Hoylandswaine have raided title challengers Thongsbridge in their bid to maintain their stranglehold on Huddersfield Cricket League honours with the signing of 2022 Overseas Player of the Year Pragam Sharma.
Elsewhere, an influx of Australians and South Africans are touching down, aiming to set the Premiership alight. JAMIE HARRISON, media manager at the Huddersfield Cricket League, previews the 2023 season. The start to the season was delayed by a week due to the wet Spring.
Newly-promoted Wesleyans achieved Premiership safety by a narrow margin last season and will have designs on a higher-placed finish this time round. Bryn Jenkins’ team have brought in two players from Queensland to add much-needed steel.
Matthew Schubert is a British Passport batsman who can also chip in with wicket-keeping or leg-spin support. His teammate at Caboolture Cricket Club is Chris Abbey and joins him as a leg-spinning all-rounder.
Belligerent opening batsman Matthew West, signed for the last nine matches of 2022, will feel like a new signing in some ways and will drive the Wesleyan batting output. All-rounder Tom Battens from Slaithwaite also comes in to give the Wesleyans some much-needed squad depth.
Ben Heritage has stepped down as skipper and taken a year off to treat a long-standing elbow injury which brings Jake Finch to the fore. Finch, who has cut his teeth as vice-captain for a number of seasons, takes over a side in good shape containing a number of exciting home-grown talents in Matty Weston, brother Harry Finch and keeper Jasper Male – all of whom have been enjoying the benefits of winter cricket in Australia. Talisman all-rounder Luke Bridges has brushed off prospective suitors by remaining with his boyhood club and will be crucial to Barkisland’s success in 2023.
Barkisland have retained much of the side that fired them to a top-half finish last term, including searing pace man Numan Akhar. They have brought in British passport overseas amateur Charlie Mitchell, a left-handed upper order batsman from New South Wales who plays 1st and 2nd grade cricket. Mitchell can also contribute with some left arm spin bowling to widen Finch’s bowling options.
Fletcher Coutts has taken over the reins at the Oak and instantly rang in the changes which he hopes will iron out some of the inconsistencies which held his side back last term.
They’ve brought in two Australians from Bayswater Morley in the Perth area. Cameron Todd is a top-order batsmen who will link up with the experienced Dom Finn and Sean Mee. Todd can also bowl a bit of off-spin to boost his side’s bowling options. His Bayswater teammate Connor Dimech joins him on the flight over who’s specifically an upper order batsman.
Leaving Oak is Ben Lowden who settled over the winter and has moved on to play his cricket at nearby Marsden; a club who experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Matty Butters has now returned to. Replacing Butters is the safe hands of former New Farnley and Yorkshire Academy man Alex Kaye who will at least match the Marsden man’s run output.
Danny Howard has largely maintained faith in the team that got them close – but not quite enough – in usurping Hoylandswaine as they finished second last season. Australian Lewis Evans was one of three prolific batsmen who topped 1,000 runs alongside the experienced Simon Kelly and talismanic Timmy Taylor and Howard is looking forward to welcoming Evans for a second season.
Opening bowler Jeremy Hackett has opted to spend the summer back in his homeland so Honley have moved to capture former East Torrens opening bowler Joel Size. Joel is also Adam Polkinghorne’s nephew who was a former professional for one season in 2000.
Size will do well to match his uncle’s exploits of taking 94 wickets in Honley’s promotion from Section B, however he should fit into an already successful side nicely.
To further enhance their squad depth, Honley have welcomed back bowler Tommy Woodhead from Slaithwaite who brings with him former Moonrakers skipper Benn Thornton and his brother Brett Thornton to stiffen up the batting.
Often the focal point of transfer activity around the league, Hoylandswaine have again had an active off season as they hope to continue their iron-like grip on the Byrom Shield and continue their five-year dominance. They have a new skipper in bullish batsman Chris Holliday, himself now an elder statesman at the club in his seventh season. Potent batsman Arron Lilley continues his fourth year at Haigh Lane and will feature heavily outside of his Leicestershire ‘day-job.’
Pragam Sharma is the big new season signing whose standout performances for Thongsbridge didn’t escape unnoticed. The sensational Delhi-based all-rounder weighed in with over 1,600 runs and took 60 wickets in an faultless debut season to win the overseas player of the year award. He’ll be a key upper order player to back up consistent performers Furqan Shafiq and Asif Iqbal, and he will sync nicely in tandem with leading spin bowler Max Morley.
Their marquee signing Junaid Khan has departed for Ossett in the Bradford League. However they’ve brought in New South Wales bowler Sol Balbi; a frontline bowler who came through the Brett Lee Cricket Academy.
UK passport-holding Balbi is returning from a long-term injury in 2021-22 and played the latter half of the Australian season this winter. Swaine’s business was finalised by bringing in squad player Matt Higgins from nearby Darfield who will push for a first team place. Barrie Frankland and Zadran Tawkal have since departed for Pudsey St Lawrence and Skelmanthorpe respectively.
Jonny Butterfield will welcome popular Sri Lankan overseas Roscoe Tahttil from Colombo for a fourth season at the club but has moved quickly to solidify Kirkburton’s batting by adding a trio of promising signings. Jack Kelly arrives from Western Australia to replace Aaron Joby in opening the batting. Kelly starred for Midland Guildford in Perth and may also help relieve proficient keeper Jonny Smith with glove duties.
Saif Bhojani comes in from Walshaw Cricket Club and is highly recommended by former player Iqbal Khan adding strength to their upper order. Shiv Bhota is a new face from Thackley CC and is an all-rounder that offers right arm seam to support the burgeoning pace bowling attack of Aaron Moore and Jack Byrne. Butterfield’s slow bowling department of which John Keeling will lead has also been swelled by the arrival of Tom Lockhart from Ilkeston Rutland in Derbyshire.
All change at Mirfield-based Moorlands as several long-serving players make a move to pastures new. Captain Eddie Walmsley will have to contend with three high-performing bowlers departing the Memorial Ground in Andrew Walker (to Lightcliffe), Darrell Sykes (to Hall Bower) and James Stansfield (to Cleckheaton).
Walmsley wasted no time in refreshing his frontline bowling options and has welcomed vastly experienced medium quick Jon Rudge from Carlton to take the new ball. Rudge is no slouch with the bat and should contribute heavily there too.
Eddie’s brother Max Walmsley has replaced Gharib Nawaz (now at Jer Lane) and will open the batting with productive batter Shoukat Ali again returning to the Moorlands.
They’ve also brought in all-rounder Luke Woodhead from Rockingham Colliery and former Woodlands batsman Brad Lay from Birstall to complement a firm nucleus of Siraj Sajid, James Rawlinson and Nadim Hussain. Chavez Younes’ arrival from Kirkburton will flesh out the batting and bowling and we may see regular first team outings for promising youngsters Braiden Fortis and Alex Rowden.
Mirfield Parish Cavaliers
Freshly promoted from a stellar 2022 campaign where they breezed through a competitive Championship, Parish will again need to step up a notch to avoid an instant return. Captain Tom Fretwell will be over the moon to welcome back Western Australian Breyden Brehaut to the fold. The Perth-based batsman smashed 1,200 runs in that remarkable unbeaten season and his input in underpinning an innings will be even more vital this time round.
Will Smeaton has left for Crossbank Methodists but Fretwell has moved to capture a familiar face in Brad Drake who comes back following a short spell at nearby Liversedge. Ben Eggington firms up his bowling options with the seam bowler expected to open the bowling with skipper Fretwell.
Replicating the impact that destructive all-rounder Jack Shelley brought to Chapelgate has been high on new skipper Benji Birkhead’s to-do list. They hope new overseas signing Mitchell Slattery will bring a similar wow factor just like compatriot Shelley when he flies in from Western Australian club Wanneroo. Slattery will feature in the top order and is joined by Perth-based left-handed all-rounder Corey Griffin.
Opening bowler Alex Walker returning to Slaithwaite after one season was a blow but Birkhead has captured Ben Tighe who comes with decent pedigree as former skipper of the GMCL’s Denton St Lawrence. Two new familiar players give Birkhead depth in a middle and lower order which needed strengthening. Big-hitting Jake Lockwood has transferred from Golcar and his teammate, former Rastrick man, Oliver Pearson will offer experience and further bowling options.
Danny Glover is placing faith in the young talent at his disposal who should hit the ground running for the new campaign. George Booth and Josh Hoyle – both of which are on the Yorkshire County pathways – are expected to kick on in 2023. Booth has been moved to open the batting and will gain vital experience with the prolific Dan Wood at the top of the order and will give the team another pace bowling option too. Highly-rated Hoyle’s leg spin should reap plenty of rewards as they seek to make Marsh Lane a fortress for visiting sides.
Glover was seeking to add bite to the upper order and acted upon the advice of former overseas Dan Anderson and brought in Oliver Hing from Western Suburbs in Sydney. Hing will feature in the top four and can keep too which gives Glover lots of wicket keeping options between Hing, Max Joice and Will Mott. Shepley’s business was capped off by luring Jack Mulhall from Lascelles Hall to complete an intimidating four pronged seam attack.
Keeping hold of the Premiership’s main run scorer Jack Newby wasn’t easy with the stylish left-hander hammering a massive 1,800 runs. Nevertheless, the Londoner – who was raised in Cape Town – has opted to continue his story at Lidgett Lane and will once again spearhead Allan Greenwood’s batting attack. Skelmanthorpe further strengthened their batting by adding fellow South African Kai Greig who struck 1,200 runs for Thongsbridge in 2022.
Former club legend Wasim Jaffer has recommended pace bowler Prayesh Singh who will replace Dev Pradhan in opening the bowling this time with Alistair Snowden also leaving the club.
Explosive all-rounder Zadran Tawkal has made a switch from Hoylandswaine after a season since moving from Edgerton & Dalton. Tawkal is renowned for big shots and will also open the bowling for Greenwood. South African Kian Schwartz completes an aggressive top four batting line-up with the dual-passport holding player plying his trade with Boksburg back home.
It’s back to the drawing board for Alex Kemp who was thwarted by the Zimbabwean national side retaining former overseas Brandon Mavuta for their summer campaign. The brilliant bowler was poised to re-sign for Kemp’s title challengers until he had a memorable winter catching the eye with some stunning displays in the Zimbabwe Pro-40 competitions. A ‘five-fer’ versus the West Indies then landed him a place in the Test squad over the summer, to Thongsbridge’s cost.
The team also lost outstanding overseas player Pragam Sharma (Hoylandswaine) and prolific upper order batter Kai Greig to (Skelmanthorpe) so an unavoidable mini-rebuild has been underway.
Undeterred, Thongsbridge have brought exciting Jiveshen Pillar to Miry Lane as an opening batsman who has starred for Titans in South Africa and is a teammate of international star Quinton De Kock. Pillar came through the South African U19’s team and is a big prospect in his homeland.
Thongsbridge has also captured a UK passport-holding South African 21-year old Jack Lees to firm up the top order and will supplement the bowling with his off-spin.
Aussie all-rounder Keiran Abrams has returned to the club for season number two after his debut in 2022. Kemp’s team has been finished off with local all-rounder and former Slaithwaite and Elland man Rohan Randhawa dropping anchor and popular spinner Will Reeves making a local switch to Holmfirth.