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Video: Moorlands driven by proving a point in Drakes Huddersfield Premiership

Team spirit sparkling at Memorial Ground

Moorlands (back, from left) Liam Smith, Andrew Fortis, David Winn, Cameron French, Aqeel Mulhtar. Front: Reece Drake, Nicky Smith, Michael Rounding, Jared Maxwell, Darrell Sykes, Chris Stott. Picture by Mel Booth

Anyone who thought Moorlands might struggle this season had better think again.

Driven by the bitter experience of relegation in their only previous Drakes Premiership season in 2015, the Mirfield-based club are already making a significant mark this time.

Promoted immediately as champions of the Jedi Sports Championship, skipper Andrew Fortis says their current third place in the table is the result of sensible planning on a limited budget and an inspiring team spirit (sound familiar Huddersfield Town fans?!).

“We knew coming back up it was going to be a difficult season and we would need to strengthen,” said Fortis, disappointed to go out of the All Rounder Sykes Cup by just one wicket to Honley.

“There is a core of Moorlands lads but then we thought we would go for some ‘international investment’ to move things along.

“Cameron French looked a really good player at Kirkheaton last season and, once we signed him, it opened the door to bring in another lad from Queensland in Liam Smith.

“The club felt we still needed more, so we got Aqeel Mukhtar from Batley, who has become UK qualified, and Nicky Smith, another Aussie lad who played at Burton Leonard in the Nidderdale League.

“We got him through someone we know and thought Nicky could do a good job for our bowling department, as he puts it in the right areas and swings it both ways.”

Moorlands have won seven of their 10 top-flight matches before today’s home clash with Golcar.

Overseas signing French, from the Redlands Tigers club in Brisbane, won the Cedar Court Conference batting prize last season with Kirkheaton and has already scored 414 runs at 41.40 this summer.

Mukhtar has 345 at 31.36, Fortis 289 at 26.27, David Winn 244 at 27.11 and 19-year-old Liam Smith, also from Redlands Tigers but UK qualified, 216 at 21.60.

Those are solid batting stats (Jared Maxwell, from Melbourne, is the other UK-qualified Aussie on the books) and sit nicely alongside some determined bowling figures.

Nicky Smith and Darrell Sykes are fifth and sixth in the top-flight standings with 27 wickets at 21.37 for Smith and 26 at 18.00 for Sykes.

Left-armer Andrew Walker has picked up 17, spinner Winn 14 and Liam Smith six.

“A lot has fallen into place, but the biggest factor is they are a great set of lads,” explained Fortis.

“We get on like a house on fire and you wouldn’t think we’d been together only six months, it’s like we’ve played together three or four years. It’s brilliant.

“Our team spirit is phenomenal. We have no world-beating players but everyone is contributing, both in terms of runs and wickets.

“The biggest problem last time we were in the Prem was our batting. We were getting rolled for 120 and 130 every week.

“This season, I am not lying when I say any of our top nine can bat anywhere in the top nine. I think that’s important in what is a batting league.

“Nicky has done a really good job with the ball, I think it’s helped Darrell that he’s not opening this season – he is bowling change and he is bowling with a lot more control.

“He’s not trying to bowl quite so fast, just putting it there or thereabouts and nagging away.

“You have to factor in Andrew Walker as well, and none of our opposition, except perhaps Hoylandswaine and Cawthorne, have really got away from us – and that’s because those three have bowled 45 overs every week for next to nothing. They’ve done really well.”

Fortis is Moorlands through and through and, apart from taking three seasons out when they came into the Drakes from the Central Yorkshire, the 32-year-old has been skipper for a decade.

“I think a lot of people under-estimated us at the start, but when we get to the turn I think it will be a little bit different,” he continued.

“We don’t fear anyone this time. We are going out there to play a brand of cricket which is aggressive, putting runs on the board and trying to contain.

“We are not going out to score 150 or 160. We are going out to score 300 and then put the opposition under pressure. That is where we are at right now.

“It’s different to last time we were in the Prem when we romped through the leagues and everyone said Moorlands were going to do well, but we got let down.

“The platform we have now is to really prove we can do it at this level, to prove we are a Premiership club.”

Moorlands are certainly doing that at the moment, and they also fancy a challenge in the T20 Trophy which starts on Tuesday.

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