Nick Cockcroft leads Ilkley into their first season in the Aire-Wharfe League top flight for 20 years, welcoming the challenges presented by a step up in class and a new scoring system that could change the way captains approach matches.
There are no longer any drawn matches – just ten points for a win and none for defeat. But there are also ten bonus points up for grabs, five each for reaching various batting and bowling targets.
“I think the changes are very positive,” said Cockcroft. “With no chance to try and bat out a draw, the games should be more exciting.”
Under the new system it is easier to pick up the full 20 points by batting first and again Cockcroft thinks this will encourage teams to take a positive attitude.
Ilkley have largely stuck with the team that won promotion only two years after going up from Division Three. They welcome back young Aussie wicket-keeper-batsman Harry Nielsen, who topped the Division Two batting averages last season.
The one major new signing is former Guiseley captain Dave Pennett and Cockcroft said: “It’s great to have him on board with his vast experience at county level and with Harrogate and Guiseley.
“We have some excellent young players at the club and having someone like Dave Pennett to coach them can only help their progress.”
Ilkley start with a home match against Ben Rhydding, who finished fifth last season and have a new overseas player in Australian all-rounder Brad Ranford.
Rawdon, who came up with Ilkley, have added former Undercliffe captain Ben Heritage to their line-up and Conor McInerney, a batsman-spinner from Adelaide. They travel to Otley, who are captained this year by James Davies.
As well as Pennett, Guiseley have lost the services of Alex Bell and Callum Fraser, who have moved to London, and Tallan Wright, who has a stress fracture of his back.
They have signed Nasir Jamal from Thackley and South African top order batsman Brian Jackson as they prepare to take on Collingham.
Burley welcome back Jason Wright as they seek to improve on last year’s fourth place, starting at Pool, while Steeton, captained this year by Neil Spragg, face a tough opener against last season’s runners-up Bilton.
Harden’s stay in the top flight lasted just a year and they start their attempt to bounce straight back at Adel, having brought in Scott Hartley from Keighley.
After winning promotion just a year after seeking re-election, Skipton travel to Bolton Villas, who only just escaped the drop last season.
Graham Summersgill continues to captain Skipton while Villas are led by former Pudsey Congs skipper Mike Oldfield.
Thackley will field an almost new team at Follifoot after a number of players have left while Green Lane, having signed Waleed Akhtar and Chris Spivery from the Bradford League, open against newly-promoted Upper Wharfedale.
Tong Park Esholt, who have added Danny Bell from Windhill to a largely unchanged XI, entertain Colton.
Horsforth just missed out on promotion from Division Three last season but have shown their determination to put that right this year with some quality signings, including Oliver Hardaker and Ryan Sharrocks from Collingham and Thackley pair Dean Skillicorn and Mahir Ali. They start at home to Woodhouse.
Hall Park take on relegated Bardsey, while Calverley, who also dropped into the bottom tier, are at New Rover.
Menston entertain Addingham and Silsden play hosts to Olicanian, two sides desperate to improve on a dismal last season.