurate arm for the deep but was generally reluctant to use his hands when a handy boot could just as easily be deployed; his most remarkable feat saw the end of a grief-stricken Kenny Oldroyd when Syd, unusually finding himself at gully, stuck out a boot to a late cut from the Carlton skipper; the ball popped up into Syd’s right hand and he promptly threw down the wicket with the unlucky batsman a couple of yards out of his crease. In all, Syd took a total of 75 catches in league and cup matches.

Syd was a hard worker for East Leeds and served on the committee for over 20 years; many of these in the pivotal role of Treasurer as well as assisting, then taking over from Jack Render as the curator of Pontefract Lane’s hallowed turf.

Syd’s elder son, Chris was a pacy and promising bowler at junior level however his opportunities in the senior sides did not come as quickly nor often as perhaps they ought to have and, after skippering the 2nd XI in 1982, Syd and Chris went off to play alongside each other in the Harrogate and Wetherby leagues for a number of years.

Whilst cricket and golf were Syd’s sporting passions, he was very much the family man; his wife, Marion accompanied Sybil Steel in preparing 36 teas each Saturday for the best part of two decades and still had change from a fiver! Chris, younger brother Dean, (who also turned out occasionally for the 2nd XI) and Tracey, the youngest spent many happy days at Pontefract Lane, just a stone’s throw from their home on the Copperfields.

Syd’s later years were badly affected by dementia and he withdrew from all but those closest to him before he passed away at Christmas last year, but his memory will be cherished by all who knew him as a thoroughly good man.