Aire-Wharfe: Champions Otley see records on the horizon

Henry Smallwood, whose 87 helped second-placed Olicanian win at Kirkstall Educational. PIC: Steve Riding
Henry Smallwood, whose 87 helped second-placed Olicanian win at Kirkstall Educational. PIC: Steve Riding
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OTLEY are Aire Wharfe champions for the fourth time in the last six years with chairman Chris Smith hopeful the current team can now go close to setting new club records.

James’ Davies side ensured they avoided a final-day showdown with second-placed Follifoot as Saturday’s five-wicket win at Collingham added the 2019 league title to those secured in 2014, 2015 and last year.

James Watson, of Kirkstall, takes the wicket of Harry Smallwood (87). 'He took five wickets but Olicanian won in the promotion battle. PIC: Steve Riding

James Watson, of Kirkstall, takes the wicket of Harry Smallwood (87). 'He took five wickets but Olicanian won in the promotion battle. PIC: Steve Riding

Follifoot maintained their end of the bargain with Saturday’s 120-run crushing of fourth-placed visitors Ilkley, leaving Otley chairman Smith to praise the “relentless” pursuit of Follifoot who will now definitely finish second.

Smith, though, already has his eyes on defending the title next year with the chairman believing the current group have it within their compass to challenge the club record of four championships in a row.

“The record is to get past four on the trot,” said Smith.

“If things stay as they are, then I would expect we are going to go close because it’s a very good side. Not a lot will change.

Sam Pilling hits four runs for Olicanian. PIC: Steve Riding

Sam Pilling hits four runs for Olicanian. PIC: Steve Riding

“We might be getting one or two players in but we have had one or two of our juniors coming through this year.

“Alex Mullins got six wickets against Bilton a couple of weeks ago and he’s only played two or three first-team games since he has come in and there’s Jake Toulson and Sam Kellett so we have got a good crop of lads around 19-20 who are wanting to break through, so we need to push them lads now and get them going.

“We will have the same group of players available along with one or two lads who are coming through from the seconds.

“It’s a strong side and in that side I would say that we would have six or seven lads who would play Premier League cricket and everybody thinks they get paid but not one of them gets paid anything from the club or sponsors or anything – totally amateur.

Ed Leech, of Olicanian, hits out. PIC: Steve Riding

Ed Leech, of Olicanian, hits out. PIC: Steve Riding

“To win the title so many times in so few years is fantastic.”

Skipper Davies led from the front in Saturday’s success at Collingham by taking 6-24 as the hosts were skittled for 83. Otley then eased to 84-5 which was just as well with Follifoot walloping Ilkley.

A knock of 86 from Yasar Ali took Follifoot to 213-9 before Istikhar Hussain (4-16) and Joshua Cutts (4-49) then caused mayhem to leave Ilkley on 93-9.

Smith said: “Follifoot have just been relentless and they have probably had one more rained off than we have. It would have been an exceptionally nervy finish if we had lost on Saturday because then it would have become a cup final. Everybody was delighted and relieved that it won’t come to that now so we’re fine.”

The two teams will now lock horns in an end-of-season dead rubber at Cross Green on Saturday but Smith says there will be no taking it easy.

“We don’t lose many,” he warned. “We’ve lost two this season which is probably what we have lost for the last three or four seasons so we want to finish in style and put a bigger distance between us and them.”