The league have been saddened to learn of the untimely death of Graeme Hurlbatt who has passed away suddenly aged just 59. Graeme was a fiercely competitive all-rounder who enjoyed such a successful career with a number of local clubs.
Originating from Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia as it was then known), he cut his teeth in the tough school of South African cricket, representing them at under 21 level as well as playing state cricket with Natal. His first taste of local cricket was as a 19 year old professional for the now defunct Primrose Hill in 1983 where he took 59 wickets at an average of 14.
Although a useful batsman, it was his deadly swing bowling in English conditions which he perfected to become a master of the craft. Moving and settling in the UK allowed him to do that to great effect. His spell north of the border in the mid 90’s as professional at Stirling, Grange and Heriots Cricket Club opened the door to appearing for Scotland on numerous occasions.
He would settle in the Colne Valley following his signing for Broad Oak in 1986 which began a four season spell which propelled the club up Section A, culminating in a runners up finish in 1989. He would go on to take over 200 wickets for the Linthwaite-based club during that period and achieved his top score of 151no with the bat. During this chapter he broke the record for best Sykes Cup bowling figures of 9-16 in a match against Thurstonland, which still stands today.
Perhaps his crowning moment came for Skelmanthorpe; a club he spent most of his career with and also played his final cricket with. His debut season couldn’t have been more perfect as a unique treble of Bryom Shield, Sykes Cup and Examiner Mini Cricket was brought home at the first time of asking. The arrival of Hurlbatt as captain was surely a neatly fitted final piece of the jigsaw for Skelmanthorpe; the seamer would often tie an end down to open the door to speedy Pakistan test player Shahid Mahboob to create carnage at the other end.
Graeme's best seasons bowling records
Hurlbatt would spend over a decade over two spells at Lidgett Lane, punctuated by a season at Shelley, a club that had doggedly pursued him to drive their talented team to success. They finally got their man in 2005 where Shelley finished in their highest ever league position as Premiership runners up. A smidgen of luck could have seen his new club as Champions, had it not been for a wet final day at Micklehurst whilst eventual champions Honley secured their vital victory in drier circumstances at home. Silverware would come in the form of the Examiner Mini-Eights trophy, and a strong run to the Heavy Woollen Cup Quarter Finals illustrated their progress under his hand. He’d go on to play three seasons with Shelley and helped shape the club for the future.
A return to former glories at Broad Oak to close his career as he helped captain them to promotion from the Conference in 2008 following a play-off win against Marsden. By this time, an old head amongst talented homegrown players. His first team career drew to a close in 2010, but he regularly continued to turn out in second team cricket when required for the two clubs he had his closest association with; Broad Oak and Skelmanthorpe.
Our sincerest condolences go to Graeme’s wife Debra along with his children as well as his family, friends and former teammates.