IN THE 51 years that Hartshead Moor have been in the JCT600 Bradford League, it is fair to say that they have had more downs than ups.
The Highmoor Lane club have finished bottom of Division Two three times in the last 13 years, have been next to bottom twice and haven’t played in Division One since 1975.
However, since being the victim of Saltaire’s overseas player Israr Ullah on June 14, when he took a remarkable 9-8, Moor have won eight out of nine completed matches, having one match rained off and only losing to leaders Undercliffe.
This run of success has catapulted them from ninth to fourth and, although the promotion places seem set for Undercliffe and Saltaire, the Kirklees club have made it clear that a place in the top flight is the target next season.
Hartshead Moor skipper Will Smith, who is the oldest of the first-team squad at 33, confessed of his side’s capitulation for 54 at Roberts Park: “It was a red-hot day – three days beforehand was one of the hottest on record in Britain on record – the wicket was dry and we thought we had done quite well to keep Saltaire down to 239-9, second-teamer Callum Wilkins opening the bowling and doing well.
“We were 38 for none before I was out – I was the only batsman to be dismissed who wasn’t a victim of Israr – but, to be fair to us, you don’t meet many left-arm spinners in Division One and Division Two, and Israr is a very good bowler.
“However, we have bounced back well from that, and we genuinely bat down to ten via Danny Squire, Andy Parratt and Chris Swift.
“Some of our players who were batting at three or four earlier in the season are now at eight or nine, which is a bit of a luxury.”
About the only downside for Moor in this run has been the injury suffered by wicket-keeper Francis Nelson.
Smith explained: “He has a bulging disc in his spine and is set to retire from first-team cricket because of it, which is a real shame.
“Francis was opening the batting for us, and I understand he may be playing for Hanging Heaton second team next season.”
Talking of 2015, Smith said: “Apart from myself and our pro Fahad Ul-haq, the rest of the squad are all in their mid-20s, which means runs are saved in the field, and they have all committed themselves for next year.
“We said all along that we wanted to finish in the top four, so third place would be brilliant. But next year our realistic ambition is to be fighting for promotion.”
Undercliffe (302 points) have no game tomorrow as their ground is being prepared for Sunday’s Priestley Cup final, but second-placed Saltaire (257) are at home to 11th-placed Spen Victoria.
Third-placed Keighley (219) have their second free date, while Moor (212) are at Great Horton.
Division One front-runners Cleckheaton (248), who are closing in on a second league title, are at home to ninth-placed Lightcliffe, while second-placed Woodlands (226) host East Bierley.