Aire-Wharfe Cricket League Preview: Beckwithshaw and Bilton tipped for title

hsb  John Inglis batting for Beckwithshaw against Follifoot.  (130831M2b)
hsb John Inglis batting for Beckwithshaw against Follifoot. (130831M2b)

Reigning Division One champions Beckwithshaw understand the task of repeating their record-breaking exploits from last year will be a tricky one.

The Harrogate club went the entire Aire-Wharfe season unbeaten in 2013, and romped to the Division One title with 111 points.

However, they’ve lost star opening batsman John Inglis after the batsman decided to have a year off with his young family.

Inglis hit 879 runs in the title winning campaign. Greater batting responsibility will pass to wicketkeeper Ross Sedgley this time round, who scored 750 runs opening last summer.

Successful captain Ben Quick stayed at the helm and he was delighted to welcome Phil Jeffries back to the club, 25 years after the Aussie last featured as their overseas.

Quick said: “Phil brings with him a wealth of experience which will be beneficial to everyone.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult to replicate last year’s achievements but that is what we’re aspiring to.

“It’s disappointing not have the services of John Inglis. To say it’s a blow is a huge understatement. He is comfortably the best bat in the league and is great to have around.”

Despite captaining the holders, Quick has tipped Harrogate rivals Bilton to be the stand-out team this summer.

Bilton are in new hands too as Ryan Nicholson takes over captaincy duties.

Last year’s runners up have been most active in the transfer market, and shocked the league with the signature of ex-Harrogate all-rounder Vic Craven.

Joining former Yorkshire man Craven down Bilton Lane, will be leg-spinner Mustahsan Ali Shah who has moved from Pudsey Congs.

Overseas all-rounder Lee Murdoch is also on board.

Batsmen Dan Hardaker and Michael Halmshaw have also been snapped up while Lee Heslop (formerly of Saltburn) Chis Cole (from Glasshouses) provide additional cover.

However, prolific runscorer Chris Winn has exited.

Nicholson said: “We have a better team than last year and hopefully we will be contenders. Hopefully Vic can be the secret weapon that will help us win the league.

“Last year, we didn’t have a spinner. We have brought one in and we have four strong seamers that can act in any conditions.”

Youth is the focus for 2012 winners Collingham after a budget cut and captain Sam Anderson insists his side will not play with any pressure on their shoulders.

No players will be paid during the season and the club has decided to battle without an overseas.

Big hitter Ollie Hardaker and all-rounder Ryan Sharrocks have both moved to Division Three club Horsforth.

However, left-arm speedster Ed Broadley has arrived at Harewood Road from Ilkley team Olicanian.

Anderson said: “Our aim was to remain in the first division and give young cricketers the chance to progress, which they weren’t given when the players were paid.

“They are all good cricketers but we will find out how good when the season starts.

“There’s no pressure on them. We have five or six senior players that will try to lead from the front.”

New showers and a fancy electronic scoreboard are in place at Knaresborough’s Aspin Lane and the improved infrastructure looks set to translate to the field. Approaching their 200th year, Boro are eager to return to the pinnacle division, according to club legend Jon Corcoran.

Simon Bridson has taken over the captaincy reins after former leader Stu Carey moved to the North East.

Corcoran said: “Simon is a proven cricketer. He has skippered at Follifoot and he is a real level headed individual.

“He knows the Aire-Wharfe leagues and he knows the Knaresborough players.”

Former Yorkshire player Dave Girling has nestled back at the club of his junior days after spells at Follifoot and Collingham in the past two years.

“He is a proven cricketer and we are glad to have him come back to where he played before he went to bigger and better things,” said Corcoran.

After falling to relegation last season, Dave Wright’s ambitious Follifoot will be one of Knaresborough’s main adversaries in Division Two.

However, due to lack of numbers and a captain, the club have pulled out of the Harrogate & District Evening League for the upcoming season.

Wright will miss the first three months through injury, with vice-captain and newly appointed head coach Nick Robinson geared up to take control. Kiwi Warwick Green has signed from Elland adding depth to the lower order and bowling first change.

Division Two’s best bowler from last season, Umer Yaqoob has made the move north from Bardsey. And teenage all-rounder Jacob Leacey joined from Bradford League side Hanging Heaton.

The captain said: “We were very disappointed at how we got on last year but with the additions we have made to the squad, the objective is to be in the top two and go back up.

“We were short on wickets last year. Now we have a good strong squad with 11 or 12 definite first teamers.”

Matt Wells has taken over the captaincy at Bardsey and he has a vision for returning the club back to Division Two after relegation last year.

Young players will replace the wickets of Yaqoob, with teenagers Gareth Plant and Alex Williams tipped to star,

Wells believes cash-rich Horsforth will be the main Division Three contenders.

On the season, he said: “It’s a rebuilding stage.

“That’s one of the reasons I took the job. I didn’t just say I want to do it for a year.

“We have to find our feet again. We have some great juniors coming through that can help us do that.”