Meltham go into tomorrow’s Sykes Cup first semi-final at Shepley with skipper Simon Kenworthy keen to grab a “massive opportunity”.
The Jedi Sports Championship side have been the giantkillers of the All Rounder Cricket-sponsored competition this season and are in no mood to stop now.
Kenworthy’s side knocked out Premiership Elland in the first round, by 11 runs, demolished Championship rivals Thongsbridge in the second and then shocked top-flight Broad Oak in the quarter-finals.
Now they face a Shepley side third in the Byrom Shield hunt on their own patch, but Kenworthy says his mix of young and not so young players are ready for the challenge.
“We were happy with the draw when it came out because it’s the one we wanted,” said Kenworthy, with reference to Drakes leaders Delph hosting second-placed Hoylandswaine in the second semi-final a week tomorrow.
“I don’t think Shepley are in particularly good form at the moment and, while we know what they are about as a top-division side, it’s all to play for as far as we are concerned.
“What I said to the lads before we played the first round against Elland was to just go out and enjoy it. I told them we were not going to win the Cup, so we should enjoy the cricket and concentrate on the League.
“But we have played well while enjoying the Cup matches and now opportunity knocks.
“It’s a massive opportunity for us against another Premiership side – we’ve only played Thongsbridge outside the top flight – and that opportunity is there not only for the young lads at the start of their careers, but for those of us who are at the back end of our playing days.”
Kenworthy’s side are fifth in the Jedi Sports Championship as they take on bottom club Marsden at Hemplow today – but just five points adrift of the promotion places having been relegated to the second tier in 2014.
They’ve lost a couple of their talented products since last summer in Alex Clegg (to Scholes) and Jack Hinchliffe (to Armitage Bridge), but Kenworthy says there is still plenty of match-winning ability in the camp.
That was highlighted in the quarter-final victory over Broad Oak at Mean Lane, when Meltham were faced with chasing down a 220-6 total and did so in spectacular style with just five balls to spare.
Experienced Darren Hinchliffe, a finalist with Honley, Meltham and Slaithwaite in the past, is leading the runs chart for the club with 324 and scored an invaluable 64 in a three-figure opening stand with Sam Clegg in the last eight.
Teenager Clegg has 271 runs while the name of Mudasar Butt features in both the batting and bowling charts and his all-round ability could be key tomorrow.
Butt is 13 runs short of 300 but has also taken 25 wickets at 13.56, making him a very dangerous customer.
Teammate Ibrar Hussain is leading the way with 28 wickets (average 12.71), while former Netherlands international Muhammad Kashif has 23 wickets at 16.74, so Kenworthy’s next comment will come as no surprise.
“Bowling is our strength on our day – we’ve got some very good bowlers – and then we’ve got two or three others doing their bit when needed, with it being only 10 overs per man in the Cup,” said the former Huddersfield Giants rugby league player.
“Mudasar came to us at late notice from over the tops – he is a mate of Kashif’s – and it was more with a view to his batting than his bowling, but he is opening the attack and doing a very good job.
“He’s medium pace, but he does a lot with it and he’s not only got a slower delivery, but a quick one as well and he’s always got us off to a decent start.
“Ibrar has good skills as well, moving it both ways, and Kashif is just unplayable on his day.
“This is where I don’t agree with the leg-side wide rule because when you’ve got someone like him who can turn it square, I think they tend to get punished too much.
“George (Sykes-Kenworthy, the skipper’s son) is still learning his trade, but when he puts it in the right areas he returns some good figures and the consistency in those areas will come.
“Like I say to all the bowlers, let the wicket do the job by just putting it in the right areas.
“By the looking of it, with all the rain we’ve had, the strip at Shepley could be pretty soft and that could play into our hands a little bit. We’ve got people who can exploit that.”
Shepley have the leading bowler in the League at the moment in Jamal Nasir (41 wickets at a miserly 9.78 with an economy rate of just 2.22), while skipper Danny Glover has 21 wickets and Tom Burkinshaw 18.
Kenworthy – who will have Abdul Hamid back in the line-up – has every confidence in his batting, however.
“We bat right down to No11, which is usually me!” explained Kenworthy, who is aiming to make his first Sykes Cup final.
“Daz Hinchliffe is very consistent and, when he’s got his head on, he is as good as anyone around. This is a Sykes Cup semi-final, he’ll want to get to the final for maybe one last time, so you wouldn’t expect him to have anything else other than his head on.
“Sam Clegg is doing very well, Mudasar bats better the higher up the order he goes, Jack Moulson is hungry for runs and Hamid is back, then we’ve got Kashif down the order who is really dangerous.
“We know we’ve got people who can hit the ball, and that’s what we showed in the tie against Broad Oak – we were able to make a solid start and that gave us the chance to knock off a decent score.”
Tomorrow’s Fired Up Paddock Shield semi is Barkisland v Kirkburton.