Their Byrom Shield grip may not be as strong right now in what’s been a transitional season for Scholes, but the reigning champions are still focused on at least a top-three finish.
Skipper James Noble has a much-changed personnel under his command this summer, but they’ve reached the latter stages of four big knockouts and gradually climbed into a challenging position in the Drakes Premeiership.
Scholes – with Kiwi Tom MacRury from Northern Districts A as the overseas player – remain a dangerous proposition for anyone and, with Noble’s clever management, are planning to ruffle a few more feathers before stumps are drawn for 2016.
Up to joint fifth in the standings and just six points behind third place, Scholes will be aiming to move ahead of another of their closest rivals, Golcar, with victory at Chapelgate (although Steve Whitwam and Co will have something to say about that).
“We’ve had big changes from last year with seven players missing from the squad that won the league, and I think we have definitely punched above our weight,” said Noble, who also led his side to the All Rounder Sykes Cup final a year ago.
“As defending champions, people have no doubt looked in from the outside and thought we should have been challenging more, but realistically – with the team and the squad we’ve got – we’ve done fantastically so far and we’re looking to finish the season well.”
MacRury has been joined at Chapelgate by fellow Kiwi Callum Hill and a couple of signings for the future in Alex Clegg from Meltham and Yorkshire Academy player Ben Birkhead from Elland.
“We have rebuilt with a couple of good lads from overseas, a couple of good lads from this area and by bringing through a good few players from the second team, which is no bad thing,” explained Noble.
“The two Kiwis took a little bit of time to find their feet, but they’ve both started scoring good runs and have slotted into the club really well.
“Tom MacRury (known as Mox) is a Northern Districts player on the verge of first class and hits the ball really well, and he came to us as the next player off the rank to Joe Carter.
“Mox struggled a little bit early on because of the pace of the wickets and going hard at the ball, but he looks a very good batter when he’s in and while he’s a quiet lad, like Joe was, he’s similarly good to have around the changing room.
“He bowls some decent off-spin, too, which has been handy for us, taking 18 wickets, so he’s a very good cricketer to have around.
“Callum, likewise, struggled with the bat early doors, but he has been superb with the gloves and, with Richard Holmes being injured at the start of the season, we needed someone to take that job.
“Now, Callum is looking very confident with the bat, has put together some very good innings in the middle order and it was great to see him get an excellent century against Elland the other week.
“The are both good lads and they’ve settled well into our dressing room, which remains as good as ever. We have a really good laugh – I’m six years the senior statesman now at 32 – there is a good vibe around the place and, while we’ve got a lot of daft young lads having fun, we’ve played some good cricket as well and that’s what you want.”
With Holmes, Hill and Birkhead, Scholes have three of the very best glovemen in the league and they are keeping wicket to an attack dominated by the brothers Brook – Josh, Tom and Louis – and taking returns from a team keen in the field.
“We set good standards in our fielding last year and we’ve tried to bring that forward,” added Noble.
“There is a good ethos and we know what we need to do in the field to win games, which helps you nick the close ones.
“The lads who have come in and come up from the second team have bought into that – and they’ve helped out with the bat as well – and it’s been really good to see them playing a full part, because it can be a daunting step to make up.
“The three Brooks did a lot of damage for us last year and they’ve built on that this time, stepping forward well.
“Louis went away to New Zealand last winter and played alongside Jono Boult, and he’s come back a better bowler this time in my opinion, even though he’s still young and getting stronger.
“You know exactly what you are going to get from Josh and Tom, and they’ve been superbly consistent again this season, and then on the back of that we’ve signed Cleggy, who was just getting into his stride when he suffered an injury. We are hoping to get a lot more overs into him before the season is out.
“Mox and Tom Chadwick are very good options, too, so we know we can get the job done and beat anyone on our day.”
Those stepping up from the seconds on a pretty regular basis have included Ronan Coleman, Guy and Eden Pearson, Mark Floyd, Jack Cooper, Chester FC footballer Ross Killock and former Huddersfield Town player Duane Holmes, who has now signed for Scunthorpe United.
“They’re all good lads and have not only enjoyed playing but have played their part as well at one time or another,” added Noble.
“We’ve given all the top sides good games but unfortunately rolled over a couple of times against some of the lesser ones, but that’s what happens when you don’t have the real strength in depth.
“Last year we had a strong squad of 12 and could pretty much turn up and beat anyone.
“This year we have always had fillers in, so it’s understandable you are going to be more inconsistent.
“But I still say we are capable of beating anyone and there’s no reason why we can’t finish in the top three.”