THE general impression is that junior cricket is dying, but if so the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket Association (UAJCA) aren’t heeding it.

A total of 66 teams - the best since 2012 - have entered the league for this season, nine teams more than 2021, which represents a 16 per cent increase.

Two growth areas are the softball development programme, which has 17 teams (five more than the previous best), and girls’ cricket.

A new league for girls has been set up, with four teams taking part - Crossflatts, Great Horton Church, Settle and Skipton.

Meanwhile, three other clubs have expressed an interest for 2023.

UAJCA secretary Terry Thompson said: “The ECB and YCB are promoting women and girls’ cricket and we in the UAJCA are extremely keen not to be left behind.

“Girls are welcome at all clubs, to play with or against the boys as well as in the new girls’ league.”

Cullingworth and Skipton will stage the UAJCA’ s cup finals.

The softball final (9.30am) and under-13s final (noon) will be held at Cullingworth on Sunday, July 3, with the under-11s decider (10am) and under-15s final (2pm) at Skipton CC on Sunday, July 10.

Meanwhile, the Black Rat Cricket Festival, which is back after a two-year absence, is to be held on Sunday, June 19 at Sandylands Sports Ground in Skipton (9.30am-4.45pm).

The event is fully booked, and will feature a girls’ team for the first time in a record entry of 31 in what has been labelled a “Big Cricket Picnic”.

Players can progress from the UAJCA to full-time contracts in the game, as witnessed by Yorkshire’s England Under-19 player Will Luxton, who started his junior career at Steeton before moving to Bradford & Bingley in the Bradford Premier League.

The UAJCA season has already had one record score, with Oakworth under-18s making 230-1 in a T20 match at Oxenhope, with the top three of Jacob Stephens, Jake Keslinke and James Powell making rapid fifties.

Bingley Congs are also back in the junior fold, with their under-nines taking on Great Horton Church.