The Huddersfield Cricket League is back on Easter Saturday and the league’s media and press secretary JAMIE HARRISON offers his analysis on what to expect.
Junaid Khan is aiming for a sparkling season at Premiership champions Hoylandswaine who are once again firmly setting their sights on silverware.
Kirkburton and Shepley have also made some eye-catching signings and Skelmanthorpe show they mean business after their stellar season and promotion in 2021.
In an extra competitive Premiership, teams will once again find it tough to prize away Swaine’s iron-grip on the Byrom Shield, especially with a player of Junaid Khan’s quality spearheading their attack.
The left-arm fast bowler possesses a wealth of international-class quality after appearing in 76 ODIs for Pakistan. He has also played over thirty Test matches and T20 internationals and also helped Lancashire to T20 Blast glory in 2014.
Partnering him in Hoylandswaine’s menacing bowling attack is Delph & Dobcross’ prized asset Umer Yaqoob who has taken over 150 wickets since signing in 2018.
As usual, the revolving door seems well oiled at Haigh Lane with several departing players being replaced seemingly with those of equal quality.
Talented wicketkeeper Sam Johnson has been replaced by big hitting batsman-keeper Jack Seddon from Buttershaw St Paul’s (formerly of Gomersal). Alex Peters has headed back to Saddleworth, Uppermill being his new destination after one season so Barrie Frankland has come in from Pudsey St Lawrence.
Shepley have rung wholesale changes following a disappointing 2021 by bringing brothers Danny and Craig Glover back to the fold.
Danny spent a season away from Marsh Lane at Hanging Heaton last term whereas Craig has rejoined from nearby Clayton West having played there since 2015. Incoming Will Mott (Delph) takes the gloves from Max Joice to allow him to focus on batting. Sam Askey has been signed from Green Moor to offer more all-round options along with Awais Ejaz (Bilton).
Their overseas player is young Indian Panav Susarla who impressed for Toombul (Queensland) over the winter by scoring 543 runs at an average of 31.94.
Moorlands pushed Hoylandswaine most of the way in the Premiership and even pipped them to Sykes Cup and T20 honours. They have kept the team reasonably intact. Declan Jackson is an upper order batsman from Canberra and should be a handy replacement for the departing Andrew Wood who has left for Altofts.
Golcar, who finished third have opted for a ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ approach this term having kept most of their team together but may possibly bring in an overseas player in to solidify their batting.
Kirkburton had a superb late surge to finish fifth last season and could be a strong candidate this time around having retained most of their impressive young side and have added strength in depth.
A highly-rated 17-year-old left-handed batsman from South Brisbane called Aaron Joby, who holds a UK passport, will be looking to make an impression whereas down the order, Sam Wrigglesworth from Wrenthorpe, comes in.
To complete the picture at Riley Lane, the familiar face of Craig Fletcher is back for his third spell at the club following on from four seasons at Bradford Premier League side Cleckheaton.
Honley have drafted two talented overseas youngsters to give captain Timmy Taylor more weaponry. Lewis Evans is a former South Australian U19 top order batsman from East Torrens (Michael Cranmer’s home club) and should learn a lot from batting alongside Far End Lane cornerstone Simon Kelly. Joining Lewis is Indian quick bowler Pritesh Mistry who had a spell at Buttershaw St Paul’s in 2021 taking 28 wickets.
Thongsbridge have lost Harry Franklin after a move down south. The tall batsman scored 750 runs during a brilliant campaign last term but Pragam Sharma, an upper order batsman from Delhi should keep the batting line-up looking strong. Kai Greig enjoyed a perfectly satisfactory debut season with 595 runs and has returned to the club again from Down Under.
Scholes, meanwhile, should see more of James Wharton and Benji Birkhead after Yorkshire Academy withdrew from the ECB league and will play more midweek matches.
Tom Brook has picked up a challenge at Townville who just missed out on the Bradford League Premiership title. His replacement is medium pace bowler Alex Walker who joins from relegated Slaithwaite.
Armitage Bridge have also plundered Slaithwaite for bowlers Nathan Cyrus and Sohail Butt to replace the outgoing Jamie Hopper. South African Bevan Coveley returns for a second season to hopefully build on his steady impact last year.
BARKISLAND AND BROAD OAK
Barkisland and Broad Oak will have their new men on display against each other on the opening day of the season. Pakistan paceman Numan Akhbar has made the switch to Calderdale from Shepley where he took 47 wickets and Saliq Rashid is a classy top order bat who has joined from Monton.
Broad Oak meanwhile, have swooped for one of the league’s best batsman wicketkeepers, arriving for his second spell at the club. Matty Butters returned down the Colne Valley from Marsden having enjoyed a two-season spell with them in 2015-16.
Oak have added South Australian Ben Lowden as their overseas player too, and have signed Fletcher Coutts, an all-rounder from Burley-In-Wharfedale who took 31 wickets and scored 347 runs in 2021.
DELPH AND DOBCROSS
Delph & Dobcross narrowly avoided the drop twice in the last two campaigns but responded to the loss of their talismanic opening bowler Umer Yaqoob by signing one of the top flight’s most fearsome weapons, Adnan Ghani.
The tall fast bowler was left out by the champions to accommodate Junaid Khan so Delph swooped quickly to snap up a player who has taken over 200 wickets in only four seasons.
They’ve also added top order batsman Nathan Walker from Friarmere as a replacement for Will Mott behind the stumps and former Shepley and Carlton bowler Arman Hussain also boosts the attack.
The club are awaiting their overseas player Punya Mehra from the UAE to obtain his visa. The young opening batsman starred during the recent U19 World Cup in the West Indies with several big performances.
SKELMANTHORPE AND ALMONDBURY WESLEYANS
Skelmanthorpe and Almondbury Wesleyans intend to compete strongly following their promotions from the Championship. They were both the standout teams outside the top division and have recruited over the winter.
Skelmanthorpe’s old pro Wasim Jaffer recommended Debabrata Pradhan, an Indian seam bowler. Jack Newby is a UK passport holder from Western Province in South Africa and hammered 1,500 runs for Norwich in 2019. Sam Tyas offers bowling strength, joining from neighbours Clayton West.
The Wesleyans also turned to their former professional Freddie Walker who sent them Jed Wiggins from Eastern Suburbs in New Zealand, a bowler who took 45 wickets over the winter. Chris Stott returns to the club after a short spell at Sykes Cup winners Moorlands.