IT’S a long, long time since Paddock were a force to be feared in the Huddersfield League.
Indeed, there is probably no-one still connected to the club who can even remember their glory days of the Sixties, when the West View Rise club won the Sykes Cup in 63, 67 and 68, which sandwiched their League title-winning years of 64 and 65.
But maybe, just maybe, there are signs that the former League heavyweights are on the verge of re-awakening as they go into the last third of the League programme with a handy eight-point lead at the head of the Cedar Court Conference – and a rare promotion season is beckoning.
If they should continue in the same vein over the last seven matches, take the title and subsequent promotion to the Frank Platt Championship, then a huge amount of credit will go to their first-rate overseas player Steve Abbott, who has really made his mark at Paddock, both last year and this.
The 23-year-old Western Australian from Perth, has been one of the best overseas pros in the lower divisions for the last two seasons, and it is no coincidence Paddock have hit the top of the table on the back of his 50 wickets and 654 runs to date.
He threatens to upstage last year’s efforts, when he took 73 wickets and scored 759 runs.
And last week at Rastrick, Abbott claimed his second eight-wicket haul of the 2010 season, which was exactly the number he needed to reach 50 League wickets for the season, which also won him the Examiner prize of £50 for being the first to reach the landmark in the new Championship or Conference.
“I reckon Rastrick will be glad to see the back of me, as we’ve played them five times in the last two years, and I’ve had four five-fors against them,” chuckled Abbott, who was stand-in skipper last week for Mark Turner, and who now has the two best bowling returns by any bowler in the Huddersfield League this season.
Abbott first came to England in 2005 when he played for Burridge cricket club in Southampton, who play in the Hampshire League.
“I remember it very well, as I arrived in England with just $10 in my pocket, after coming over at the last minute when someone pulled out. I was just 18.
“I also remember it being the first time in my life we lost the Ashes!”
“I had no worries about coming back to Paddock again this season after enjoying myself here last year. It’s a good place to come and there’s a good set of lads at the club, and we’re near enough to town to enjoy some good nights out.
“I’m enjoying my cricket and I’m sharing a house with Golcar’s professional Leigh Kentish, and we’ve had some good nights out in Golcar as well.
“I also love playing here in Huddersfield, but I do think the set-up of the League is not quite right.
“The three divisions are OK, but it really ought to be 10, 10, and 10 in each.
“This year, for instance, we’ll have played Linthwaite four times, three in the League, and once in the Cup and three of those games have been away from home!
“There’s still a way to go, but I’m hoping we should get promotion now, although we do seem to have a problem with Emley, in that we just can’t seem to beat them.”
Unfortunately for Paddock, if they do move into the Championship next season, they will not be able to rely on the hard-working Abbott, who has decided to take some time off next year and play some Aussie rules football with his local home team Thornley.
Of course, as good as Abbott is, he has not done it alone at the West View Rise club, and one of those who has also made a mark has impressed the Aussie so much he is taking him under his wing.
“Zahid Ahmed has made a massive contribution this season at Paddock (he now’s scored almost 850 runs including two tons) so I’m taking him back to Australia with me for six months to play at my club Gosnells, in Perth,” added Abbott.
As well as Ahmed and Abbott, Paddock have seen Rob Hions, Timmy Shah and Faisal Siddiq make useful runs this term, while Jonathan Lees and Ibrar Rafiq have helped chip in with wickets to support the Aussie pace man.
But if they are going to maintain the progress shown this season, Paddock are going to need to start plotting pretty soon to find a damn good replacement to take up the massive slack that is certainly going to be left by Abbott.
Before then, however, they have to find a way of beating the club they face this afternoon, their bogey team – Emley Clarence!