Pudsey St Lawrence, the early leaders in the Premier Division, receive Woodlands at Tofts Road for the first game on the relaid square.
They have enjoyed two emphatic victories and have Yorkshire second team all-rounder Jordan Thompson bang in form after he took 6-45 last week against Cleckheaton.
St Lawrence openers Adam Waite (68) and Mark Robertshaw (59), pictured above,were in the groove for a side with all the hallmarks of a title-chasing side.
Woodlands recorded their first win last week against New Farnley despite having three regulars missing. Mark Lawson was the star player against his old team as he bagged five wickets after scoring a vital 49 at a crucial time. No.3 batsman Greg Finn (54) arrested an early batting slump for Woodlands.
Looking forward to the clash the Woodlands skipper Tim Jackson said: "On paper this weekend’s clash against rivals PSL is a tasty fixture, and despite not being `make or break’ so early on in the season, it is nevertheless a crucial game for both sides if they are to lay claim to being serious title contenders. Hanging Heaton have started where they left off last season and any hopes that they may not be as motivated to win after picking up the league trophy seems quashed”.
“PSL have also started on the front foot, although it could be argued that their first real test comes this Saturday. However, I believe the game to have more importance for us than them, as only picking up one point in the opening fixture almost leaves Woodlands two wins behind fellow challengers. Beating Lawrence would still leave Woodlands trailing in the table but perhaps with more of a psychological advantage in the games to follow”.
“It is no secret that Woodlands have not been at full strength with an injury to Scott Richardson, our overseas yet to arrive and the early absence of key players. This is however likely to change on Saturday which will help the balance of the side. PSL have also strengthened since last year’s perhaps disappointing season; the return and regular availability of Jordan Thompson has already proved to be a big plus for them and they will be keen to return to the winners circle”.
“It will be interesting to see how the Lawrence wicket plays- not just in this first game but throughout the rest of the season. This could be a surface that they too will need to adapt to having previously had favourable batting conditions to match the strength of their top order. Time will tell!"
Jackson added: "The game has the makings of a great spectacle and hopefully this warm weather can accompany what promises to be a hard-fought contest.”
Another big clash is at Bennett Lane where reigning champions Hanging Heaton take on Townville. The home side had a big win last week at East Bierley by 200 runs with Gary Fellows scoring his first hundred of the season, and slow left-arm spinner Aqsad Ali taking 8-33.
Townville appeared to have had the upper hand last week when they bowled Farsley out for 133, but on a difficult wicket they struggled even more to be bowled out for 67.
Farsley’s win put them in fourth position in the early table, and they will pleased with South African all-rounder Pat Kruger’s match-winning bowling spell of 6-13. They go to Scholes who also won last week.
Overseas player Aditya Waghmode impressed for Scholes with an innings of 87 as they defeated Bradford & Bingley by 71 runs. Yassir Ali was again the key bowler for Scholes as he took 5-38.
Perhaps the early success story belongs to promoted Methley who face Cleckheaton after two wins have taken them to joint second. Without their full side again they humbled Lightcliffe to the tune of 115 runs with skipper Grant Soames contributing 97 with the bat, and 4-22 with the ball.
Soames seems to have taken the added responsibility as captain in his stride as he enjoys the form of his life, albeit in the autumn of his career.
Cleckheaton have yet to get off the mark with a win but are still a threat with Tayyab Tahir and Yorkshire batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore in their batting line-up.
Something must give at Wagon Lane where Bradford & Bingley search for their first win against a Lightcliffe side in the same boat.
Bradford & Bingley will be slight favourites with Jonathan Whitehead, Bradley Reeve and Kyme Tahirkeli all showing encouraging form, and paceman Jack Hartley capable of making inroads into the early batting.
For Lightcliffe, they will doubtless look to Suleman Khan, Alex Stead and Danyaal Ahmed for salvation in what appears to be an extremely competitive division.
New Farnley’s batting was found wanting last week despite a whirlwind start by opener Martin Andersson. However, they will be big favourite against an East Bierley side who have still not found their feet with their new look side.
Fixtures Scholes v Farsley, Hanging Heaton v Townville, New Farnley v East Bierley, Pudsey St Lawrence v Woodlands, Methley v Cleckheaton, Bradford & Bingley v Lightcliffe.-
The big match in this division is at Jenny Lane where the leaders Baildon do battle with second-place Morley.
Australian Blair Oakley made an impressive debut taking 4-16 for Baildon as they defeated Bankfoot by seven wickets, while Morley’s renowned new-ball pair of Matthew Dowse (5-23) and Nathan Bromby (3-41) ensured much fancied Wrenthorpe were well short of their target as they won by 97-runs.
For Baildon, it’s good for them to get back into the limelight, but leading committee man Steve Mottram has his feet planted firmly on the ground.
He said: “Even though we have got off to a good start it is only two games in- so let’s not get too carried away. Our aim for the start of the season was to beat last year’s position of sixth and anything above that would be a bonus”.
“Saturday’s game will be a big test for us as Morley have also got off to a good start and in my opinion will be thereabouts comes the end of the season. They are a strong unit and have probably one of the best opening bowling partnerships in the league in Nathan Bromby and Matthew Dowse.
“As for Baildon, we have lost the services of key batter and skipper in-waiting Johnny Reynolds for at least two months due to damaging his ankle ligaments. But, in his absence other people have stepped up to the plate and we hope this will continue until he is back”
“Amongst those are acting skipper Jack Hainsworth who has got off to a good start and close-season signing Hamza Iqbal from Bradford & Bingley looks to be a good addition.The team is fairly young but the experienced heads of the likes of Simon Bailey and the evergreen Mushy give it a good balance. I have no doubt all will contribute some way or another through the course of season”.
“Another recent addition who only turned up last week is overseas all rounder Blair Oakley. He is from Western Australia (Perth) and plays grade cricket there. So far in his first week he took four wickets against Bankfoot on the Saturday and the following day in the cup scored a fifty against New Farnley. Hopefully he will be a success and enjoy his stint in the Bradford League”, Mottram said.
Wrenthorpe will be keen to get their promotion charge back on track when they entertain Ossett, another fancied side who have made a disappointing start. They fell last week despite a good innings from much-travelled Harvey Anderson (56 runs).
Undercliffe made short work of Batley last week after Craig Wiseman (5-31) and left-arm spinner Khalid Usman (5-7) reduced them to 83 all-out. They visit Hunslet Nelson who crashed to Yeadon on the Saturday, but beat Hartshead Moor on the following day in the Priestley Cup after Will Stiff demolished the tail.
Undercliffe’s acquisition of overseas all rounder Khalid Usman, who is a potential match winner with bat and ball, could well be the missing ingredient in gaining promotion
Hartshead, who face Bankfoot at home, had a disappointing weekend losing to Pudsey Congs in the league and Hunslet Nelson in the cup. Against the Congs only Mohammad Khan (66 runs) and overseas all-rounder Ali Shan (33 runs) excelled in an inadequate score.
Bankfoot also lost both days, with the only encouraging aspect being James Lee’s innings of 66 in the cup against Methley.
Two winners last week were Yeadon and Gomersal who clash at the White Swan ground this week
The home team beat Hunslet Nelson with Saif Ur-Rehman being the chief destroyer with 6-17, while Gomersal had a fine win at Ossett largely down to an unbeaten fifth-wicket stand of 102 between Jonathan Boynton (58no) and Jack Seddon (46no).
Two relegated foes from the premier league last year, Batley and Pudsey Congs, clash at Mount Pleasant.
Congs had a mixed weekend defeating Hartshead Moor in the league before falling in the cup to Gomersal. In the league win Congs reached their target with eight overs to spare thanks to the batting of Arbaab Hussain (41) and James Ford (38).
Fixtures: Yeadon v Gomersal, Wrenthorpe v Ossett, Baildon v Morley, Hartshead Moor v Bankfoot, Batley v Pudsey Congs, Hunslet Nelson v Undercliffe.
Buttershaw St Paul’s went to the top of the league after a thrilling two-run win over second-placed Keighley. All-rounders Amer Ayoub and Kevin McDermott both excelled and will want to carry their form forward at Spen Victoria who have got off to a discouraging start in both the league and Heavy Woollen Cup.
Spen, who have rebuilt their side this year, will be impressed by their overseas player Nathan Cant who took 5-45 in a Birstall score of 231.
Much -ancied Keighley, who had opener Luke Chapman (66 runs) in form in their defeat go to Brighouse who had a fine seven-wicket win at Altofts. Mahmood hit six sixes and five fours as he and Sohail Hussain ensured their side passed Altofts total of 147 with 27.5 overs to spare.
Third-placed East Ardsley had an emphatic eight-wicket win at Carlton with newcomer James Marston (59 runs) impressing. They play Hopton Mills who were another side who won last week, beating Liversedge in some comfort with Michael Carroll (51*) top-scoring.
Relegated Bowling Old Lane are still to get off the mark after being involved in a thriller with Wakefield St Michael’s. Despite half centuries from Amjid Hussain (59) and Ahsan Butt (57) Old Lane were bowled out for 175 in reply to their opponents’ score of 176.
Old Lane do battle with another win-less side in Carlton. They succumbed to East Ardsley last week, but remain a fancied side to join the promotion race.
Wakefield St Michael’s were indebted to overseas player Charith Cooray last week when he top scored with 69, and face a Birstall side who made a big score when they defeated Spen Victoria. Richy Limbechaya led the way with 88 while Eric Austin (47 runs) and Pete Gregerson (46 runs) helped swell the Birstall total to 231.
Northowram Fields will be anxious to get on the field after suffering an abandonment and an open date. Their first foray into action is against Liversedge who lost to Hopton Mills.
Altofts will not have an opportunity to get the Brighouse defeat out of their system as they are scheduled for an open date.
Fixtures: Wakefield St Michael's v Birstall, Bowling Old Lane v Carlton, Spen Victoria v Buttershaw St Paul’s, East Ardsley v Hopton Mills, Brighouse v Keighley, Liversedge v Northowram Fields, Open Date: Altofts.
Newcomers Jer Lane registered their first win but only by one wicket in a low-scoring encounter at Azaad. Amjid Khan took 6-20 as Jer Lane dismissed their hosts for 55 before they struggled to knock off the runs.
They eventually scraped home in a win that helps to keep them in touch at the top with Gildersome & Farnley Hill their opponents this weekend.
Gildersome had a three-wicket win over Oulton, conquerors of Jer Lane the previous week, with Liam Pearson and Jordan Edmondson both taking 4-34.
Oulton have a difficult looking game at Crossbank Methodists who have made a storming start to the season. Following their giant-killing act in the Heavy Woollen Cup, Crossbank beat much fancied Great Preston in impressive style.
Skipper James Abbott took the plaudits with a fine spell of bowling that netted him seven wickets for 16 runs, in a 9-wicket defeat of Great Preston.
Another team turning heads are Adwalton who defeated Sandal by seven wickets. New signing Gareth Lee made 78 and the consistent Matt Donohoe contributed an unbeaten 34 as Adwalton defeated Sandal by seven wickets.
Adwalton face East Leeds who lost to Rodley despite their talisman seamer James Watling again carrying the fight to the opposition with 3-33.
Azaad will be keen to make up for their narrow defeat when they welcome Sandal. The home team have the form bowler in Imran Mahboob (6-11), but Sandal will be pleased with the early batting form of Ian Shuttleworth (76).
Heckmondwike & Carlinghow beat Windhill & Daisy Hill by six-wickets with bowlers Adnaan Rowat (5-29) and Javed Iqbal (4-29) showing good early form. They travel to Rodley who appear to have strengthened their squad this season.
Opening batsmen Robert Young (53 runs) and Gary Sagar (43 runs) played their part in overhauling East Leeds, after Anthony Yelding (4-24) had kept a check on the East Leeds batsmen.
Great Preston will be keen to get on the winning trail when they visit Windhill & Daisy Hill. The home team suffered defeat last week losing by six-wickets to Heckmondwike & Carlinghow.
Fixtures: Jer Lane v Gildersome & Farnley Hill, Crossbank Methodists v Oulton, Windhill & Daisy Hill v Great Preston, Rodley v Heckmondwike & Carlinghow, Adwalton v East Leeds, Azaad v Sandal.
Words: Reg Nelson Picture: Ray Spencer