In the second part of his pre-season build up, cricket writer David Lockwood looks at the prospects of theChampionship title contenders ahead of Saturday's opening fixtures in the Drakes Huddersfield League.
THE fortunes have not favoured the once-mighty MELTHAM in recent years.
But after coming so close to the promotion frame last season, when they finished third behind champions Clayton West and Hall Bower, 2012 may just be the season the Mean Laners re-join the Drakes League’s top flight.
Lee Storey has taken over as skipper with last year’s leader David Bebb unsure as to his exact availability, but elsewhere with very much the same sort of team.
Meltham have recruited one player, young all-rounder Rohan Randhawa (younger brother of Yorkshire’s Gurman) who is an early order batsman and spinner, while at the other end of the age spectrum, they are welcoming back Darren Hinchliffe.
The hugely experienced ‘Deadly’ (Hinchliffe, inset) is likely to open the batting with the prodigiously talented Will Fraine, who last year notched his maiden senior century and is expected to really push on with some big numbers this season.
With back-up batting provided by Abdul Hamid, Randhawa, Nadeem Ashraf and Ibrar Hussain, runs shouldn’t be a problem.
And again spearheaded by 73-wicket taker Jon Storey, neither should the wickets, although they have still to redress the problem of losing their wicketkeeper/batsman Luke Kenworthy, who is now at University in New Zealand.
At least one of the two relegated clubs from the previous season are generally considered a safe bet to make an immediate return and BARKISLAND’S new skipper is confident it is within his team’s reach to do just that.
Darren Robinson has taken over from the departed Simon Wheelwright, who has moved to Elland, while he will also be without Andrew Gleave who has returned ‘over the tops’ into Lancashire and overseas player Kimeshin Chetty.
However, opening batsman Dave Weston has thrown his considerable experience into the bid to bounce straight back up, and the club have also signed Armghan Javed, who last season took 80 wickets in just 15 games with Stainland.
Although he lives locally at the moment he is still officially classed as an overseas player, and although playing at a lower level last year, I would expect him to pose a few problems for Championship batsmen this summer.
Elsewhere, Robinson will be looking to bring on some of the club’s promising younger players, like Isaac Pollitt, Seth Oddy, Ben Westbrook and Charlie Cocking, while again relying on the experienced shoulders of Gary Colman, Matt Steers and James Taylor.
ARMITAGE BRIDGE ran away with the Conference title last season, setting an historic record en route by going through the entire season unbeaten.
They are certainly unlikely to do the same this season, especially after losing their leading run scorer, Australian Hayden Jones, who topped 1,000 runs last summer.
However, they have acquired another Australian replacement in the shape of Dean Wolf, who is a wicketkeeper/batsman from Canberra, although that may be the only change in the first team squad.
Skipper Paul Hamer is determined to keep faith with the majority of the squad who took the Conference division by storm in 2011, and that means he will again be looking to leading wicket-takers Carl Jump – who lifted the Conference bowling award – and Rick Lunn to repeat last season’s heroics, backed up by up-and-coming youngsters Jordan Williamson, Faheem Hussain and Joel Harrison.