Craig Sugden had played in the UK prior to his one season at Crimble in 2002. A prolific batsman who was on course to break Steve Wundke’s record for runs in a season; Craig ended with 1,296 runs at an average of just under 65 despite having to return to South Africa missing the last few games of the year.
His influence on a young, developing side including Will Purser, Bobby Cross, Steve Wallwork and Rob Slawson would prove to be the catalyst for a decade of success that would follow. It was unfortunate that Craig was unable to return to Crimble and that his professional career ended far too young. He looks back on his summer at Heywood:
Firstly, great to hear from you Craig…
Thank you, I have been Inspired to recall a number of memories I had at Crimble after reading the very generous words of Bobby Cross in his Crimble Memories. Thank you Bobby.
Do you recall your first impressions of Heywood?
After spending a few seasons of playing English league cricket , it is the size of Crimble that initially overwhelms you. The thoughts of “how on earth am I going to get enough runs on this?” but also a little relieved as my bowling was definitely the weakest part of my game. The setting and natural atmosphere made Crimble one of my favourite grounds, but don’t think I got enough runs there though.
Do you remember your debut?
I don’t think I particularly impressed on my debut, but may have got my best bowling figures of 3/43, it was a home game at Crimble.
Looking back you had an amazing summer with the bat?
It was not long into the season that I got injured with a side strain, much to the clubs relief as my early season bowling form left a lot to be desired. I then focused on my batting and was very lucky to have a rich vein of form early on in the season. This really takes the pressure off a new pro and allowed me to feel part of the team and enjoy the banter with the lads.
Any games or performances that stood out?
My two great memories was getting 146* at Werneth and then a 100 vs Ramsbottom, whose pro at the time was a young Michael Clarke. Michael Clarke was the biggest name pro of that year 2002, but the week in week out performance of Asif Mujtaba was really incredible.
Any favourite on field memories?
My partnership with Bobby Cross at the top of the order was one that I look back on fondly. How Bobby did not get a 100 that season is one of the great travesties. He was head and shoulders the best amateur that year and seems it was the platform for his continued success. He was solid in defence but a joy to watch when he unshackled himself and played freely. Will Purser bowled his heart out for the team, with the experienced old dogs of Rick Purser and Dave Fare keeping us in the game.
What about off the field?
Most of my enjoyment came when the games were done, and have fond memories of nights at the club, even daring to venture into Bury on occasions. Getting a telling off from the league for introducing music to the game, it must have been the bad DJ at the time. The fellowship, open and welcoming nature of all the Heywood members made my stay a memorable one.
Your cricket career seemed to end far too soon, why did you stop playing?
I retired from first class cricket in 2004 , the year 20/20 cricket really took off and was fortunate to play in a few initial series. I currently work for Investec specialist bank and play social cricket for Cricket CC. The only regrets I have of my year at Crimble was ending the 2002 season prematurely and not returning for another season and to fall short of my 1500 run goal for the season.
To the members, team mates, Dave Fare and the Cross family, thank you for the warm hospitality throughout my stay. I look back fondly at the summer of 2002.
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