Examiner cricket writer DAVID LOCKWOOD looks at contenders in the Cedar Court Conference section
THE Cedar Court will be a highly competitive Conference.
Although maybe not as strong as the Frank Platt, a few clubs (at least on paper) will be chasing the honours.
Last September MARSDEN finished as Conference runners-up, only to be beaten by Broad Oak in the play-off final, and I would again expect the Hemplow side to be near the fore, particularly as they look a stronger proposition than 12 months ago.
Chris Kilner has moved the short distance up Manchester Road from Slaithwaite, and he should certainly stiffen up the bowling attack, assuming he is fit and able on a regular basis. Last season he only managed 11 games for the Hill Toppers, but still hauled in 37 victims.
The only other newcomer at Marsden is another nearby recruit, Alistair Farrell, who has joined from Meltham, and will bolster the middle order.
Nicky Clee misses the first couple of games because of his soccer commitments with Hyde, but is available from May 2, and with Pete Lombard again the club pro, and led by Matt Butters and including promising Joe Lumb player Sam Hall, Marsden will not be far away come the end of the season.
HOYLANDSWAINE could also be involved in the promotion places with five new signings for skipper Darren Lockwood to consider.
Rockingham all-rounder John Ashton was the club’s first major signing, and that’s been followed by the recruitment of opening batsman Mark Wright and bowler Adam Bashford, both from Rotherham Phoenix, and by ex-Windhill pair James Pringle and Dan Walton.
Although losing the League’s leading run-maker from last year, Scott Marsh, along with Danny and Tony Mulhall (all to Linthwaite), Lockwood has enough experience of the Drakes League and with highly-rated bowler Ian Simon and the talented Ryan Copley, it would be something of a surprise if the new boys are not banging on the door of Premiership pretty soon.
LEPTON won the Cedar Court Conference back in 2001 when they were led to the title by Mumtaz Ali who bagged 62 wickets and scored over 500 runs – and the good news for Highlanders is that Mumtaz is ‘back in town.’
And the influential all-rounder will again team up with Dale Winterbottom who has returned to the Wakefield Road side as skipper, accompanied by former Kirkheaton players Luke Webster, Alex Slack and Gary Hodgson.
They have also picked up Paul Metcalfe from Paddock, plus a couple of former Primrose Hill men, including Yasir Iqbal, so skipper Sean Mulhall looks to have plenty of options available to him this season and will surely improve on last year’s last place in their division.
THONGSBRIDGE were never far off the pace last season, finishing third behind Slaithwaite and Marsden, and they too should at least be challenging for a place in next season’s second division.
Mark Clayton has been recruited as the new skipper at Miry Lane, and he has a useful pedigree, having played with Todmorden in the Lancashire League as well as having experience in the Bradford League.
Javed Iqbal junior has also made the short hop down the road from Holmfirth, where he took an incredible 84 wickets to help steer Holmfirth to the Cedar Court title in 2007, while they are welcoming Ben Raven-Hill back from Meltham.
Another new player they will be hoping to get some mileage out of is Justin Grant, a London University student, who is available for part of the season. Grant is a fast bowler and No3 bat.
So much can depend on getting a useful overseas man, and HALL BOWER struggled last season, never getting higher than fifth in their section, and much will depend on what Aussie Nathan Fitzgerald and Zimbabwean-born British qualified Shaun Barry can deliver.
Fitzgerald is a bowler, who can bat, but is on holiday and available only half the season.
Barry on the other hand is an opening batsman who can bowl a bit, and here all summer, much to the relief of new skipper Ben Dunne.
PADDOCK have also gone down the Australian route, signing First Grade player Steve Abbott, who hails from Perth.
Abbott is a pretty sharp opening bowler and middle order batsman, while the batting will be further stiffened up by the arrival of Richard Payne from Halifax League side Low Moor.
Mark Turner skippers, but is set to lose all-rounder Phil Cheeseman who played a major role for the West View Rise men last term.
Promotion-winning skipper Simon Sykes returns to lead EMLEY CLARENCE, but his chances of repeating the success of 2006 when his side were crowned Frank Platt Conference champions look less favourable this time round.
The Welfare Ground side are not intending employing an overseas man and the only in-comers will be former Lepton opening batsman Richard Haynes and Shelley second teamer Gino Dignan and a return to the Premiership looks unlikely this time round.
RASTRICK have retained Australian bowler Elliott Lawrie this season, and will be looking to him improving on last year’s 43-wicket tally. He is also a useful batsman, but only passed the half-century mark once last term.
Ijaz Shah has gone, but all-rounder Ateeq Rehman is back again, while James Anderson has returned from Broad Oak, and the club have also recruited Halifax Joe Lumb Cup all-rounder Craig Chew from Copley. Matthew Lambert skippers.