Steve Whitwam believes they have matchwinners in the Golcar team who can upset the odds in tomorrow’s Sykes Cup final against favourites Hoylandswaine.
The Swallow Lane side have been inconsistent this season – top all-rounder Whitwam included – but they have been displaying improved form of late and proved with their crushing semi-final win against Shepley they are not to be taken lightly.
Other than the absence of destructive opening batsman Niall Lockley – who is replaced by talented 15-year-old Muhammad Naseem Ali from the second team – Golcar have all their trump cards to play with Rizwan Haider flying back from a stag trip to Ibiza and Andy Alsop returning early from a wedding.
On top of that, Golcar had Swaine 30-6 chasing 111 when they met in the Drakes Premiership back in April, with Will Hinchliffe and Alsop causing mayhem before the Haigh Lane side got home thanks to an unbeaten half century from Yasir Abbas.
So there are grounds for optimism which skipper Whitwam – the best all-rounder in the league for much of the past decade – is keen to exploit.
“Hoylandswaine are a strong outfit, obviously, but I will be telling our lads to go out there and give as good as they get,” said Whitwam, known universally as Cobber due to his Australian upbringing.
“You only get one chance at it so we don’t need any shrinking violets, we need to get stuck in and play our best cricket.
“When it comes to a final, the league table counts for nothing. It’s about doing the business and producing your best on the day.
“We are the underdogs, but that takes a bit of pressure off us and we can go out there, enjoy the day and get stuck in – giving it everything we’ve got.
“You just never know what might happen, and we are playing better now than earlier in the season.”
Golcar’s form in the arrowselfdrive-sponsored competition has been impressive, with seven-wicket wins against Clayton West and Emley followed by a five-wicket defeat of Shelley and a 10-wicket destruction of Shepley, who were bidding to reach a fourth successive final.
Perhaps the biggest factor in Golcar’s emergence has been the skipper’s own return to something like his recognised form with both bat and ball.
Whitwam is just 16 short of 500 runs at 37.23 – Lockley is top runscorer with 486 at 30.38 – and the off-spinning skipper now has 23 wickets at 18.87 to back up his strike men.
Hinchliffe has 39 victims this time at 19.97 while Alsop has taken 28 wickets at 21.39, but don’t forget Jack Hargreaves, who has picked up 24 scalps himself at a miserly 15.58 to add to his obvious threat with the bat.
“I’m feeling better than I was earlier in the season and I’ve had a few 50s of late,” admitted Whitwam. “I’ve been pulling things together with the bat and with the bowling, it’s coming out better.
“Jack Hargreaves is having a terrific season with the ball and seems to be finding it with the bat now, which is great news.
“With Sloppy (Alsop) and Will (Hinchliffe) you always know what you are going to get from them with the ball, Craig Ruscoe has come to the fore with bat and ball as well and it’s now up to the rest of us to stand up.
“Everything is coming together for us as a team right now and we are in a decent place at the moment.”
While Whitwam, Hinchliffe and Ruscoe are the only survivors from Golcar’s 2009 Cup win against Elland at Golcar (when Ashley Pamment was skipper), he believes they have the talent to rise to tomorrow’s challenge.
“We have a lot of depth, and those of us who have been to the final before can hopefully calm the nerves of the others and tell them what to expect,” added Whitwam.
“Jake Lockwood is only 18 but he has been having a cracking season (354 runs at 25.29). We’ve thrown him in at No4 and No5 and he has responded superbly.
“Riz knows what it’s all about as well, Mark Wilson has been solid behind the stumps and James Howson (320 runs at 24.62) will have no problem stepping up to open the batting in Niall’s absence.
“Young Muhammad Ali can’t wait for the final (he’s 15 and been doing well in the seconds) and hopefully everyone will bring their best game, because there is no biggers stage.”
Golar are sure to have big support, and in the wake of the Drakes Executive’s comments on crowd behaviour, Whitwam added: “There will be a hell of a lot of people from Golcar singing for us and supporting us and that will give us a boost.
“Hopefully no-one crosses the line, because we want it all to be in good spirits.”
Aussie signing Jack McNamara, who has played for Golcar while on holiday, is not available for the final.