Outstanding club batsman Ken Cooke dies, 85

Outstanding club batsman Ken Cooke dies, 85

By David Beddows | 24/05/2022

Outstanding club batsman Ken Cooke dies, 85

 

ONE of the best cricketers to ever come out of Rotherham has died at the age of 85.

Ken Cooke, an opening bat and quality slow bowler, showcased his talents across the region and brought success wherever he played.

He was among the best left-handers never to play for Yorkshire and only financial considerations stopped him giving up his job at the Steel Peech and Tozer steelworks to play county cricket.

The great John Hampshire once said he could have graced any county side.

Ken's dedication to the game was shown in his teenage days at Sheffield United CC when they shared at Bramall Lane with the football club.

He'd get the bus from his home in Thrybergh, get off at the bottom of Attercliffe and walk all the way to Bramall Lane.

That's a journey he'd repeat three times a week for training and then for matches at weekends.

Ken won the Yorkshire League with Sheffield United alongside the likes of George Pope, the Derbyshire cricketer who won a Test cap for England.

The Rotherham lad's first paid cricket job came in his early 20s at Gainsborough CC.

Ken's son, Andy, said: “My dad earned £10 per game, which he said was more than he earned at work at the time.

“They used to play where Gainsborough Trinity FC played. In winter it would be used for football and then when summer came they'd just cut a wicket in the middle.”

When he was around 30, Ken came back nearer home to play for Rotherham Town, captaining the side to more successes, and stayed a few years before moving further afield again to play for Holmfirth as a semi-professional.

The West Yorkshire club paid good money, enough to lure county players like Les Bradbury and Ashley Harvey-Walker from Derbyshire and South African-born future England international Allan Lamb.

Ken helped them clean up the honours, winning the Huddersfield League and the Sykes Cup several times.

His sporting prowess wasn't limited to cricket and he excelled at other sports when he was a kid.

A talented snooker player, Ken made a 100 break when he was just ten years old and was a Yorkshire champion at table tennis at a young age.

In his later cricketing years in the mid to late 1970s, he returned to play his cricket in his home town with Rotherham Phoenix as their pro and continued well into his 40s.

Andy said: “He was one of the best cricketers Rotherham produced, up there with John Hampshire, who he played alongside at Rotherham Town. John was a great friend of my dad's. He told me, 'your dad would walk into any county team'.

“My dad had a few opportunities to play county cricket but at that time there was only him and his mother — his dad and brother had died — so he couldn't earn enough money to go full-time cricketing. People at Steel Peech and Tozer earned good money at that particular time.

“He broke a lot of records and he was sought after all over the country to play in all leagues. Every league he played in he was a success and there is not many have done that.”

Andy got the cricketing bug from his dad and was an outstanding player himself.

“I played for Rotherham and had a spell at Derbyshire but I hadn't the same temperament as my dad. He was totally laid back, nothing fazed him

“People used to pull their hair out about him, certainly Brian Sissons at Phoenix because he used to turn up late or at away grounds when they should be at home, things like that,” smiled Andy.

“I have played in a lot of leagues — Huddersfield League, Bradford League etc — and everybody all knew my dad, even down south.”

Richard Tong, a committee man at Phoenix when Ken played there, also paid tribute.

He said: “Kenny was great to watch. When he was batting he had an ability to keep the ball on the floor and if he didn't, it usually went for six.

“I had some great times at Phoenix and watching Kenny was as good as it gets.

“It's a sad loss.”

Ken's funeral is at Rotherham Crematorium on Friday, May 27 (11am) followed by a get-together at Wickersley Cricket Club.

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