Kirkheaton captain Richard Hall says they are savouring the underdog tag in Sunday’s Oddfellows Cup final and determined to deliver a shock victory for the Cedar Court Conference.
The 40-year-old is back in charge at Bankfield Lane, 10 years on from skippering them in their Sykes Cup final defeat by Lascelles Hall, and he’s hoping a strong team bond can help carry them to victory against Almondbury Wesleyans of the Jedi Sports Championship (1.00).
Kirkheaton – top of the third tier and targeting promotion – have the advantage of being at home on Sunday, when they can call on the services of footballing brothers Phil and Michael Senior.
“We are really looking forward to it because we are on home soil and we’ve got a good all-round team who like to play together,” said Hall, who with 47 victims is second only to Kirkburton’s Indian Usman Malvi this season as the most prolific wicket-taker in the Drakes League.
“You wouldn’t say we have any superstars, but we have lads who can contribute all through the side and, while the Wesleyans will be favourites and they’ve got a good young side, we are determined to give them a game and desperate to win.”
Hall’s 47 wickets at an impressive 11.45 have been backed up by 24 from Shebak Khan (15.54) and 23 from 15-year-old Nathan Swift at 12.04, while in the batting Salman Sayed has 392 runs at 32.67 and 19-year-old Arron Charlton has really come to the fore.
“We are creating pressure with the ball and I’m getting my wickets by bowling tight and holding one end up,” said Hall.
“Shebak is going well and opening the batting as well, while you tend to forget that Nathan Swift is only 15, because he is a really good cricketer.
“Salman is really good with the bat and, if he can make a start, he will always get you runs because of his attacking nature, but the major person at the minute is Arron Charlton.
“I took him out of the second team at the start of the season to field for us, but he has come in and played well and, for the last seven or eight matches, he has opened the batting and done really well.
“Arron top scored when we beat Marsden in the semi-finals, he had 73 when we played Cumberworth and he is another talent for us.
“I am coming to the end of my career, but we’ve got some good young cricketers coming through at the club and I hope that getting to a final like this will pull them together for the years to come.”
Kirkheaton won a bowl-out 1-0 against Hall Bower at the preliminary stage of the competition, and then knocked out Championship club Armitage Bridge, Conference rivals Cumberworth and second-tier front-runners Marsden to reach the final.
“We only got 144 against Marsden but they couldn’t knock them off, and that shows the spirit and effort we have got in our team,” said Hall, who takes his side to Denby Dale in the league on Saturday.
“It would be great for us to get some reward by winning the final, and we will be giving it everything, and the focus will then turn to getting promoted and seeing that job through.
“Denby are a decent side and they beat us a couple of weeks back, Almondbury are up there with us and Thurstonland not too far back either and we’ve still got both of them to play – so it’s in our own hands.”
The Seniors add real spark to the Kirkheaton fielding while Jonathan Lodge has picked up 20 victims so far behind the sticks.
“Jonathan is doing fine, because he drops everything unless they edge it!” smiled Hall.
“As a bowler you don’t mind that, because he takes every chance, and I have to mention Phil and Michael Senior who have played well through the Oddfellows competition.
“Phil has taken his share of wickets with his medium pacers and Michael is not only a brilliant fielder but has batted well, and they are both winners, so it’s great to have them on board.”
Wesleyans, meanwhile, will be looking to make up for last weekend’s defeat to Moorlands in the allroundercricket.com T20 Shield final at Broad Oak, with plenty of talent for skipper Will Binns to work with.
Matt Henshaw and Jonathan Hoyle are in the runs, as are Saqib Matlub, Tom Binns and Daniel Moorhouse, while Chris and Darrell Sykes will be looking to do some damage with the ball.