THE Bradford & District Evening Cricket League starts its new campaign tonight.

Two teams have left the league from the 2018 intake (Azeems and Ingrow) with unfortunately no new entrants, meaning the remaining 14 teams will be split into two divisions, with eight teams in Division One and six teams in Division Two.

Teams in both divisions will still play the usual 14 games with teams in Division Two playing four teams three times and one team twice.

Two strong Bradford League sides in the form of Undercliffe and Buttershaw St Paul’s join Division One this year following promotion from Division Two last season, while two Evening League stalwarts, Thornton and Shelf, are hoping to bounce straight back to the top flight following disappointing seasons in 2018 which culminated in their relegation to Division Two.

Division One champions Ciroc will be as strong as ever and will again be led by the experienced Mushy Shah. They claim the likes of Adam Ahmed in their ranks, who now plays for Durham Academy, & Hamzah Iqbal who won the Division 1 batting averages in 2018.

They start the defence of their title at home at the Karmand Centre to Raja’s who, led by Mohammad Altaf, can beat anybody on their day and who will play their home games at iconic Bradford (Park Avenue) this season.

The two Division One new boys, Undercliffe and Buttershaw St Paul’s, begin life in the top flight by meeting each other at St Paul’s Avenue in what promises to be a mouth-watering clash of the two Bradford League giants.

Undercliffe will be hoping their 2018 Division Two batting award winner Fahid Rehman will continue his form into 2019, while Buttershaw St Paul’s all-rounder and talisman Simon McDermott will be hoping for a better season than 2018 which was plagued with injury.

After finishing third last season, Crossflatts will be hoping to go one better this year and finish in the top two and so qualify for the prestigious end-of-season finals day for the first time in their relatively short time in the league.

Their opening game will be at their Ryshworth Park ground against John Breare, who have decided to continue in the league in memory of their leader and driving force Steve Tinsley who died.

John Breare will also have Division One league bowling award winner, Tom Westerman in their ranks.

The Division One programme is completed with the meeting of another one of the Evening League stalwarts, Denholme, again led by Richard Wear, in what is always a competitive game against 2018 Division One runners-up Greenfield. They can boast a number of experienced players in their side with the likes of Sajad Ali, Sohail Khan and Adeel Ahmed, who all made the league batting averages last year.

In Division Two, demoted Thornton’s fight to get back into the top flight begins with an away game at Halifax League outfit Bradshaw, who have been a credit to the league since they joined a couple of seasons ago.

The other demoted side, Shelf also begin with an away fixture, visiting another Bradford League outfit, Cross Roads and Daisy Hill, at their Busy Lane, Windhill ground.

Despite having Baildon’s explosive all-rounder Blair Oakley on their roster, the final fixture in Division Two sees previously-underachieving Great Horton Park Chapel take on Muff Field, from the Dales Council League, who are experiencing the delights of the mid-week league for the second season and who recorded their first victory in the league on the final day of last season.