TAKE a chance on me – and New Farnley are entitled to be glad that they have done exactly that after bringing in Sweden-based Aussie Mitch O’Connor.
The gentleman’s game does not usually figure particularly highly on the radar of the inhabitants of the Scandinavian nation, but one such conversation in a Stockholm bar has already reaped a dividend for Farnley.
Australian-born O’Connor, 33, enjoyed an outstanding Priestley Cup debut on Sunday, smashing a magic unbeaten 168 to help Farnley secure a nine-wicket win over East Bierley.
It was the first spot of payback from O’Connor, who moved to Sweden in 2012 after meeting his partner while backpacking Down Under, with the top-order batsman recently convinced to link up with Farnley after talks with cricket chairman Paul Hutchison.
Hutchison also doubles up as coach of the Sweden cricket team – with O’Connor coming to his attention after qualifying to play for the international side after being granted permanent residency.
Captain of the side, O’Connor had a sense of unfinished business after an undistinguished spell in Yorkshire a decade ago and, after speaking with Hutchison, a deal was proposed for him to join.
O’Connor’s arrival will mitigate for the loss of opener Martin Andersson, with the Leeds/Bradford University MCCU recently returning to Middlesex 2nd XI – and Sunday’s high-class innings represented the first spot of payback for Farnley, who are paying for his flight costs from Stockholm to Manchester for the rest of the season.
Hutchison said: “I knew Mitch’s quality and personality and thought he’d fit in.
“He played over here 10 years ago for Golcar in the Huddersfield League and didn’t do very well. But when I was in a bar with him in Stockholm, having a beer with him, I floated the idea and said ‘What do you think? Would you be interested in a potential opportunity to come back?’.
“At first, he said ‘Are you kidding me; you want me to come on a plane every week for the next 10 weeks’. I said ‘Yes’. We got our heads around it after another beer and continued with it.
“He didn’t set the world alight at Golcar and wanted to right a few wrongs. From a selfish point of view, because we play on artificial pitches in Sweden and our next tournament in Holland was on grass, I wanted to get him some grass-wicket time. It was a bit of a win, win.
“In the first game, we were only chasing 124 and he went in at 70-1. He didn’t want to just crash it around, but get a feel for it and try and knock it around. He hit a scratchy 15 and then got given out and people were looking at me going ‘Who have you brought over here?’.
“I said that if he was given a bit more time to knock it around, people would see his quality and what he did at the weekend was lovely.”
Farnley host Hanging Heaton in the quarter-finals after they beat holders Woodlands.
Joe Fraser top-scored in Heaton’s opening card of 230, with Woodlands all out for 193.
Meanwhile, Farsley booked a last-eight tie with Pudsey St Lawrence on July 2 after easing past Scholes by nine wickets.
James Price (66no) saw the Red Laners home at 79-1 after Scholes were skittled for 75, with Mushy Rafique (4-15) and Chris Henry (3-24) making hay.
St Lawrence beat Batley by seven wickets, with Chris Marsden (4-21) and Mark Robertshaw (50) impressing.
Morley’s overseas man Sangeth Cooray hit 57, while Nathan Bromby (5-37) and Henry Rush (4-8) were in fine fettle as they saw off Bowling Old Lane by 124 runs.
They will host Undercliffe, who beat Yeadon by six wickets.
Craig Wood (76), Siraj Hussain (64no) and Nick Kaye (56) helped Birstall spring a surprise by beating Wrenthorpe by 50 runs. They host Methley, who thrashed Gomersal by 151 runs, with Josh Sullivan (5-17) and Muhummad Akhlaq (75) on song.
FARSLEY flexed their muscles in awesome fashion to demolish hapless Lightcliffe by 229 runs in the most one-sided of Premier Division contests.
The Red Lane men, thwarted by the weather in recent weeks, made up for lost time in hitting a hefty 256-4, with Dan Hodgson (101no) putting on 114 for the second wicket with James Price (94).
Lightcliffe were then routed for a desperate 27, with Mushy Raffique (5-10) and Chris Henry (4-16) cleaning up.
Farsley are in third spot behind leaders Hanging Heaton and surprise packages Townville, with champions Pudsey St Lawrence having made a patchy start to their defence, with the Tofts Road outfit lying fifth.
Heaton’s Nick Connolly (122no) scored his second ton of the season to take his league tally to 461 to help the Bennett Laners sink lowly Pudsey Congs by 137 runs.
Connolly put on 100 for the first wicket with Gary Fellows (43). Congs’ best was Josh Wheatley (37 and 4-51), with spinners Muhammed Rameez (4-51) and Chris Goodair (3-19) in the wickets for the Tewits.
Townville are two points behind Heaton and they were indebted to a strong showing from all-rounder Jack Hughes (43 and 4-44) in their tense 11-run win over East Bierley.
St Lawrence (144) lost by 11 runs to Cleckheaton (155), whose avenged their recent Priestley Cup loss.
Key bowling contributions arrived from Andrew Deegan (4-21) and Awais Ejaz (3-40), with skipper John Wood (41) top-scoring. The efforts of Chris Marsden (5-26) were in vain for St Lawrence.
An unplayable stint from Chris Brice (6-12) helped Woodlands see off New Farnley by four wickets, despite significant contributions from Simon Lambert (52) and James Middlebrook (5-41).
Ossett produced one of the shock Championship One results of the season after chasing down Wrenthorpe’s 246-8 to win with three balls left.
In the runs were Javed Umarji (69) and Zubair Raje (53), with spinner Khalid Usman bagging 5-41.
Josh Sullivan took 5-27 as Methley moved up to second after beating Bowling Old Lane.