Bradford & Bingley skipper Phil Slater highlighted the importance of a good start ahead of tomorrow’s opening JCT600 Bradford League fixtures.

Reigning champions Wood-lands went unbeaten until mid-August last year and the Wagon Lane chief believes flying out of the blocks could be vital if his side are to mount a title bid themselves.

And though Bradford & Bingley visit Lightcliffe first up and then host East Bierley next week – teams who finished second and third respectively last season – Slater welcomes the difficult start.

He said: “I prefer it like that. Tough games bring out the best in our players.

“Cricket is a momentum game. It’s all about who can get that early roll on.

“If you can win two or three early on and hit the ground running then confidence flows.”

Slater, due to start his sixth season at the helm, is confident his team can improve on last season’s fifth spot.

While Simon Davies (Han-ging Heaton), James Davies (Otley) and Matthew Duce (Pudsey St Lawrence) have moved on, batsman Ryan Cooper (from Burley) and wicket-keeper Charlie Best (from Guiseley) are among the new arrivals.

Slater believes the pair are well capable of making the step up from the Aire-Wharfe League.

He said: “From our practice match against Otley and from nets during the winter, they both look good players and have the right attitude.”

Best will hope to have the same success that his father, Mark, enjoyed at the club.

Bingley have opted not to sign an overseas player, with Slater explaining: “With the current financial constraints, having an overseas player can be a luxury and you have to weigh up what one will give you in terms of runs and wickets with the outlay, and ask whether it’s really worth it.

“We’ve opted not to have one and use the money elsewhere. It is down to each individual club’s preference.”

Lightcliffe will have to do without opening batsman Alex Lees, who has broken into the Yorkshire side, but are still expected to be strong.

Chris Taylor’s men have county bowlers Oliver Han-non-Dalby – now with War-wickshire – and Moin Ashraf on their books.

Slater said: “I don’t know whether they will play but we have to turn up expecting that they will.”

Ironically, Bingley were involved in Lightcliffe’s near miss on the final day of last season.

The Halifax side had one hand on the title after beating Undercliffe before Bingley, needing five runs to beat Woodlands, lost their last four wickets without reply.

The title holders open their campaign at Saltaire, while promoted Baildon and Morley are at home to Cleckheaton and Hanging Heaton respectively.

Bradford League newcomers New Farnley make their bow with a tough trip to Yeadon in Division Two.