TWO of the Drakes League’s newest clubs will battle it out tomorrow to get their hands on the historic Sykes Cup for the first time.
Delph & Dobcross, who have reached the final just once before in 2005, will face Barkisland, who will be making their first-ever bow in the final of the Romida-backed tournament.
So, two clubs who have never had their name inscribed on the trophy before. As the well-known alcohol-related advert went ‘what a refreshing change!’
Man for man, Delph will start as most people’s favourites with a strong top order, all of whom have scored centuries this season.
Bruce Cruse, by his standards, has not had a great season, although his super century a fortnight ago set the seal on Delph’s Examiner Twenty/20 Trophy success, while his opening partner Irfan Zahoor has only had one century in the League this season.
But he did put Spen Vic to the sword in spectacular fashion in the third round of the Heavy Woollen Cup when he smashed 141 as Delph knocked over 291-4 in just 35 overs against the top Bradford League outfit.
Sadly for Delph’s supporters, Kyle Hogg is set to play for Lancashire in the Pro40 clash with Worcestershire and is set to miss the final, having played a part in getting them past Golcar in the semis.
However, they do have top overseas man Bilal Khiljee, who really has given Delph that extra bit of oomph this season, which so far has brought him almost 900 League and Sykes Cup runs, plus 40 wickets.
The Pakistani-born all-rounder started with 116 – ironically against Barkisland and the first of three tons this season – and he has certainly justified the wisdom of his move from Emley Clarence, his efforts largely being responsible for steering Delph into the Cup final and to joint fourth in the League.
“Bilal has been a fantastic signing for us,” said Delph skipper Grant Jones
“He wants to be a part of everything and is so committed and enthusiastic, even at training which he takes very seriously. He’s fitted in really well here, both on the field as a player and off it.”
Jones will be keen to ensure his team ‘turn up’ this time as they were well beaten by Honley in 2005, in what was the first of the Holme Valley side’s hat trick of final appearances
“We just didn’t perform in our only other appearance in the final, so I think tomorrow a few of us need to stand up and be counted.
“We have plenty of experience in the side such as Kamran Mirza, Mike Smethurst, Bruce Cruse and myself, and because the two sides are pretty evenly matched, it will be very much a case of who stands up on the day.
“We’ve had one win apiece in the League, so I’m expecting a close game which should be great for the neutrals.
“Crusey is a top-quality batsman who can score runs against anyone as he showed in the Twenty/20 final win over Honley with a very classy century, and Bilal ‘always scores runs at Honley,’ or so he keep telling me, while Irfan Zahoor has the ability to smash a quickfire ton, although he does worry me sometimes over his shot selection early in his innings.
“Obviously losing Kyle (Hogg) is a bit of blow but, after the top three, we have Jamie Haynes and myself to add some solidity there if necessary, leaving players like Kamran (Mirza) and Luke (Hargreaves) to push it in the latter stages.
“Obviously, Graeme Simpson won’t be playing, but he’s now had his heart bypass operation and was allowed home last Sunday, and he’s hoping to be there watching at some point tomorrow.
“All the lads are really looking forward to the final, and we know the Honley wicket will be a decent deck. It’s a big field, and Kamran always bowls well there.”
Delph may just find they are a regular bowler short however, for as well as being without Hogg they will also miss their other spin option Warren Jones, who is away on holiday. So the likelihood is the skipper will turn to the occasional spin of Cruse, who has only bowled twice this season, but took three wickets on each occasion!
Brought into the side will be Tom Wood, who played in the Twenty/20 final, second team skipper Nick Kenworthy and the experienced Phil Lees.
Jones is not the only one left with a hole in his side however, as his opposite number Paul Winrow may be without his ‘star’ opening bowler who got them through to the final, Love Ablish.
The Indian quickie had to return home a fortnight since due to a family bereavement, and although Winrow spoke to him earlier this week when Ablish explained he was trying to get a flight over in time to play in the final, there is no guarantee.
“I think the chances of him getting back are no better than 50/50, so we are working on the proviso that he doesn’t return,” admitted Winrow.
“Obviously it’s a nightmare scenario for the club after everything he’s done for the side this season, and it’s a huge disappointment both for him and the team.
“He is trying to get back for the final, but if he does, it will only be for three or four days and not for the remainder of the season, as he has to return home because of family business commitments.”
Ablish had taken 54 wickets to date, and it was his brilliant six for 43 haul which set the seal on Barkisland’s thrilling semi-final win over Elland.
“We had built and planned our team around the opening bowling attack of Ablish and Tinashe Panyangara, so to lose one half of it is a massive loss,” said Winrow, who is expecting to have to bowl himself, despite only having turned his arm over four times this summer.
“I underwent an operation in February on a cartilage tear, and it is still not 100% right, but I’ve been for some injections in it, so I’m gearing to have to bowl, although I’ll not be bowling my usual medium pace seamers.”
Another man that Barkisland will have to manage without is veteran batsman Andrew Fraine, who was second top-scorer in the semi against Elland with 39, but who is away and misses the big showdown.
But former Scholes favourite Dave Weston, who top-scored with 40 against Elland, returns having missed the last couple of matches because of holiday, and that is a big plus for his skipper.
“It gives me a lot more confidence when Dave plays, knowing that no matter what myself or opening partner Simon Wheelwright does at the top of the order, we have a real quality player coming in at No3.
“I know Dave is determined to make an impact in the final, he rang me from his holiday and said: ‘I need a winners’ medal, I’ve got enough losing ones!’’’
Should Ablish not get back for the final, then a lot will rest on the shoulders of Darren Robinson, who joined Barkisland this season from Golcar.
Robinson will probably have to share the new ball with Panyangara with Matt Steers sending down 15 overs of spin and Winrow having to fill in the remainder, although Jamie Sykes is the leading wicket-taker in the Seconds and will play in place of Ablish should he fail to materialise.
“For a final you want both sides to be at full-strength, and the likelihood is that neither of us will be, but nevertheless it should be a really good game between two similarly-matched sides and has the makings of an excellent final.”