LIFE can be full of pleasant surprises – just ask Wrenthorpe.
The Bragg Lane End outfit find themselves as the early pacesetters in the ECB Bradford Premier League, with their achievement all the more remarkable given a torrid winter which hinted at a season of struggle following their promotion in 2018.
Wrens lost not just one, but both of their frontline bowlers in Jonathan Rudge and Awais Shah, who wreaked havoc on Championship One batsmen last term.
Factor in the departure of last year’s overseas in Mehran Ibrahim, who averaged 60.58 last term and the early-season absence of opening bowler Jon Donnelly, a recruit from Pudsey Congs and the top-flight newcomers were up against it.
To their immense credit, Wrens have drawn strength from adversity in superb fashion, with the likes of Oliver Kilburn, new overseas signing Khalil Khan and Will Bates stepping up impressively.
And for their part, Wrens are enjoying the ride.
Chairman Paul Marshall said: “It will come as no surprise that we struggled in the winter and the departures of Rudgey and Awais Ejaz left us in a difficult position. They got 150 wickets between them last season and no-one else really got a bowl apart from the overseas.
“We wanted to bring the overseas back, but budgets dictated. So we were faced with the three key players from last season all leaving the side.
“We have gone on a bit of journey to get new players into the club. We have got young lads in who just want to play cricket really and a desire to be better than what they were.
“There are no expectations on us as a group of players. People in the league will be looking at us thinking: ‘right, whipping boys – they have not signed anybody and have lost their two opening bowlers and main run-scorer from last year, so we will just roll them over.’
“But we are not rolling over. Youngsters don’t roll over and it is refreshing and exciting for us on the lowest edge of the budget available in the Premier League. It is fantastic and a really great achievement so far.”
Khan and Bates took three wickets apiece as Wrens held their nerve to dismiss Farsley for 92 on Saturday after opening with a low total of 103 – Yorkshire leg spinner Josh Poysden taking a magic 6-21 for the Red Laners.
Woodlands share the leadership with Wrens after their impressive victory over Hanging Heaton, who suffered their first seasonal league loss in a rain-affected game.
The Tewits mustered 140-7 in 38 overs, with Woodlands set a Duckworth Lewis Stern target of 152, which they successfully chased, Opener Tim Jackson (52) top-scored.
The omnipotent Chris Brice took 5-47 for the victors.
Elsewhere, young leg-spinner Archie Scott took top honours for champions Pudsey St Lawrence, who triumphed by six wickets at Undercliffe.
Scott took 5-44 to help dismiss the hosts for 122, with Charlie Best (47no) helping Saints home and up to third place.
Bradford and Bingley are in fourth spot, with Yorkshire player Harry Brook making a keynote 32 in B&B’s three-wicket win in a low-scoring affair over a Methley side who included Tykes star Matthew Waite.
Cleckheaton, who fielded Tom Kohler-Cadmore, beat Lightcliffe by four runs, with Andrew Deegan taking 5-64 for Cleck.
Suleman Khan took 5-53 for Lightcliffe – including the first-ball wicket of Kohler-Cadmore – with Mark Gill top-scoring with 58. John Wood hit 40 for the victorious Moorenders.
New Farnley were left hamstrung by the weather in an abandoned game against Townville with the Lawns Lane side yet to pick up a win bonus in the league this term.
Methley prop up the table, with Undercliffe and Farsley just above them in the early standings.
CUP KINGS Hanging Heaton came a cropper and relinquished their grip on the Solly Sports Heavy Woollen Cup after losing out to Wickersley Old Village on Sunday.
The Rotherham-based Yorkshire Premier League South outfit, who beat Methley in round one, followed up to dispatch the holders by 31 runs.
Replying to Wickersley’s opening salvo of 189-9, which saw Tom Chippendale take 3-33, the Tewits fell disappointingly short at 158.
Callum Geldart (37) and Ismail Dawood (34) top-scored for Heaton, with Garry Park taking 5-45 for Wickersley.
Early Bradford Premier League leaders and five-time winners Wrenthorpe (257-4) fared much better with a resounding 176-run blitzing of Elland (81).
Khalil Khan (116no) and Luke Patel (101) shared a magical third-wicket stand of 215 for Wrens before Matthew Race (4-25) and Jordan Sleightholme (3-9) took centre stage.
Captain Jack Hughes took a fine 5-29 as Townville eased past Whitley Hall by 108 runs, with Naveed Sayeed (46no) and Kris Ward (40) being the leading contributors with the bat.
Spen Victoria forfeited their tie with Buttershaw St Paul’s.
Championship One action on Saturday saw second-placed Morley maintain their good early-season form with a four-wicket win over Bankfoot, dismissed for 93.
Nathan Bromby (4-33), Matthew Dowse (3-33) and Akash Serenathna (3-22) did the damage with the ball.
Newly-promoted Keighley recorded their third win in a row to go seven points clear at the top after seeing off Gomersal.
Third-placed Batley saw their game with Hartshead Moor abandoned after rain prevented them from having the same number of overs in their innings.
Moor were bowled out for 141 in 47,2 overs with Mohammad Shahnawaz bagging 4-34 for Batley, who finished on 128-7 in 13 fewer overs than the visitors.
Sami Ullah (42no) top-scored for Batley.
East Bierley’s overseas man Ompal Boken (71) helped his side beat Ossett – for whom Oliver Newton took 5-46 – by 47 runs.
Pudsey Congs were stymied by the weather as their game against bottom team Wakefield St Michael’s was rained off with the visitors struggling on 93-7.
Sam Wisnewski took 4-28 for Congs.