EVERGREEN Bradford League ‘fifty-something’ stalwart Babar Butt will very much be the senior man for Pudsey Congs in 2017.
The wily all-rounder – who had ‘retired’ two years ago – will lead a Congs side who possess a fair sprinkling of youth with a succession of established players having stepped down at the Britannia Ground, with Andrew Bairstow being the latest one last season.
Butt will be entrusted with steadying the ship after a difficult 2016 for the club, while much will be expected of all-rounder Josh Wheatley, who will also have a ‘big role to play’ according to spokesperson Ralph Middlebrook.
Josh Holling, Jonathan Donnelly and Jamie Allen will make up the side’s pace attack.
New signings include bowler Mubtada Aktar, who has returned to the club from Dunnington, opening bat/wicketkeeper James Ford, all-rounder Danish Hussain and contracted Yorkshire player Ryan Gibson. Irfan Amjad arrives from Scholes along with highly rated Hunslet Nelson spinner Max Chappell.
On Congs’ prospects, Middlebrook, who feels that the club can spring a surprise or two despite some tipping them for another season of struggle along with East Bierley, said: “There won’t be three quicker bowlers and we are quietly confident. There will be pace, spin and some nice batting.
“Our aims are simply to play some good cricket and we think that we have an exciting side who will be worth watching.”
Congs start off with a home game against old rivals Woodlands, while champions St Lawrence start their defence with an encounter against Bradford and Bingley at Tofts Road.
Hanging Heaton play host to top-flight newboys Townville in an intriguing looking opener at Bennett Lane.
New Farnley visit Cleckheaton, who will again be led by John Wood in what is likely to be another transitional year at Moorend.
Batley play host to Farsley and East Bierley entertain Lightcliffe.
In Championship One, relegated Morley start at Baildon and Yeadon host Undercliffe. Methley welcome Ossett.
Much-fancied Championship Two side Hartshead Moor, whose marquee recruit is ex-Yorkshire man Iain Wardlaw, start off at neighbours Brighouse.