Howzat for a fitting send-off on cricket-mad Yorkshire police officer's last day

On his last day of active service as a police officer, it was a fitting send-off for a keen sportsman who has often been on duty at the home of Yorkshire cricket.

Sgt Paul Dennison with England batsman Joe Root
Sgt Paul Dennison with England batsman Joe Root

Police Sergeant Paul Dennison was given the task of ringing the bell signalling the start of the day’s play at the Headingley Test Match - and he took to it with gusto.

So much so that part of the bell came off in the 49-year-old’s hand as he performed the ceremonial task on Friday morning, much to the amusement of an England cricketing superstar standing nearby.

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“Joe Root was standing next to me when I broke the bell and was laughing his head off,” said Mr Dennison, a father-of-two from Wakefield who retires officially after 30 years service on June 1. “I must have been too excited, it was the string that came out, the piece of metal inside the bell.”

Mr Dennison has his picture taken by a colleague with all-rounder Mooen Ali

The West Yorkshire Police officer was given the honour on the second day of England’s opening Test of the summer against Sri Lanka, where he was on duty for his last day of active service.

He said: “It is a coincidence that I have done a lot of public order jobs at Headingley anyway. I am a cricket coach, that is one of the things that someone has latched onto, I coach local kids and I play cricket.

“It does get a bit lively at Headingley when they get going on the Western Terrace, we had to eject nine nuns on the Friday.

“The bronze commander in charge that day, he got wind of the fact that it was my last working day. I have to go in on June 1 but it is just a case of handing my kit in.

Paul Dennison with England's man-of-the-match Jonny Bairstow

“He had been in touch with Yorkshire Cricket Club and asked them if there was anything they could do. There was a nice tannoy announcement about it and they let me ring the bell.

“They said that when the umpires walk on I should ring the bell, and that this alerts the batsmen to come down so that play can start. It is important in that it starts the day’s play in all the Headingley Tests.”

As well as meeting the England team and being given a tour of the stadium’s impressive media facility, he got to meet cricketing legends Ian Botham and Michael Holding.

He said: “Being in my age group, I am a massive fan of Michael Holding and Ian Botham. I am a bowler myself so Ian Botham was a bit of an icon for me, and Holding was one of the greatest ever.

Mr Dennison has his picture taken by a colleague with all-rounder Mooen Ali

“Botham was the first I met, I got a picture with him, Michael Holding and most of the England team.

“One of the pictures was posted on the UK Cop Humour website and there were hundreds of comments from around the world. There were lots of nice comments, mostly about my age.”

Mr Dennison, originally from Pontefract, has been with the Leeds Outer East neighbourhood policing unit, covering Cross Gates, Whinmoor, Garforth and Methley, for 18 months. Prior to that was with Rothwell NPT for eight years.

He started his policing career in 1986 in a response team based at Holbeck, and did attachments with CID and drugs squad. During his career, he was involved in the policing of riots in Bradford, Dewsbury and Harehills in Leeds.

Paul Dennison with England's man-of-the-match Jonny Bairstow

He said: “They were challenging times, but it is something you almost look back on at the camaraderie of it all and sticking together. It is how you might feel in the Army when you feel like everyone is against you and that resilience coming through.”

Mr Dennison is a keen sportsman and will help organise a charity football match to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research in the coming days.

Asked about his future plans, he said: “There is nothing set in stone yet, it would be nice to do something to do with sport but there are no major plans as yet.

“It will be a sad time, I have been out on the street during all my time, I have not been tucked away at a desk. It has been hard but it has been enjoyable.

“I just feel like I am on holiday at the moment, until that time comes when I eventually do leave and think ‘I am not coming back’, that will feel a bit strange.”