Thackley confident of strong defence

First published in Aire-Wharfe League by

Reigning champions Thackley are determined to prove their first Aire-Wharfe League title was no fluke ahead of their opening Division One game at home to Bilton on Saturday.

Leon Harber continues as batsman but, after five years leading the team, has handed over the skipper’s duties to left-arm spinner Andrew Stothart, who has been delighted with the build-up to the new campaign.

He said: “We’ve strengthened the squad, boosted the batting and we are expecting to do well again.”

The attack will again be led by match-winning duo Mahir Ali and Nasser Jamal, with Mahir’s brother Yaser joining as overseas player to boost the middle-order batting and Majid Khan arriving from Batley to add power to the run making.

There will be plenty of excitement at Ben Rhydding following two straight promotions, which have taken them into the top flight for the first time after 11 seasons in the league.

Nick Smith leads largely the same squad, with Jason Wright returning as overseas player, while Saturday’s opponents Otley will have new signings Danny Gautrey, from Colton, and Josh Atkinson returning from Pudsey Congs, as well as new Australian all-rounder Andrew Ross.

All-rounders could prove invaluable this season, with the new rule that a team must use at least four bowlers.

Guiseley, due to visit Follifoot if the weather permits, have added Warley’s Dan Temm in that department. They are without last year’s top scorer Dean Russ, who has been replaced as overseas player by 19-year-old Josh Nelson from Queensland.

Steeton start life in Division One at home to Adel with largely the side that dominated the second tier for most of last season, while Burley welcome back Aussie Dan Meredith and new signing Ed Brown from Olicanian.

They are due a tough opener against Beckwithshaw, who have snapped up Green Lane’s top attacking pair Yasar Ali and Istikhar Hussain.

Relegated Lane start life in Division Two with the visit of promoted Ilkley, while Rawdon, who finished 24 points off safety last season, have made several changes ahead of their trip to Harden.

Bolton Villas, under new captain Lee Margerison, take on newly-promoted Bardsey, while Calverley are set to start their 150th anniversary celebrations at home to North Leeds.

Olicanian, who also have a new skipper in Ally Long, entertain Upper Wharfedale.

The almost unthinkable will happen as relegated Menston travel to a strengthened Silsden for a Division Three clash without stalwart Charles Dracup, who has retired.

Tong Park Esholt have signed six players in a bid to bounce straight back up and start their campaign at home to Hall Park, who were second-bottom last season.

New Zealander Ricky Palacio is back at Addingham for a third season and they face a Skipton side who have recruited Zarshad Khan and Waqas Ahmed from Silsden.

Jake Kegworth will be in the Horsforth side at wooden spoonists Alwoodley.

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