IT is fair to say that 2015 was a write-off for Farsley Cricket Club.
Club officials were at least grateful for small mercies in that the nightmare scenario of relegation and relinquishing their place in the new-look Bradford League top flight was avoided, thanks to a dramatic Great Escape.
They stayed up by one point at Undercliffe’s expense – largely due to inspired bowling from James Wainman and Neil Laidlaw in a last-day win over New Farnley.
The relief that day was soon superseded by a desire to get the club back on track after a wretched year hamstrung by injuries and unavailability which was difficult for everyone at Red Lane, compounded by the disastrous signing of overseas man Jake Fawcett.
And after a nerve-shredding 2015, when they escaped relegation by the seat of their pants, Farsley are hoping for a considerably more progressive campaign this time around and have been making close-season strides to ensure that.
A busy off season has seen a new overseas professional in the shape of South African batsman/off-spinner James Price join the club, with the 24-year-old hitting a whopping 1,400 runs for Milnrow in the Central Lancashire League last season.
Other new signings include Bradford and Bingley middle-order man Ryan Cooper – who club skipper and last season’s playing captain Mark Harrison knows well from his days at Burley.
Opener Jim Pickles – brother of current Farsley player Greg – has also arrived from Follifoot, with the main thrust of their recruitment being on improving their runs capacity after some poor shows with the bat last term.
Harrison said: “We have added three top batsmen, which is what we needed.
“The way we shape up, James is going to open, having opened for Milnrow last year where he did extremely well and he is happy to do so again.
“And Jim Pickles and Pricey will be a new opening partnership, which is exciting.”
On their seasonal hopes and avoiding anything resembling a repeat of last year, Harrison, who has handed the team captaincy reins to Yorkshire’s Dan Hodgson, added: “We don’t want to take it that far again!
“We just want to enjoy our cricket this year and keep our heads down, so we can push on and be successful.
“We feel that we have a more settled group this year and we have a squad of 12 or 13 players.
“And it will nice to get a bit of momentum again, and we feel that the club is going in the right direction.
“We certainly don’t want to finish just one point above the relegation zone again.”
Bowling wise, Wainman – who has come on ‘leaps and bounds’ during his time at Yorkshire in the off-season, according to Harrison – will continue to lead Farsley’s attack.
Meanwhile, promising young teenage left-arm spinner Adam Ahmed has joined the club from Undercliffe, something of particular interest to club stalwart – Yorkshire and England legend – Raymond Illingworth, who has been very keen for the club to bring in such a slow bowler to add variety to their attack this season.
Fellow youngster Mustafa Rafique, who has trained with Yorkshire Academy, has also joined the club from Pudsey Congs to supplement the bowling attack options for the Farsley club.
The inaugural All-rounder Bradford Premier League has put the start of the new cricket season back a week to Saturday April 23.
In one of the biggest overhauls to local cricket, the Bradford and Central Yorkshire Leagues have merged, bringing a four-division structure, which forms part of a pyramid in Yorkshire club cricket.
A new-look Premier Division consists of last season’s Division One clubs, with two parallel Championship sections below, followed by a Conference.
However, after consulting member clubs, the league management board have decided to postpone Saturday’s matches, delaying the start by seven days.
Fixtures in the Premier Division and Second Teams Premier Division will now be played on September 10 with a noon start.
The one exception will be the Second Team game between Yeadon and East Bierley which will be played on September 11.
The Championship A, Championship B, Conference and the Second Team Divisions will now be played on September 17.
Chairman David Young said: “The opinions of the clubs were overwhelming.
“The wet weather has been unprecedented and we appreciate that all clubs have been working hard in an incredibly difficult situation.
“In re-arranging the games, we have observed the wishes of clubs who have indicated that they do not wish to play league matches on a Sunday and therefore have set dates in September when the weather is usually more favourable.”