NEIGHBOURS Woodlands and Cleckheaton may have had their fair share of intense summit meetings over the past decade in the Bradford League, but tomorrow’s encounter is all about finding their feet in the new season.
Woodlands, embarking on life without legendary overseas man Sarfraz Ahmed, are hopeful of being in the shake-up when the prizes are handed out in the autumn, but for secretary Brian Pearson, it is very much a case of not expecting things too soon either.
Finding some durability and balance in a talented but at times inconsistent line-up will be key, as it will for Cleck, although they look to be more in transition than their Oakenshaw neighbours.
Ahead of the pair’s latest meeting at Albert Terrace and on his hopes for Woodlands, who famously won four top-flight titles in a row from 2005-08 and back-to-back championships in 2011-12, Pearson said: “Losing Saffy is a big hit to take and I think we will only realise how big it is when he isn’t here. But it had to come to an end some time. But from my perspective, Saffy is irreplaceable and there’s only one Sarfraz Ahmed.
“But we decided not to go with an overseas this year. We needed a batter rather than a bowler and I think they are more difficult to find, in terms of the quality we would want, and nobody jumped out of the pack to say ‘come and get me’ and therefore, it would have been a risk. So we looked at Jamie Pickering, who has had two good seasons at Otley. He knows it is a step up, but he wants the challenge and is an attacking number three batsman and Liam Collins has been promoted from second team to bat in the top five.
“Hopefully, it gives us a balance and long batting line-up and hopefully we will be competing for everything that we enter. That is not to say we are going to start as favourites. We didn’t show consistency last year; in those four years when we were at our height and had (Pieter) Swanepoel, Saffy and Tim Orrell, it was a top, top side and a once-in-a-lifetime one.”
Elsewhere, Farsley welcome Pudsey Congs, while champions Pudsey St Lawrence make the trip to Lightcliffe.
Hanging Heaton head to Bradford and Bingley and New Farnley play host to East Bierley.
The two newly promoted sides also do battle with Townville entertaining Batley.