AFTER a two-year absence, the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket Association (UAJCA) have entered the prestigious Joe Lumb Competition this season.

Skipton’s Malcolm Birks will be the team manager for the under-17 competition.

Meanwhile, observation days have already started for the UAJCA’s three younger age groups in the Taverners competitions - under managers Mark Stoneman (Sutton), Alex Howarth (Steeton), Chris Cummings (Crossflatts) and newcomer Chloe Chew (Barnoldswick).

Co-ordinating the UAJCA’s tilt at all age groups in the Yorkshire Junior Festival will be Ian Walker, the association’s representative cricket secretary.

As far as league cricket in the UAJCA for 2024 is concerned, the decision has been made to revert to a divisional structure for under-13s and under-15s, thereby bringing back promotion and relegation.

The UAJCA season is due to start on Thursday, April 25, although the weather, after one of the wettest winters in years, may have other ideas.

In all, 81 teams are scheduled to take part from a record 23 clubs, giving opportunities to over 1,000 young cricketers.

Bradford & Bingley, who won the league and cup last season, will not be defending their under-18 title.

Joint favourites Skipton and Oakworth will meet in an eliminator, with Crossflatts awaiting the winners in the Spencer Cup final at Oxenhope on Sunday, August 25.

Skipton did the double at under-15 level last term, and are in the First Division, alongside Bradford & Bingley, Great Horton Church, Oakworth, Settle, Steeton and Sutton.

In the Hargreaves Cup, Bradford & Bingley will be at home to Great Horton Church in a mouth-watering first-round tie.

Great Horton Church, who did the under-13 double last season, are at home to Earby as they start the defence of their Hindle Cup crown, while Oakworth will visit Second Division Cowling, who are back in the fold after an eight-year absence.

The final will be at Settle on Sunday, June 30 (2pm).

There is also a plum tie in the first round of the under-11s’ Barritt-Stephenson Cup, which is a hardball event.

Settle, who ended a five-year winning streak by Great Horton Church in 2023, will square up on Monday, May 6.

Moving on to under-11s softball, which has 20 teams entered, holders Crossflatts are at home to Cullingworth first up. Steeton, who lost in last season’s final, are at home to Long Lee.

Girls’ cricket continues apace, with two teams moving up to hardball cricket in the West Yorkshire Women’s and Girls’ League.

However, six teams will still compete in an under-12 league, with four vying for the under-10s’ trophy.

Each of these leagues will also have, for the first time, have knockout competitions, with the finals day at Oakworth on Sunday, July 14 (10am and 2pm).

Girls will also have two groups at the highly popular UAJCA Six-A-Side Festival, which is sponsored by BLKRAT-GIRAFFE Sportswear.

A record 39 teams (boys and girls) will take part on eight pitches at the Sandylands venue at Skipton and Skipton CI, and the adjoining football pitch, on Sunday, June 16.