MELTHAM have produced some excellent players down the years, many of whom have gone on to become familiar names in Drakes Huddersfield cricketing history.
And although it may still be early days, the signs are they could just have unearthed another gem in the shape of Will Fraine, son of well-known opening batsman Michael, currently playing at Honley.
Although still only 14 years old, Will has played six first-team matches in the Frank Platt Championship, and last Saturday notched his second half-century, while also having an unbeaten 41 out of those half-a-dozen games.
Which is no mean feat for a 14-year-old.
Involved in the Yorkshire County juniors set-up, Fraine looks a confident and very correct batsman, and no wonder Meltham supporters are excited about his prospects.
But as the Mean Lane club’s skipper David Bebb acknowledges, it may not be that easy to hang onto him as higher profile clubs start to take notice.
“Will has a lot of natural ability and is already a really good player,” admitted Bebb.
“On top of which he’s a really good lad and has no edge to him. The only trouble is I don’t how long we can keep him.”
Much of that may depend on Yorkshire, and should he continue to improve and impress, could well be given an Academy contract, which will then restrict his appearances with any local club, be it Meltham or anywhere else.
It’s certainly been a mixed start to the new season for Meltham, with some good performances, marred by several lapses, not least losing to Cedar Court side Kirkheaton in the Oddfellows Cup.
“I don’t think we’ve been beaten by a better side so far, I just think we’ve tended to beat ourselves,” reflected Bebb.
“We’ve simply not played very well against some teams. I thought we could have done much better in the Sykes Cup game against Premiership club Marsden, which, had we played to what we are capable of doing, then it would have given us a good guide as to where we are at present.
“And then we threw away a winning position against Kirkheaton in the Oddfellows. So we do need to find some consistency.”
Bebb is in his second season at Meltham, having joined last year from Milnrow when he arrived with his friend, the much-travelled Steve Lane (Golcar, Lascelles Hall, Meltham and now at Liversedge). Normally an early order batsman Bebb, who played most of his career in the Central Lancashire League, as well as a short spell in the Saddleworth League, has been ‘sacrificing himself on the altar of giving others a chance this season’, and batting himself at nine, 10, jack, but does have plenty of firepower now to call on.
Abdul Hamid has been recruited from Rochdalians, for whom he scored 1,400 runs last year and already has two 85s under his belt this season, while they again have Nadeem Ashraf, who joined them last season from the Bolton League.
“Nadeem is another player who is very capable of scoring more than 1,000 runs and taking 40 wickets in a season, while this season we’ve signed Zohib Shah, who is first or second change bowler and a useful middle order batsman,” continued Bebb.
“Two more signings this season are the Storeys, Jon and his nephew Lee, who have both come from my old club at Milnrow, both of whom bowl.
“In fact, I reckon our bowling attack is as good as anyone’s in the league. The only thing we are missing is a top quality spinner.”
Bebb is also hoping for a big season this time from Luke Kenworthy (son of another well-known cricketer and rugby player, Simon).
“Luke has been in New Zealand during the winter as part of the Bracewell Academy, with coaching under the eye of Test players like Matt Sinclair, and it was quickly noticeable that his glove work has improved a lot while he’s been away.
“It’s good to have him back. He’s already had a couple of half centuries, and he can certainly hit the ball hard. And it’s also good to have Ernie (Chris Earnshaw) back in the side. He’s an under-rated player and he’s the sort of player everyone needs in their dressing room.
“We are missing Daz Hinchliffe, who I think has managed the odd game in the Seconds, but unfortunately for us can’t play on a regular basis because of his work commitments. Obviously he is still a quality player and would do a real job for us.
“But then we do have some kids coming through. As well as Will (Fraine) lads like Jack Wallis, Alex Clegg and Jack Moulson are all starting to push for places and I think we have the makings of a good side on paper.
“I don’t feel there is much difference between a lot of the leading sides in the Championship. Hall Bower are going well, as are Holmfirth, Lepton look a good balanced side and Clayton West are just getting going after a poor start, but if we can just find a bit more consistency, and stop dropping so many catches, I think we’ll be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.”