Hopefully the 2021 season will get off to a good start despite the uncertainties that Covid-19 brings.
Uncertain player availabilities have made the preview difficult. Players with county links are kept in their `bubble’ until June, while overseas players have isolation periods to serve..
The Premier Division
The possible match of the day could well be at Poplar Avenue where Townville do battle with the double winners of 2019, Woodlands.
Townville had an impressive Covid-19 season, with left-hander Jonathan Booth reaching the heights with the bat. They have certainly not rested on their laurels in the close season, bringing in Chris Grey (Caythorpe), Scott Steel (Durham City) and James Glynn from rivals Wrenthorpe.
It will be interesting to see whether Woodlands will be affected by their season off. Most of their players took part in cricket on loan at various levels, but the unity of the team will need to quickly click into pace in their opening game.
However, with the same eleven from 2019, Cieran Garner will be happy with his strength in depth, particularly with the return of Brad Schmulian who has recent First Class century to his name.
Another intriguing match is at Little Church Lane, where Tom Chippendale welcomes his old club Hanging Heaton to Methley’s picturesque ground.
Methley were obviously biding their time last season, giving their more inexperienced players a go in the contrived competition.
They obviously mean business this season with some impressive signings. Although they have lost wicket-keeper Jonathan Read to Farsley, and they `go to’ all-rounder Marcus Walmsley to Ossett, they have signed Tom Chippendale (Hanging Heaton), James Logan (Farsley), Gharib Razak (Batley) and Eitan Litvan (Castleford).
They will be hoping to challenge this year, and Hanging Heaton who have lost Sam Drury and Chippendale, will have their hands full this Saturday.
However, Hanging Heaton still have a fine array of batsmen in Gary Fellows, Nick Connelly, Joe Fraser, Callum Geldart and skipper Ben Kohler-Cadmore. The skipper was on form last week when they won their challenge match with Wakefield Thornes.
They have also made a shrewd signing replacement for Chippendale in the shape of Danny Glover from Drakes Huddersfield League side Shepley. Glover has been one of the leading seamers in that league for a number of years, and he brings a wealth of experience with him.
Its derby day at Tofts Road where Pudsey St Lawrence do battle with near neighbours Farsley in what should be a close affair.
As usual, the trio of skipper Chris Marsden, James Smith and Mark Robertshaw will spearhead the Saints side, but youngsters Josh Priestley, Harry Cullingford and Joshua Dracup might well have blossomed into the `real thing’ this season.
Farsley have their key players back from club loans, and have also signed Elliot Addison (Knaresborough Forest), Henry Burrow (Burley in Wharfedale) and Jonathan Read (Methley).
Their overseas player this year is Indian Prabhan Singh, a batsman who plays First Class cricket and he will also be a useful addition to the spin bowling department..
New Farnley always seems to unwrap a new star each season, and 2021 is no exception with their recruitment of Gurman Randhawa from Hoylandswaine. A slow left arm orthodox spin bowler, who also bats left handed, he will bring balance to the side.
They kick off proceedings with a tasty home game against Cleckheaton who have also recruited.
Harvey Booth has joined his brother Toby at Moorend: both prolific run-getters in the Drakes Huddersfield Premier League. They are joined by another new player in Amir Hussain who is a tidy off-spinner, and are hopeful of a late overseas signing.
However, they will have to fill the void left in the seam department by Jonathan Whiteoak and Josh Thurwell.
New Farnley have arguably the best opening bowling pair in the league in Alex Lilley and Andrew Brewster, and will be looking to Steve Bullen and Lee Goddard to continue their rich batting form from last season.
Promoted Morley has made extensive improvements to their clubhouse and ground during the close season, and they welcome Bradford & Bingley, hoping to make a good start.
They have recruited wicket-keeper Luke Heineman from Undercliffe, and also Ben Jenkinson (Wakefield St Michael’s) and big hitting Christian Silkstone from Triangle.
However, their big signing is Sri Lankan overseas all rounder Kavindu Kulasekara.
25 years old Kulasekara is a top order right hand batsman and off spin bowler who plays for Moors CC at home. He has scored just over 2,000 first class runs at an average of 38, and has also represented Sri Lanka U19s.
He holds a level 2 coaching badge and will be heavily involved in coaching across all age ranges at Morley. Committee member John Roberts said earlier this week, “We are hoping for big things from him on and off the field”.
Morley will find it tough going against Bradford & Bingley who could have a good season under skipper Ed Brown. The Wagon Laners have recruited well with Riecko Parker-Cole (Elsecar) and Arjun Ramkumar joining the squad. Parker-Cole is a young left arm swing bowler who has played county seconds for Nottinghamshire, while Ramkumar is a former Yorkshire Academy player.
They also have young prospects Matty Swallow and Lachlan Doidge ready to be unleashed in top flight cricket.
Wrenthorpe are at home to a Batley side that have recruited quite well since their promotion. They might have lost Gharib Razak to Methley, but they have snapped up Mohammed Wahab (Undercliffe), Abdul Wahid (Undercliffe) and Imran Dawood (Shepley).
In contrast Wrenthorpe have lost their skipper Jordan Sleightholme to Harrogate, and also Arjun Ramkumar and James Glynn.
They have signed former Pudsey Congs and Ossett seamer Al-Mustafa Rafique to take the pressure off Oliver Kilburn, and also performed something of a coup signing former Pudsey St Lawrence off-spinner Steve Watts.
Perhaps their most important player will be Pakistani overseas all rounder Khalil Khan who did so much to preserve their top flight status in 2019.
Premier Division: Wrenthorpe v Batley, Methley v Hanging Heaton, Pudsey St Lawrence v Farsley, Morley v Bradford & Bingley, New Farnley v Cleckheaton, Townville v Woodlands.
The promotion race appears to be wide open with no obvious candidate to dominate the season.
With that in mind it promises to be extremely competitive with two/thirds of the division doubtless fancying their chances.
Top of the bill could well be at Intake Road where much fancied Undercliffe take on an Ossett side boosted by the signing of Marcus Walmsley from Methley.
Walmsley is a top premier league all rounder who will bring a much needed balance to an Ossett side that have flattered to deceive in previous seasons.
They have further strengthened their side with the addition of overseas Sri Lankan Rishin Patabedigel.
Undercliffe’s promotion fate could well lay with their overseas man Khalid Usman who is capable of making winning contributions with both bat and ball. Another important player will be Mohammad Nazim who they have recently signed.
Earlier in close season they signed a trio of impressive signings in Nadim Hussain from top Drakes Huddersfield League side Shepley, and Bailey Worcester and Oliver Hardaker from Horsforth.
Baildon are building from their youth ranks, but have the experience of Jonny Reynolds and Simon Bailey to fall back on, and have signed young fast bowler Joel Fothergill from Oxenhope.
They have also signed prolific batsman Kevin McDermott from Buttershaw St Paul’s.
Baildon welcome East Bierley to Jenny Lane this weekend - a side that had a very strong `Covid 19’ season under skipper Adam Brown. Brown completely rebuilt the First Team last year, and his latest signing is Andy Duckworth from Rawdon.
Pudsey Congs were `top dogs’ last season in Division One with their young side exceeding all expectations. However, they will have to do it without their young left-arm wrist spinner Sam Wisniewski until at least June as he is very much in the Yorkshire `bubble’.
They travel to Hartshead Moor who have lost key players Richi Limbechaya and Adam Greenwood, but gained quick bowler Joshua Marsden from New Farnley.
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But, the player they will hope to bank on for some match-winning performances is their Indian overseas man Abhishek Paradkar.
Promoted Carlton could well be dark horses for the title with their strong batting line-up. They have moved to strengthen their seam attack with Josh Thurwell returning from Cleckheaton.
Carlton will travel to Gomersal with high hopes of a winning start, despite the home team recruiting Liam Grant (Spen Victoria) and Adam Greenwood (Hartshead Moor).
Keighley have pulled off a real coup signing leg-spinner James Massheder from Yeadon to join his brother wicket-keeper Sam.
However, they will find it difficult to beat James Lee’s Bankfoot who had a solid campaign last seasons.
Bankfoot, who have made extensive improvements to their clubhouse and ground, have recruited Hamza Khan from Scholes and Seif Hussain from Batley.
Relegated Lightcliffe have wasted no time in rebuilding their side with Gavin Whipp (Copley), Michael Brooke (Northowram Fields), Jack Hendy (Meltham) and Peter Dobson (Armitage Bridge) boosting their squad.
Arguably their big signing is pace bowler Jonathan Whiteoak who they have prised back from Cleckheaton.
They have a home match against Birstall who had a very good league cup season in 2020.
Birstall will be looking to get in the promotion mix after signing Richi Limbechaya (Hartshead Moor) and Juned Hasim Delair (Sandal).
Division One: Gomersal v Carlton, Hartshead Moor v Pudsey Congs, Keighley v Bankfoot, Baildon v East Bierley, Undercliffe v Ossett, Lightcliffe v Birstall.
Raqeeb Younis will be hell-bent on promotion with his Jer Lane side who won the divisional league cup last year.
No doubt Sandal will run them close, with Bowling Old Lane, Yeadon and Hopton Mills all very much in the running,
Jer Lane has strengthened even further with Osama Ahmad (Rastrick), Jonathan Waddington (Bradshaw) and Umar Dawood (Clayton) the pick of their local new arrivals.
However, their big potential match-winner should be overseas West Indian Cosmond Walters, who comes with a big reputation as an all-rounder. The man from St Vincent is an explosive batsman who could well be their trump card for 2021.
They travel to East Ardsley, who had an impressive victory over Aire Wharfe top flight outfit Bilton last week.
Bowling Old Lane, who have made a raft of new signings have an intriguing home match with Sandal.
Their visitors are always very competitive, but will miss their two spinners Zaeem Zulfikar and Juned Hasim Delair who have both departed.
Yeadon have lost the Massheder brothers, but have gained veteran seamer Nadeem Hanif from Menston. Hanif is capable of tying one end up, while being a very useful late order hitter. Northowram Fields journey to Yeadon hoping for a successful start to the season.
Wakefield St Michael’s have made a significant signing in spin bowler Zaeem Zulfikar from Sandal, and also see the return of their former Yorkshire Academy player Alex Leyshon from Dulwich.
To kick off their season they have an away match with Spen Victoria.
Hopton Mills see the return of their prodigious all rounder Umar Abbas, along with several other signings. This appears to be a serious intent to really have a go this year.
They begin their campaign with a trip to Hunslet Nelson who are always a tough nut to crack on their large playing surface. Hunsley have signed former Elland captain Alistair Finn from Broad Oak.
Buttershaw St Paul’s have lost their dependable batsman Kevin McDermott to Baildon, but will still fancy themselves to start with a victory over Scholes on their compact ground. St Paul’s have signed Michael Flathers from South Yorkshire League club Wath,
Division Two: Spen Victoria v Wakefield St Michael’s, Bowling Old Lane v Sandal, Hunslet Nelson v Hopton Mills, Buttershaw St Paul’s v Scholes, Northowram Fields v Yeadon, East Ardsley v Jer Lane.
Altofts will be intent on gaining promotion given the excellent infrastructure at their club. They should be one of the front-runners, particularly after gaining the services of overseas player Hayden Bagoly.
However, their first opponents Heckmondwike & Carlinghow have strengthened, and they too have an overseas player in Pakistani Abdulla Qureshi.
Great Preston considered themselves unlucky not to go up two years ago, and with Cullum Jordan back from Castleford they will be fancying their chances. First up is Brighouse who are keen to halt their downward spiral in the league.
New club Crossflatts are an unknown quantity, but will be battling to make an impression on the league. They are used to success and will be looking to put down a marker when they visit Crossbank Methodists. Crossbank have an overseas registered player from Hong Kong in Mohammad Hassan.
Liversedge are a big club for Division Three, and they will hope to get off to a good start against Adwalton, who are celebrating their 150th year anniversary this year.
Rodley have made steady progress in the league since joining, and this season will be a test for them to maintain their progress.
They have a home fixture against Gildersome & Farnley Hill who will be pleased with their signing of the Lindsay brothers (Matthew & Thomas).
Windhill & Daisy Hill are building their youth network for the future, and will be hoping for a strong season at First Team level. They have a home match against an East Leeds side that have dangerous players, but don’t always enjoy consistent form.
Division Three: Great Preston v Brighouse, Windhill & Daisy Hill v East Leeds, Altofts v Heckmondwike & Carlinghow, Liversedge v Adwalton, Crossbank Methodists v Crossflatts, Rodley v Gildersome & Farnley Hill.