ALL roads lead to Calderdale tomorrow when Barkisland meet Elland in the first Romida Sykes Cup semi-final (1.30).
And Barkisland could not have wished for a better draw, with home advantage against their derby rivals and a likely bumper crowd at Woodfield.
Elland would undoubtedly have preferred to be at home (they’ve had to travel in every round so far).
But they will probably be happy at their opposition since, on paper at least, the other two semi-finalists, Delph & Dobcross and Golcar, are tougher.
Elland also have the psychological advantage of having defeated Barkisland in a thriller at Hullen Edge earlier this season.
On that occasion, Barkisland looked to have the upper hand after restricting Elland to 150-9 with both Love Ablish and Tinashe Panyangara virtually bowling through and taking four wickets apiece.
It was only down to a battling rearguard from skipper Gary Jakeman, James Thornton and Rob Laycock, who all scored in the 20s, that Elland had anything at all to bowl at.
As it turned out, it was enough – just – as Barkisland folded after the dismissal of opener Simon Wheelwright, and were finally pulled up six runs short of victory with the last pair at the crease, Thornton claiming three wickets.
I would expect tomorrow’s game to be much higher scoring, and it’s certain home skipper Paul Winrow, who is aiming to lead Barkisland to their first-ever Sykes Cup final, will be out to lay a foundation.
Dave Weston is also expected to feature, having missed the league clash against one of his former clubs, and his big-match experience could be vital to Barkisland’s chances, particularly since they have a predominantly young and inexperienced side.
Like his skipper, Weston would dearly love to reach the Sykes Cup final again – and win it – having played in five previous finals and coming out with just one winner’s medal.
Weston’s first final was with Elland in 1993, the others all coming while at Scholes, where he was victorious against Elland in 1996.
The nearest Barkisland have been previously was in 2004, when they reached the semis, only to lose to eventual winners Lascelles Hall.
Only four of that team remain – Winrow, Andrew Fraine, Ben Wells and Matt Steers.
Elland will start favourites, despite conceding home advantage.
In the last few games, Australian all-rounder Cameron Borgas is now starting to show his true form, while Ryan Robinson is also on a hot run, and with Yorkshire’s Ajmal Shahzad expected to be available, along with former Yorkshire legend Richard Blakey, who smashed an unbeaten 130 off Clayton West in the second round, and Lee Baxter who is also now starting to find his touch, the Hullen Edgers batting line-up is pretty formidable.
Ex-Yorkshire Academy bowler Craig Fletcher and Danny Rhodes are a solid opening strike pair with 47 wickets between them and if Shahzad does play, then the seam attack will be more than useful with Jimmy Thornton the back-up spinning option.
Either way, it looks a cracking semi-final (as they both do) and should provide an excellent day’s entertainment for what is certain to be a big crowd.
The Elland v Meltham Paddock Shield semi-final has been switched to next Sunday, July 13, as Meltham are already involved in a Premiership Two League clash with Holmfirth.