Otley Cricket Club know that they can’t lose too many more matches this season if they are to claim back the Aire-Wharfe title this year, so says club chairman Chris Smith.
With four key players having left for pastures new and a new skipper at the helm, there was never any doubt that this would be a season of transition for the perennial challengers.
Having lost two of their opening five fixtures, however, Smith knows his side is going to have to put an impressive run of form together in order to pile the pressure on leaders Beckwithshaw.
“The aspiration among my players is that we are trying to win the league, and rightly so,” he said. “We’re a good cricket side. The reality is that after the start we had, in order to win the league we can’t really lose many more games, and that’s the challenge for us.
“Beckwithshaw look strong and aren’t going to lose too many games and Bilton and Burley are the same.
“We need to get on a good run now, but who knows?”
That run might well start from last Saturday, when they beat an in-form Pool side on the penultimate ball of the game.
Batting first, Pool star man David Paynter struck 74 and was excellently backed up by Patrick Dixon (53), Ryan Sharrocks (63) and John Goldthorp (35 not out). Chasing 246 to win from a rain-affected 43 overs, Otley started brightly, with opener Dave Hester and James Davies – elevated to no3 – hitting 33 apiece. With wickets falling in clumps, it came down to new man Stephen Brown – signed from Kirkstall in the off-season – to get the chase going.
“Every time we started going, we seemed to falter,” considered Smith. “But it was a brilliant knock by Brown. He played brilliantly in difficult conditions.”
Brown hit 81 from just 66 balls and, together with Nathan Goldthorp’s 43-ball 51, got Otley into striking distance. Again wickets fell, before Sam Kellett (16 not out) and the exprienced Paul Nicholson (5 not out), took them over the line.
“It was a tremendous game of cricket,” Smith said. “Pool are a good side and they played very well. It was a generous declaration to reduce the game to 43 overs per side and they might regret that a little bit, but we played well enough to win on the day. It was as a good a game of cricket as you’re going to see.”
Two teams that might argue that point are Beckwithshaw and Bilton, who played out a high-scoring classic.
Bilton scored 245 from 45 overs thanks in the main to former Yorkshire batsman Victor Craven (105*) and Kiel Van Vollenhoven (53 not out).
Undeterred, Beckwithshaw’s Steve Bullen went to work and led the way with a 74-ball 104. He was backed up by skipper Alex Lilley, who struck 61 as they chased the total four down inside 27 overs.
Marcus Brown (5-46) served as chief destroyer for Guiseley who bowled Rawdon out for 81 before chasing it down for the loss of five wickets. Rawdon Aussie Marcus Berryman took 3-47.
Rawdon’s wasn’t the lowest score of the day, as Collingham got their season up and running by skittling them out for 38 in response to their 201-8 declared.
There were contributions throughout the order for Collingham, whose skipper Stephen James scored 52. Jack Harland took 4-34 for North Leeds, who were then torn apart by Toby Jacklin (6-13) and Chris Bridge (4-24).
Colton hit 178-7 from their 50 overs before play was abandoned against Horsforth. Dan Gautrey scored 50 and Brad Firn 37. In reply Horsforth started brightly, Corey Barsby striking 37 and Michael Kitson 30 when the rain halted proceedings at 119-5 from 18 overs.