South African Pieter Strydom and his Netherfield CC team-mates enjoyed a golden summer back in 2001. With the start of the cricket season only weeks away, Ross McLean tracks down the only professional in the club's history to spend three seasons at Parkside Road to reflect on those glory days

HAVING chalked up the best part of a decade in English professional cricket, former Netherfield trailblazer Pieter Strydom casts little doubt on the club he believes ticks all the right boxes.

The South African all-rounder signed on the dotted line back in 2001 and by the end of his first Parkside Road summer was a league and cup double-winner.

Further success followed 12 months later as Netherfield retained the cup following an eight-wicket success against Lancaster, although it is his first year which resonates most with the man dubbed ‘Striker’.

With four centuries to his name, Strydom played a major part in Netherfield’s assault on all fronts that season with both bat and ball.

He topped the Northern League batting averages that year after amassing 1158 runs at an average of 77.20 while his left-arm spin claimed 45 victims at 16.09.

And despite Netherfield boasting an esteemed list of high-calibre professionals, after being awarded a third stint at the club he remains the sole member of the most exclusive club in town.

“Netherfield is the most professional cricket club I have been fortunate to play for,” he said.

“There was always a fair amount of pressure for any new pro arriving at the club due to high profile players who had signed for the club previously.

“But that pressure was offset by the strength of the team – there was depth and they did not solely rely on the pro. This gave me the ability to play more freely.

“There was always two or three players who themselves could perhaps have played as professional or maybe even county seconds – it was by far the best cricket club I played for in England.

“Netherfield were used to winning and there was almost an expectancy which made it an easy environment for me to perform.

“My team-mates were very competitive and they knew how to celebrate and I certainly take it as a compliment I was there three years which I heard isn’t the norm.

“But nevertheless, anything I did I would always be reminded that a previous pro did it further, better or more.”

Strydom’s first taste of international cricket came at the age of 30 when he represented South Africa in a One-Day International against Zimbabwe at Johannesburg in 2000.

He went on to play ten ODIs in a three-month period with his final appearance coming against Pakistan at Sharjah as the Proteas slumped to a 67-run defeat.

The right-handed batsman also played two Test matches, his debut being the controversial forfeited-innings Test against England at Centurion.

“It was a massive honour to represent my country,” he added. “It came very late in my career but those are memories that can never be taken away.

“Receiving my South African cap from Hansie (Cronje) and the team on my debut against England in 2000 was certainly the highlight.

“However, one needs to be in a set-up for much longer to almost start believing you are good enough to be on such a massive stage as well as feel part of victories achieved.

“I was only part of the set-up for a short period and never really felt I was able to contribute properly when given the small chance to do so.

“You have to learn to own such a stage and I was not part of it long enough to do exactly that. However, I feel extremely proud I had the opportunity to represent my country.”

His final Test appearance came against India at Mumbai in February 2000 – the tour during which the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal was uncovered.

After retiring from professional cricket in 2006, Strydom now lives in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with his wife Jackie and two sons Jordan and Carter.

As time moves on, Strydom still retains a great fondness for his time at Netherfield and the silverware lifted in that period.

“The management, supporters and my team-mates were awesome,” he said. “I was always looked after well and supported and for this I will always be thankful.

“The greatest memories are the trophies as after all this is what we aim to achieve. But even in 2001 we were short of previous teams as they won the Lancashire Cup as well.”