Yorkshire League: Sheffield and Phoenix United and Collegiate look to make their mark
So the change finally has happened.
The Yorkshire League, long held as the bastion of top level club cricket in the county, has gone and replaced by a pyramid system with an overall champion to be crowned in the desert of the UAE in the autumn.
In our area of the new landscape, our clubs are competing in the snappily titled ‘All Rounder Cricket ECB Yorkshire South Premier League’.
Half of the opponents are familiar, with Rotherham Town, Barnsley, Doncaster, Cleethorpes and Appleby Frodingham remaining. Replacing the heady names of Harrogate, York and Scarborough are local clubs Aston Hall, Treeton, Whitley Hall, Wickersley and newcomers Wakefield Thornes.
Some shorter trips, but some tough cricket ahead for our Sheffield clubs United and Collegiate.
Another change was a significant one at Bawtry Road, as Sheffield United and Rotherham Phoenix merged to form one club, Sheffield and Phoenix United CC. Both clubs were struggling to recruit and maintain their membership, but there is now a genuine belief that the potential is there to bring back the good times.
After much hard work during the winter the new club is ready to go when the season begins. An exciting arrival is that of former Yorkshire all-rounder Azeem Rafiq to captain the 1st XI. Azeem has moved from Barnsley, along with his brother Danial, whilst young seamer Jaymish Patel has arrived from Birstall.
Azeem brings a new positive attitude and is determined that S&PUCC will be a force to be reckoned with in the new Yorkshire League South in 2016.
“We will surprise a lot of clubs,” he said.
“We are a young, talented team who understand the modern game. We are a young, keen, and fit unit and are confident that we will be competitive in every game we play. We will approach every game positively and set out to win.”
Two players who will not be at Bawtry Road in 2016 are last season’s skipper Lesroy Weekes who has moved onto Darfield and overseas batsman Jaco Sholtz.
Meanwhile, Collegiate have bolstered their ranks with the return of Eliot Callis to the club after four seasons with Yorkshire Academy.
Callis is currently on Yorkshire’s books and will hopefully continue his progression through the county second XI. There have been no departures this winter and Collegiate will still have Simon Guy and Billy Root in their ranks, although Simon may miss the start of the season due to his new teaching commitments at Denstone College.
Billy will continue to play for Leeds MCCU this season and again has a summer contract with Nottinghamshire CCC. He started the season with his maiden first class century for Leeds MCCU against Sussex.