What a start! Squares, outfields absolutely saturated, groundsmen unable to get rollers out or even to cut the grass and talking darkly about weeks to get it ready. Both the senior leagues have postponed their first weekends to later in the season but for the SYSCL that means starting this Saturday (hopefully) and there’s much to look forward to.
The Championship has lost Doncaster Town and Whiston PC to the Prem but gained Sheffield & Phoenix Utd and Tickhill in return. Tickhill are certainly keen to bounce back with Ahmed Jamal, the Pakistani Professional, winner of the King of Speed competition, as their overseas and Mike Jepps from Kexborough, Liam Johnson from Wickersley and Laurence Browes from Coal Aston to add depth to the side. Tickhill are very much a town club, with one of the best grounds and pavilions in the region and have great support from their community, who this year have helped them renovate their nets. They’ll want to do well.
So too will Elsecar who frustratingly have just missed promotion in each of the last three years. With Jason Meadows retiring, Ainsley Swallow will be 1st X1 skipper and they have Indian all rounder Puneet Datey as overseas and have attracted several other players from local clubs.
Darfield also have ambitions but are still developing their young side. Luke Bullingham will be captain and last year’s successful overseas, Syed Abid Hassan returns. Andrew Wood joins from Thorncliffe, Steve Cline from Rainford and Josh Gillies is back.
Wath also have youth on their side but have struggled in the past to maintain strong starts to the season. Captain fantastic, Rob Barlow with over 1000 runs and 50 wickets, will again be leading from the front, closely supported by Damian de Vos from South Africa. Top keeper, Jonathan Hays, has moved on, to be replaced by Yorkshire junior Haris Hussain and Jack Moran joins from Whiston. Their 2nds too will be pushing hard after getting promoted to Div 1.
The team to watch though could be last year’s run away Div 1 winners, Rockingham. They may not have Stuart Matsikenyeri, who hit five 100s in his short stay, but they were already top before he arrived at the end of June. Tahsin Dar from Kashmir takes his place, and Hamzah Younis and Ant Scully have joined. If Ben Dalton can bat as well as he did last year, with nearly 900 league runs, and the team operate so effectively as a unit, they will be strong contenders.
Their promotion partners Sprotbrough will also be looking to make an impact. Their overseas is batsman/spinner Eknoor Singh from Australia and there’s a buzz about the club, with a new 3rd team starting and lots of improvement to their facilities.
It’s all change again at Rotherham Town, as Director of Cricket, Irfan Mirza brings in five new signings, including overseas Aitizaz Khan. Yakoob Yousaf from Thorncliffe , Abid Younas from Elsecar, Husnain Hussain from Coal Aston and Aaron Grant from Castleford, but supporting their young talent is also important. Irfan says: “Over the past two seasons we’ve rebuilt the club after a difficult time between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. We are going to continue working at the heart of the community to bring more youngsters into cricket and give them top coaching.”
Conisbrough will be a force to be reckoned with. New captain Amit Kundra will not only have the powerful Gary Strephan belting the ball to all corners (1011 runs last year) but Arosh Jonoda is back - 30 wickets and over 600 runs in league and cup cricket when last he was here, with 62 6’s in 2016 alone. Good news for local glaziers!
Houghton Main are also hoping for a better year, with Biswick Kapala joining them from Whitley Hall and George Swaby from Castleford.
Sadly though Kexborough won’t be there, at least not in the Championship. It’s been their turn to suffer from several players moving off together, leaving the club unable to function at their current level. Recently it’s happened to Rotherham Town and Sheffield United and it’s a great concern. Maybe there’s a shortage of good players, maybe there’s a lack of loyalty beyond cash. It’s certainly not an easy time for many clubs.
As a result, this year the Championship will play with eleven clubs and the vacancy is being advertised for the 2019 season. It’s open to any club outside the Yorkshire South pyramid but within the catchment area. Terms and conditions apply. Interested clubs should contact David Ward on 07753 866144.