Reg Nelson's weekend preview
Last week’s washout means it is status quo in the Premier Division with Woodlands (123 pts) still leading the table, followed by Hanging Heaton (92 pts) and Pudsey St Lawrence (88 pts). The bottom two are Undercliffe and Methley.
Methley will need to get a win this weekend at Red Lane to make inroads on their 24-point gap to safety. They are probably playing Farsley at the wrong time now they have got James Logan and Pat Kruger back on board.
Woodlands will be looking to extend their 31-point lead at the top when they host 11th place Undercliffe. They have Tim Jackson topping the division’s batting, and Chris Brice the bowling, in a fruitful season for the club so far.
However, Undercliffe are capable of causing an upset with overseas all rounder Khalid Usman and Simon Lambert the potential match winners. They also have batsmen Farrouk Alam and Fahid Rehman yet to fire, but able to dominate an attack on their day.
Woodlands Captain Cieran Garner, pictured above, is pleased with the form of his team, but very mindful of the threat of the Undercliffe side, “We go into this weekend full of confidence and the lads are in good form both on and off the field”.
Garner goes on to say, “Undercliffe’s league position is probably a reflection of how strong the league is this year. Having slipped into the bottom two they’ll be determined to pick up a win against us and we certainly won’t be taking them for granted. We recognise that they possess quality within their side, especially once their overseas hits his strides”.
“Despite the position we find ourselves in, we haven’t played our best cricket yet. We know as a group we can go up a couple of gears”, Garner said.
Second place Hanging Heaton will be hoping to beat Bradford & Bingley at Bennett Lane to get their title charge back on track. Their famed batting line up is being headed this season by Ben Kohler-Cadmore who currently has a league batting average of 204.00.
Bradford & Bingley will still be smarting from the shock home cup defeat against Morley and out to make amends. They could cause Hanging Heaton some trouble with their pace bowling attack of Bailey Wightman and Jack Hartley.
Third place Pudsey St Lawrence will have to battle at the top without their skipper Chris Marsden who has a knee injury. However, their protégé spin bowler Archie Scott has eighteen league wickets to his name and will be a threat when they visit Townville this weekend.
Townville’s creaky form earlier in the season has now gone as they sit a respectable seventh in the table. To further their spirits they reached the semi-final of the Heavy Woollen Cup last week when they beat Barkisland.
They have stability early on in the batting order with Harry Warwick and Jonathan Booth proving reliable most weeks. Jack Hughes is back with a bang with the ball, and it’s only a matter of time that he gets a big score with the bat.
There is an interesting game at Bragg Lane End where Wrenthorpe take on Lightcliffe. Both teams hover just above the bottom two, and the winners will see a bit of daylight.
Lightcliffe’s tremendous win at Hanging Heaton probably gives them the edge, but Wrenthorpe are a battling side that won’t go down without a fight.
Key men for Lightcliffe are Suleman Khan and Yassir Abbas, while Wrenthorpe’s form players are Khalil Ullah Khan and Irfan Amjad,
New Farnley will be desperate to get back on the field to prove they are genuine title challengers. They face Cleckheaton at Lawns Lane looking to narrow the gap at the top. Last time out they lost to Bradford & Bingley, with only Alex Lilley (49no) and Luke Jarvis (6-30) taking the fight to the Wagon Laners.
Cleckheaton are an unpredictable unit, but any side that has the extrovert Nick Walker in their ranks can beat any team on their day. They also have former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq to exploit any turn in the wicket.
Premier Division Fixtures: Farsley v Methley, New Farnley v Cleckheaton, Woodlands v Undercliffe, Hanging Heaton v Bradford & Bingley, Townville v Pudsey St Lawrence, Wrenthorpe v Lightcliffe
The big match in Championship One is the leaders Keighley clash with second place Baildon. After their chastening defeat against Hanging Heaton, the leaders need to be back in the groove against a very competitive Baildon side.
The influence of Paul Quinlan and Alex Antoine will be needed for Keighley to topple Baildon who have the more experience with Simon Bailey, Jonny Reynolds and Australian Blair Oakley.
East Bierley’s push into third place has coincided with the arrival of prolific batsman Gulsheraz Ahmed, who has scored 178 runs in two innings. Ahmed and overseas player Ompal Boken might well be the cornerstone of a promotion bid.
They next do battle with Wakefield St Michael’s who might be in the bottom two, but decisively beat Batley in their last league match.
Fourth place Bankfoot are in touch at the top with skipper James Lee having an inspired season, and is currently top of the division’s run-getters. They face a Batley side that have been sliding down the table of late. However, Bankfoot will be mindful of their overseas batting star Sami Ullah.
Morley are expected to make a decisive charge into the promotion race before long, and should secure a win at bottom side Scholes.
The Scatcherd Lane side proved they could mix with the `big boys’ last week by beating Bradford & Bingley in the Priestley Cup. Scholes made a very credible show the same day with the bat in their cup- tie at Pudsey St Lawrence, but could not sustain a bowling threat.
Eighth place Gomersal will be looking to rise in the league when they meet Pudsey Congs. The Oxford Road side lack consistency, but have a seamer in Richard Wear who currently tops the league’s wicket-takers.
Pudsey Congs are on the fringes of the promotion race, and will always be dangerous with players like Mubtada Akhtar, James Ford and Yasir Ali.
Ossett and their visitors Hartshead Moor are immediately above the bottom two after suffering a poor start to the season.
It must be disappointing to Hartshead Moor, given the quality players in their line-up in Iain Wardlaw, Mohammed Khan and Adam Greenwood, who averages 50 with the bat.
Championship One Fixtures: East Bierley v Wakefield St Michael's, Bankfoot v Batley, Keighley v Baildon, Gomersal v Pudsey Congs, Morley v Scholes, Ossett v Hartshead Moor
Leaders Yeadon go to Bowling Old Lane hoping to maintain their lead at the top. Form players Gareth Lee and Sarmad Hameed will be a threat to an Old Lane side that have been erratic so far this season.
However, if Farakh Hussain is in one of his run-getting moods the match could be turned in a matter of overs.
Second place Carlton have a difficult away match at an in-form Buttershaw St Pauls. However, players like Jonathan Rudge and Kershski John Lewis should carry too much ammunition for St Pauls who have risen to fourth in recent weeks.
St Paul’s have their own threat with prolific scoring Jonathan Crossland who has recorded successive centuries in the league.
Hunslet Nelson are third and will be keen to edge closer to Carlton by winning at Hopton Mills.
Birstall could well come into promotion contention in weeks to come with quality players like Eric Austin, Josh Hayes and Rishy Limbechaya in the camp. They will need to show greater consistency starting with their home match with Jer Lane, who has slid down the table.
East Ardsley are creeping up the league table and in South African James Van der Merwe in peak form, they are a threat to most teams. This week they visit Northowram Fields who are too close to the dreaded bottom three for comfort.
Spen Victoria can get back into the promotion race with victory over an Altofts side that have just not got going this season. Spen have the quality of Sam Gatenby, Bilal Ejaz and Abid Awan to edge this game.
It might be a little early to talk about crucial games, but the Adwalton v Liversedge fixture fits the bill. Liversedge are twelve points from safety, whereas Adwalton are 28, so the latter could come a little adrift at the bottom if defeated.
Liversedge are the favourites to win, having beaten Bowling Old Lane a fortnight ago in a run feast. Their leading batsman is Sohail Hussain who has scored 352 runs in the league.
Championship Two Fixtures: Spen Victoria v Altofts, Birstall v Jer Lane, Bowling Old Lane v Yeadon, Adwalton v Liversedge, Buttershaw St Paul's v Carlton, Northowram Fields v East Ardsley, Hopton Mills v Hunslet Nelson
The Gildersome & Farnley Hill v Brighouse match is probably the match of the day given that the two teams are in 3rd and 4th place respectively. Even at this early stage of the season, neither side can afford to lose if they are going to challenge for the one promotion place.
Gildersome’s most consistent players so far are Reece Thompson, and Chris Harris, while Brighouse’s Tanvir Bashir is starring with the bat. Brighouse can rattle up the runs, but struggle with the ball with no player taking as many as ten league wickets so far.
Leaders Sandal travel to Busy Lane to take on a Windhill & Daisy Hill side that have climbed to a respectable place in the table.
Last time out Sandal had a tight one-wicket win over Oulton. Matthew Westwood (59) and Ian Shuttleworth (39) made key innings as Sandal edged past Oulton’s total of 208. Sam Noden kept the Oulton score down with an analysis of 5-72.
Windhill will need to fire as a team to beat Sandal, and in this respect their talisman Tabassum Bhatti needs more tangible support.
Sandal has made an impressive start to the season, and they know that if they are to obtain promotion they will need to finish top.
Sandal’s captain Kristian Shuttleworth is pleased with the start, but mindful that it is still early days, “Both the 1st XI and 2nd XI have made strong starts to the season and there is a real sense of optimism and ambition at the club. That said, we are aware that there is plenty of cricket left to play this season albeit in a truncated league programme".
"We recruited well in the off season to bolster both sides and have another quality overseas player in Australian, Ryan Bishop-Perrett who plays grade cricket for Manly-Warringah CC in the NSW Premier competition".
"The 1st XI has won all five of our league games so far with rain unfortunately curtailing the game at 2nd placed Great Preston. We have rolled our opponents over very cheaply in a couple of games but we have also chased down 243 and 208 in our last two games against Brighouse and Oulton".
"Sam Noden and Ryan Bishop-Perrett have spear-headed the bowling attack very well with several batsmen stepping up to the plate to play key knocks when required. Our middle to lower batting order looks much more robust now as shown by Sam Noden (a genuine all rounder) coming in at No.9 to hit the winning runs at Oulton".
"We will look to maintain a professional on-field approach to every game, starting with this Saturday's visit to Windhill. We then host Windhill in the cup the following day. We are keen to advance as far as possible in the cup this season after taking current Championship One front runners (Keighley CC) to the wire in the semi final last season", Shuttleworth said.
East Leeds will be glad to be taking the field after two free dates and a rained off match. They are still in fifth place, and will look to Zahid Tarvas (averaging 40.75), to pile up the runs against Rodley.
Rodley have improved of late and have two very effective performers in Gary Sagar and Ryan Callis.
Oulton should move away from their surprisingly lowly position by beating rock bottom Heckmondwike & Carlinghow. Jack Andrews (15 wkts) is the man to watch with the ball for Oulton.
Great Preston don’t have an opportunity to draw closer to Sandal as they have a free date, as does Crossbank Methodists who are currently at the wrong end of the table.
Conference Fixtures: Gildersome & Farnley Hill v Brighouse, East Leeds v Rodley, Oulton v Heckmondwike & Carlinghow, Windhill & Daisy Hill v Sandal. Free: Great Preston, Crossbank Methodists.