TOMORROW’S second Romida Sykes Cup semi-final promises to be another cracker between the two Calderdale giants, Barkisland and Elland!
Although conceding home advantage, Elland will start slight favourites to book a final clash with Delph, having really hit the straps over the last two months.
They have eight wins in succession and all their batsmen have struck a rich seam of form.
South Australian opener Cameron Borgas came with a great reputation (he was recommended by former Yorkshire favourite Darren Lehman) and took a week or too to settle.
But now he has done, the Elland supporters are seeing just what he is capable of, the 24-year-old having fired 400 during the last seven knocks – and he has not been dismissed in any of them!
Ryan Robinson has passed the half-century mark in six of his last seven outings, including 92 last week against Lascelles Hall, while Lee Baxter has also hit a ton and a half-century in the last four innings.
And when former Yorkshire and England player Richard Blakey and current county second teamer Ajmal Shahzad are also thrown into the mix, its obvious Elland have a tremendous amount of firepower at their disposal.
“We do have a lot of very good options with regards to our batting line-up,” said skipper Gary Jakeman, who will be hoping to see his side through to their first final since 2002, when they defeated Scholes at Honley with big Aussie quick Matt Burton taking seven for 28.
“I might just change the order round a little tomorrow.
“But whichever way the line-up is, I do feel we’ve got the strongest top four of any side in the Premiership.
“Ajmal is definitely down to play, as he only had a one-day game with Yorkshire this week and it’s highly unlikely he will be called into the first team.
“He is just coming back to form from a bad injury and I deliberately didn’t bowl him that much last Saturday, as I knew we had a big, big weekend coming up (Elland were at league leaders Golcar today).
“As much I’m happy with our batting strength, what gives me as much if not even more pleasure is seeing the way that our younger players are progressing and they way they have performed this season.”
Craig Fletcher and Danny Rhodes have so far picked up 57 victims between them, while Borgas, Robinson and Shahzad have each chipped in a few as well, while in the continued absence of leg-spinner Greg Buckley (broken foot) Jimmy Thornton provides the major spin option.
And it’s not a bad option from a Hullen Edge stalwart, who is almost verging on the ‘young veterans’ category, especially after nailing Lascelles Hall with a seven for 23 haul last week – his best-ever first-eleven figures in 21 years at Elland!
But Jakeman has been around long enough not to underestimate anyone, and will be well aware that Barkisland, especially on their own ground, will not be a ‘walk in the park’.
The Woodfield side have two excellent opening bowlers in Tinashe Panyangara and Love Ablish who each took four wickets apiece when the two sides met at Hullen Edge earlier in the season.
Indian speedster Ablish has 44 victims to his credit and Zimbabwe-born Panyangara 37 to date.
But of course, under the rules of the competition they will be restricted to 15 overs apiece tomorrow, so much will depend on the back-up bowling provided by medium pace seamer Darren Robinson and spinner Matt Steers.
Skipper Paul Winrow may send down an over or two, but is still finding his way back from a shoulder operation, and is unlikely to pose Elland any problems with his seam up.
However, the captain’s batting is quite another thing, and his opposite number Jakeman will be well aware that Winrow’s wicket could be the key to success.
When Winrow has got into the forties and beyond, only once have Barkisland lost!
His opening partner Simon Wheelwright has the potential, as he demonstrated when hitting a ton against Skelmanthorpe, but has not really shown the consistency yet to make big enough scores to trouble Elland.
Dave Weston is another ‘old head’ who has been there and done it and is a Sykes Cup winner with Scholes, and he could also be a thorn in Elland’s side.
Having only been promoted to the top flight this season Barkisland have surprised quite a few teams and are presently second behind Golcar.
But Elland, presently joint third with Honley, will still be favourites to get into their 27th Sykes Cup final.