SKELMANTHORPE have started the new season in excellent shape as they aim to put a hugely disappointing 2008 season behind them.
A maximum haul from their first two League games against Shepley and Golcar, followed by a Sykes Cup first round win, again over Shepley, gave skipper Adam Dollive the perfect start, and even though they were shot out at Holmfirth last weekend, they are hoping it will be a successful summer.
Before last year, the Lidgett Lane side had made inroads into the upper echelon of the Drakes Premiership, finishing fourth in 2006 and runners-up in 2007, which also saw them lift the Romida Sykes Cup, thus ending Honley’s hat trick hopes and gaining revenge for their defeat in the 2006 final at the hands of the Holme Valley club.
But their form fell away last summer due to a number of different factors, not least the long-standing injury carried by overseas man Amit Dani, which reduced his effectiveness, particularly as a bowler, and eventually saw him return home with a third of the season remaining.
They also missed the contribution from Army officer Richard Parker who returned to the service, having scored nearly 700 runs in barely half a season in 2007.
And the club captain also points to his side’s first-round Sykes Cup exit – when they went in as Cup holders – as another major factor in Skelmanthorpe’s summer of discontent.
“We certainly lost our momentum last year when we crashed out in the first round of the Cup, trying to defend it on a cold, damp night at Slaithwaite,” admitted Dollive, whose side had been shot out for 71 on the Monday night after the Cup-ties were all washed out on the Sunday and forced into evening play.
Dollive’s men subsequently lost five of their next eight League games (having won both their opening games before the Cup defeat) and they never recovered – eventually finishing in a disappointing eighth place.
But with a very highly-rated overseas man now in situ, along with a newly-recruited opening bowler and opening batsman, the signs already look very encouraging for Lidgett Lane supporters.
Indian all-rounder Anirudh Singh has the sort of pedigree which really could propel Skelmanthorpe back among the big boys this season.
Singh plays for Hyderabad Heroes in the Indian Cricket League (he captained the side in 2007) and bats at No3 – going in ahead of India’s Test star VVS Laxman!
He missed Skelmanthorpe’s first outing, but having arrived on the Thursday of the following week, 48 hours later he went out and hit 83 against Golcar and took three wickets to signal his arrival in style.
Also on board this season is Craig Glover, who has made the short move from Shepley, and Tim Sykes who has joined the club from Emley Clarence after they were relegated last season.
“Ani has played 50 first-class games and is a quality player, as he showed first up against Golcar, while Craig (Glover) and Tim (Sykes) have both made good starts and fitted in really well already,” continued the skipper. “Craig knows most of the lads anyway, having come up through the juniors here at Skelmanthorpe at Under 13 and Under 15 level, before moving to Shepley when we didn’t have an Under 17 side.
“On our day I think we are good enough to beat anyone in the League, but on the other side of the coin I think we could also get bowled out for 60 (somewhat prophetic as they were bowled out for 56 at Holmfirth!).
“Undoubtedly our success at Skelmanthorpe is built on team spirit and a nucleus of home-grown players, which we are continuing to feed through with players like Jamie Jagger, Dominic Storey, brothers Ryan and Scott Jagger (who won the League prize as last season’s top Premiership Two bowler), Dan and Tom Barber all getting a chance in the firsts at some point.
“We’re hoping to get a bit more out of Kris (Whittaker) this season, especially with the ball, although we do have quite a few options now with James (Crossland) opening the attack with Craig Glover, Scott (Dyson) coming on first change, along with Anirudh to give us an extra option.
“If necessary, we also have Tim Sykes, who can bowl leg spin, and Jamie Jagger, who bowls with Yorkshire’s Under 16s.”
And if those options are not enough, Dollive could also call on the club’s other close-season recruit, Steve Glover, who has rejoined from Clayton West, although his role is mainly that of skippering Skelmanthorpe’s Seconds, who won the Premiership Two title last year, and helping with the development of their next generation of first teamers.