AFTER an excellent third-place Premier League finish in 2016, the new season message from Farsley is a bit of an ominous one.
Namely, that there is plenty of room for improvement with the word from the camp at Red Lane being that they can play a lot better in the new campaign.
As opening statements on the pitch go, Saturday was a ruthless one with Farsley showing that they firmly mean business by swatting aside Batley by seven wickets, with the top-flight newcomers handed a sobering ‘welcome to the Premier League’ lesson.
Batley were skittled for 90 in just 19.2 overs, with James Wainman (5-40) and Chris Henry (5-49) cleaning up and opener James Pickles (45no) helping see Farsley home.
On the side’s hopes for 2017, stalwart Mark Harrison said: “We finished third last year but, having looked at everything, we had the most games rained off and we don’t feel as if we played that well.
“It is quite a nice feeling knowing that we can play a lot better if we put both the batting and bowling together. Hopefully, then we’ll get a few more wins to be really up there.
“We just hope we can get up and running and get a couple of wins on the board early to serve as a confidence booster.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Townville were also handed a tough Premier Division baptism after being thumped by 137 runs by last season’s runners-up Hanging Heaton.
The Tewits posted an imposing 257-6 with Nick Connolly (61) and Joe Fraser (55) starting the season well, before a quickfire 44 from Yorkshire pace bowler Josh Shaw put further runs on the board.
New signing Callum Geldart then showed his opening day prowess with the ball after missing out with the bat, with his off-spin yielding figures of 4-32 as Townville were back in the pavilion for 120.
Champions Pudsey St Lawrence started their three-in-a-row quest with a comfortable 98-run win over Bradford and Bingley – on a noteworthy day for former B&B man Charlie Best.
He marked his debut with a high-class 61, putting on 105 for the second wicket with Adam Waite (45) as St Lawrence posted a total of 210-8 after being invited to bat. Yassir Abbas took 5-39 for Bingley.
In reply, the visitors were never in the hunt and were all out for 112, with Richie Lamb (5-27) being the pick of the hosts’ attack, David Clow top-scoring.
New Farnley made a winning start to the new campaign, with former Yorkshire and Northants man James Middlebrook striking a eye-catching 73 as they accounted for Cleckheaton by 22 runs at Moorend.
Opening, Farnley made 231, with Middlebrook sharing a chunky fourth-wicket stand worth 110 with Dave Cummings (61), with Andrew Deegan (4-45) and newcomer Awais Ejaz (3-30) in the wickets for Cleck.
Mally Nicholson took centre stage in the Moorenders’ run-chase, hitting 76, but early wickets proved costly and Cleck fell short at 209.
Nick Walker took 5-51 for the victors.
Woodlands’ senior men came to the rescue with a key eighth-wicket stand of 63 between captain Tim Jackson (43) and Kez Ahmed (44) helping them to a defendable total of 157 against Pudsey Congs at the Britannia Ground.
The hosts, for whom debutant spinner Max Chappell (3-17) provided encouragement, imploded with the bat and were routed for 88, with the tail disintegrating.
Scott Richardson ripped through their lower order with 5-9 with a youthful Congs line-up losing their last six wickets for just nine runs.
The division’s other game saw East Bierley, tipped by many for a season of struggle like Congs, losing to Lightcliffe in a high-scoring contest.
Alex Stead (92no), Ian Philliskirk (45) and new captain Matt Baxter (4ono) helped Lightcliffe (241-3) chase down Bierley’s 238-9, with spinner Daanyaal Ahmed taking a fine 6-63 for the winners.
THERE are good debuts and there are dream debuts...
Step forward Methley batsman Muhammad Akhlaq, who produced one of the most stunning introductions to English league cricket with a magnificent 214 not out on his bow against Ossett.
The Lahore Blues player blasted 16 sixes and 18 fours in a scarcely believable innings which was agonisingly within four runs of the league record of 281 set by Richard Gould for Gomersal.
It was made more remarkable given the fact that it was Akhlaq’s first innings in England.
Akhlaq’s awesome exploits helped Methley to a huge 357-3, with Ossett dismissed for 211 in reply – opener Zubair Raje top-scoring with 56 and Harry Sullivan taking 4-40 for the winners.
New Morley captain Oliver Halliday helped the relegated Scatcherd Laners kick off with a sound eight-wicket success over Baildon, with top-order man James McNichol (61) top-scoring.
It was a sorry first day for Yeadon, embarassingly routed for just 52 in an eight-wicket loss to Undercliffe.
Meanwhile, relegated Scholes kicked off with a strong seven-wicket victory at Gomersal, with captain James Stansfield taking a fine 5-28 and Shoukat Ali (51) also catching the eye.
Luke Patel (80), James Glynn (71) and Jonathan Sleightholme (66) helped Wrenthorpe see off Birstall by 96 runs.
Birstall’s shining light with the bat was Nick Kaye, who top-scored with 53.
In Championship Two, Mohammed Khan struck a fine 106 and backed up the knock with 4-46 as much-fancied Hartshead Moor started off with intent in a nine-wicket victory over neighbours Brighouse.
Former Yorkshire and Scotland bowler Iain Wardlaw took 3-55 on his second debut for Moor.
Hunslet Nelson bowler Derek Hammill (4-60) helped his side see off Spen Victoria by 30 runs, despite the efforts of Spen opener Evan Edwards (63).
Altofts lost out by 89 runs in their opening encounter to the season against Northowram Fields.