Bradford League: Hanging Heaton and New Farnley are 2019 top-flight favourites
WHEN IT comes to analysing the favourites for ECB Bradford League silverware in 2019, the names of Hanging Heaton and New Farnley leap from the page.
It is the view of countless observers that both represent the teams to beat this summer, with all due respect to the likes of reigning champions Pudsey St Lawrence and Woodlands in what promises to be another competitive league.
The major new arrival for Heaton, winners in 2017 and with their eyes on silverware in several competitions, is left-arm spinner and all-rounder Callum Bethel, who has arrived from Yorkshire South outfit Whitley Hall and is the son of former Bradford League stalwart Andy.
Winning the top flight represents a bit of a holy grail for Farnley, who have made two significant top-order signings in the shape of former Yorkshire wicket-keeper/batsman Dan Hodgson – who arrives from Farsley – and St Lawrence opener Adam Waite.
Former Yorkshire bowler Mark Lawson has also re-joined the club.
Runners-up last year, Farnley – who start at home to Woodlands tomorrow – also have former Yorkshire paceman Ajmal Shahzad in their ranks, although coaching commitments with the MCC will restrict his availability, while fellow opening bowler Andrew Brewster is making a return from a back issue.
Woodlands, who have finished in the top four in the last two seasons, have high hopes for overseas signing Bradley Schmulian, with the New Zealander bracketed as a genuine all-rounder.
He will form part of a strong three-spin attack also featuring Kez Ahmed and last season’s leading top-flight wicket-taker Chris Brice – although Ahmed will miss tomorrow’s opener.
Champions St Lawrence – who will again lean on the run-scoring prowess of ultra consistent Mark Robertshaw, who passed the 1,000-run milestone last season – have seen Tom Hudson and Charlie Parker leave for pastures new in the off-season.
Much will be expected of Cleckheaton’s marquee recruit in former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq, who is likely to bat at five, with high hopes of a more positive season at Moorend in 2019.
Cleck have signed Yorkshire’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore once again, although his appearances will depend on county commitments.
Alongside the absence of Hodgson, Farsley have also lost bowler James Wainman from last season – although they have signed Yorkshire leg-spinner Josh Poysden, who will feature when availability permits.
Meanwhile, Methley have recruited Castleford’s Conor Hyde and Wakefield Thornes’ Jared Warner, a former England under-19 player.
Alongside Farnley’s home game with Woodlands, the pick of the opening weekend’s action sees Hanging Heaton make the trip to Farsley, while St Lawrence start their title defence at home to Methley.
Cleckheaton welcome Townville, while Undercliffe play host to Wrenthorpe. Bradford & Bingley host Lightcliffe.
In Championship One, opening-day action sees Pudsey Congs host Hartshead Moor and Morley, who finished third last season, visit Batley. Relegated East Bierley start at home to Gomersal.