KEN GARDNER, a stalwart of Hartlepool Cricket Club and a huge influence on the North-East game at all levels, has been inducted into the North Yorkshire South Durham League Hall of Fame.

He is only the third individual to join the illustrious ranks and the presentation was made to his family at last weekend's annual awards dinner.

Gardner was unable to attend the event due to illness, but the award was greeted by a rousing standing ovation from the 400-plus crowd, which included Alec Stewart, the former England wicketkeeper and batsman who was guest of honour on the evening.

NYSD league president Chris West said: "I was enormously privileged to take over as president from Ken eight years ago.

"The only thing that worried me was that I was following in the footsteps of a giant of the NYSD.

"We met over lunch so Ken could pass on all the current issues which the committee were having to deal with… he gave me a hand written 21 point list, and as we went through he added his usual twist of humour to each one.

"Point 17 just said ‘players' to which he warned me: "Don't listen to what the players say, Chris, they haven't got a bloody clue what's going on!''

He added: "Ken has had a passionate lifetime love affair with cricket - as a player he was an excellent, if extremely talkative wicketkeeper.

"His playing stats are pretty impressive, around 600 catches, 200 stumpings and another 2,342 talked out!

"He served Hartlepool as committee man, secretary, chairman, president and numerous other roles for over 50 years. Ken was a committee member of Durham for 35 years - through their minor counties days and into the first-class game.

"From the NYSD League point of view the simple facts are that he served on the management committee for more than 30 years and was President from 1995 to 2003.

"But those bare facts simply do not tell the story of the man, and the influence he has had on league cricket and the development of the game in the region.

"The Hall of Fame was started three years ago - I would hazard a guess that in 103 years time the roll call of inductees will still not include anyone more deserving.''

Park Drive chairman Alan Jackson joined Gardner's family on stage at the Tall Trees Hotel and echoed the glowing praise.

"You can see the depth of feeling from Ken within in our great game and it was a really moving moment,'' he said.

"I know his wife, Carol, and son, Mathew, were taken aback by the standing ovations and emotional reception they received on the night.

"A great example of the affection in which Ken is held came over the summer.

"He hadn't been well and I took him to Darlington to watch our first team and sat him down with his usual half-pint and Hamlet cigar - and the amount of people who came up to him to talk cricket really switched a light on for him.

"It's a shame we were pipped at the post by Marton in bringing the title back to HQ - which is what Ken has always referred to Park Drive as - but the induction into the Hall of Fame has made everyone at the club very proud and humbled.''

The other names in the Darlington Building Society NYSD Hall of Fame are Guisborough batsman Graham Shaw - the only non-overseas player in North-East cricket to have made more than 50 senior centuries - and Jon Barnes , among a handful to have done the career double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets.