Reg Nelson discusses Jer Lane’s prospects for 2019 with committee man James Nixon.
Jer Lane were always going to be a much-fancied side last year, and they duly took the Conference title with a 21-point lead on second-placed Adwalton..
Apart from a sticky start, and a mid-season blip when they were defeated by Great Preston and Adwalton in successive matches, they were the dominant Conference side.
Tom Watson won the League Batting Averages with a stunning average of 77.30 from 773 runs, and Raqeeb Younis (890 runs) followed close by with an average of 55.63.
The bowling attack was headed by veteran spinner Gurdev Singh who took 58 wickets for 10.98, while medium pacer Amjid Khan took 50 wickets at 14.14.
After speaking to James Nixon, it is obvious that the club will not rest on their laurels and have ambitious plans both on and off the field.
Nixon has talked at length about the club’s prospects for 2018, and future years.
He said: “It’s only our second year in the league, so as its most recent addition; we still have to acquaint ourselves with many clubs and people. In 2018. We achieved more than we thought we would. Our league form was good enough for both teams to be crowned divisional winners. This was very satisfying, but not wholly unexpected by many who said we would get promoted; though that was not something we were saying”.
“The main surprise however was our cup form. In the Jack Hampshire and the JW Lees T20, we did very well and beat teams from the division above on three occasions in both competitions. In the Jack Hampshire we were finally beaten at Sandal after a very poor performance, while in the T20 we got to the finals day and had an excellent day out at Hanging Heaton where we were beaten comfortably by a good Keighley side. That said, it gave us an idea of the strength of the better sides in the division above us, so it was a good experience for the lads, which brings us to 2019”.
Jer Lane are clearly a club who do not intend to stand still. Nixon said: "“For the 2019 season we have made three signings to add to the 1st X1 Squad. For two of these, we have gone back to the Halifax League and firstly we have signed young left arm spinner and middle order batsman, Daniel Syme, who won the Man of the Match Award in last year’s Parish Cup Final for Warley .
"Daniel is a great lad who is really up for his new challenge, and is working hard in the nets alongside our players, and those of Woodlands CC, where he is getting advice from their leading league wicket-taker of last year, spinner Chris Brice”.
“The second Halifax League capture is Ben Birkill who people from within the league may know of from his spells at Pudsey Congs and Northowram Fields. Ben has signed from Thornton and will open the batting and bowl some overs as a change bowler.
"It is fair to say that we have been after Ben for a few years now, and finally we have our man! We are in a fortunate position regarding the knowledge of the Halifax League from where we came and its many good players; so we try to apply that knowledge when bringing in cricketers to Jer Lane”.
“The third signing comes from a bit further away than Halifax - our first ever overseas professional cricketer who hails from Pakistan. He will open the bowling and bat down the order. We have obtained a Tier 5 licence with the guidance and help of Brian Pearson at Woodlands -to whom we are very grateful - to allow us to bring him over and play at Jer Lane”.
“He looks a very good player and has been highly recommended to us. We hope he settles in quickly when he arrives pre-season, as he probably won’t have bowled in April, at 900 feet above sea level with an air temperature of 10 degrees C, in his career before, which is how it often is at Jer Lane in the spring time!”
“These three signings will help make us stronger than last year, which we know we will have to be, to help us improve and continue our positive start in the league.
"We are hoping to be competitive, in what we expect to be a hard season and a big step up for us. We are really looking forward to visiting the grounds of Spen Victoria and others such as Hopton Mills and Hunslet Nelson where we have never played senior cricket before, also Carlton where we have, albeit not successfully!”
One thing that Jer Lane are looking forward to are renewing rivalries with old friends. “There are a few more local derbies than we have had for a good few years which are always great to be involved in and Buttershaw St Paul's and Northowram Fields are the two local sides to us, who we have met many times over the years in the old Bradford Central League days., said Nixon, who added: "Neither club will have played at Jer Lane in an official league fixture since our many ground and facility improvements, made possible by our hardworking committee and members."
Jer Lane are delighted with how their second team is shaping up too. Nixon said: "“The 2nd X1 have a new skipper in Jonny Waddington who since joining Jer 7 years ago has contributed in all aspects of the club as a solid and reliable member.
"The experienced Javed Iqbal has signed to help the team stabilise in their new division after winning their division last year. We also have a couple of good, experienced campaigners in David Horsfall and Paul Chapman back playing regularly again to help the numbers and strengthen the teams. The winter nets have started and have been very well attended so far”.
The Jer Lane committee are also working hard to develop players for the future. “We have added another junior team to the club, and now have age groups at Under 9, 11 and 13," said Nixon.
"The juniors remain in the Halifax League for 2019 after winning their Under-11s section last year. The junior nets start on March 19 at Woodlands CC 6pm-7pm, alongside a Level 2 coach and all existing and new players are very welcome,”. Nixon stated,
Jer Lane are keen to continue to develop their facilites and have discussed ideas for the future. Nixon said: “Off the field, we are further down the road of relinquishing a piece of land surplus to requirements which would bring in capital to help improve the facilities. A new clubhouse is something we are discussing that would be built at the bottom of the grounds which will enable us to extend the ground into the area of the current clubhouse.
“We are again holding the Cricket Force weekend on April 6, something we have done for the last eight years with great success.
“We owe a huge amount of thanks and gratitude to our captains and committee who work very hard to run the club. This helps drive it forward in what is a very difficult time for many clubs, who like us, have not huge amounts of resources. Many large, established clubs have gone under, and who would have thought that 25 years ago? We are very mindful of that”.
“The fact that we are competing in arguably the best league in the country is something we are very proud of. However, we don’t forget our roots in the Bradford Central League which is sadly now no longer in existence, and the Halifax Cricket League where there are many stunning cricket grounds and very well run clubs.
“ We wish everyone the very best for the forthcoming season and look forward to inviting our opponents, umpires and supporters to Jer Lane in 2019.”