Harrogate CC ‘quietly confident’ of avoiding another season of struggle

Harrogate CC captain Will Bates is “quietly confident” that some shrewd off-season recruitment will mean that the Roosters don’t become embroiled in another battle for Yorkshire Premier League North survival this summer.

By Rhys Howell
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 4:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th April 2022, 4:21 pm
Mat Pillans in action for Yorkshire CCC.
Mat Pillans in action for Yorkshire CCC.

Title-winners in 2016, the St George’s Road outfit have found themselves scrapping at the wrong end of the table in recent years, and only beat the drop on the final day of last season courtesy of a dramatic win over local rivals York.

But, ‘Gate have strengthened significantly ahead of their 2022 campaign, which gets underway this Saturday at home to defending champions Castleford.

South African paceman Mat Pillans, formerly of Yorkshire CCC and Surrey, is the club’s marquee signing and is joined by former Yorkshire Academy players Ed Booth and Arjun Ramkumar.

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“I think we have recruited fairly well over the winter, so we go into the new season feeling fairly optimistic,” skipper Bates said.

“We’ve still got quite a young side and a lot of players who aren’t overly experienced in this league, so I don’t want to set expectations too high at this stage.

“But, we’ve spent the last three or four seasons down near the bottom of the league and the aim for this year has to be top half of the table and then take it from there.

“I think we’ll have a better idea of where we are once the young players and the new boys settle. I think if we can get off to a decent start we can go on and do well because I do feel that we have brought in some additional quality and have a well-rounded squad.”

In addition to Pillans, Booth and Ramkumar, fast bowler Jonny MacGregor has rejoined the club, while hot young prospects Harry Allinson and Isaac Light will remain with ‘Gate following Yorkshire Academy’s withdrawal from the league.

And, perhaps most significantly of all, Sri Lankan spin king Ishan Abeysekara has returned to North Yorkshire for a third season having finished 2021 as the division’s leading wicket-taker.

“It wasn’t just about adding quality, it was about bringing in the right people, the right characters,” Bates added.

“I think what we’ve ended up with is a predominantly young group of really motivated individuals who want to play for this club.

“Obviously Mat Pillans has great pedigree, but he will also be coaching all of the senior players at the club as well as doing some work with the juniors. So that’s going to be hugely beneficial.

“Mat and Ed will bring some much-needed pace to our bowling attack, as will Jonny MacGregor, who is another really good player.

“Arjun helps strengthen the batting line-up, so too will Harry and Isaac who we didn’t expect to have available to us this season. It will be great for the club to be able to reap the rewards of all the work that has gone into these two really talented young players.

“And Ishan is back again, which is massive for us because of the wickets he takes and what a great guy he is.”

Harrogate face a gruelling start to the campaign with the three fixtures to complete in the space of as many days over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Following on from their season-opener against Castleford, the Roosters travel to Wakefield Thornes in the ECB National Club Championship before heading back on the road less than 24 hours later to tackle Clifton Alliance as they return to league action.

“We’ve only played one pre-season game due to a couple of fixtures being rained off so having three matches in three days is going to be tough,” Bates said.

“I think there will be some sore bodies come Monday night. It’s not ideal being thrown into a scenario like this from a standing start.

“There might have to be a bit of squad rotation because I’m not sure how many overs we’ll have in the legs.”