Champions Booth are keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s standing start when they launch their bid for a piece of Spenser Wilson Halifax League history on Saturday.
Richard Laycock’s side head to Sowerby Bridge at the beginning of their quest for a fourth successive top-section title, a feat only previously achieved in more than 100 years of action by Mytholmroyd from 1941 to 1945.
Booth completed their hat-trick last September in dramatic circumstances, overhauling Thornton on the penultimate Saturday of the season when their rivals’ game was washed out and then ensuring success with a maximum points haul at Triangle on the final day.
The Broad Fold Park side’s strong finish was in contrast to their start, when they were bowled out for 97 at Warley and failed to pick up a single point.
It was the first of three wins for Warley over the champs last season, including in the Parish Cup when Matthew Whitworth’s side beat the holders in the last eight before going on to lift the trophy.
Laycock will be doing his best to avoid a repeat poor start at promoted Bridge, who will be keen to maintain last season’s momentum.
All-rounder Laycock, who has led Booth to all five of their major trophy successes in recent years, will be without hard-hitting batsman John Midgley and wicketkeeper Tom Collinge for the Easter weekend. He said: “Sowerby Bridge away is not easy at all.
“The two teams that have come up (Illingworth and Bridge) have bigger grounds than most and they will be very different games there.
“Both are very good additions to the division, well-run clubs with a lot of good players.”
He said his players would “need to be up for it” on their visit to Walton Street.
The addition of seamer Matthew Hoyle from Sowerby St Peter’s is the only change from Booth’s 2018 line-up. That further strengthens Laycock’s attack at a time when a 14-over limit per bowler has been introduced into the Saturday league’s top four sections. It is 12 overs for bowlers in the 40-over games in the lower two second teams’ divisions.
Laycock said Hoyle’s arrival gave him six good bowlers and should work in their favour and might encourage him to change things more often.
However, he dismissed Mytholmroyd skipper Jacob Travis’s recent assessment that clinching another title should be “a stroll in the park” for Booth.
Laycock said he took the comments with “a pinch of salt” and said his side had lacked consistency last season.
“I think it is going to be hard. Everyone will be wanting to beat us, as they have for the last three seasons.
“Teams in the past have come from nowhere to win it and it is quite a competitive league and everyone can beat each other.
“You just have to hope you perform regularly and your best is better than the opposition’s. It is a big opportunity to win four in a row.
“It is not something that comes around very often and it would be silly for us not to use it as an incentive.”
Spenser Wilson Halifax League, Premier Division: Copley v Oxenhope (umpires R Taylor & B Hargreaves), Illingworth St Mary’s v Shelf Northowram HT (P Butterfield & N Codling), Mytholmroyd v SBCI (R Wade & S Hunter), Sowerby Bridge v Booth (R Crosland & C Boardall), Sowerby St Peter’s v Warley (J Senior & A Rawnsley), Thornton v Triangle.
Premier seconds: Booth v Blackley (A Mitchell), Mount v Sowerby Bridge (G Cowgill), Shelf Northowram HT v Copley (M Smith), SBCI v Bridgeholme (P Taylor), Triangle v Thornton (S Booth), Warley v Sowerby St Peter’s (S Seymour).
Second division firsts: Cullingworth v Low Moor HT (H Sandford & I Revill), Leymoor v Stones (A Ford & B Hagues), Luddenden Foot v Greetland (P Mallinson & A Speak), Old Town v Augustinians (J Mullen & M Summerscales), Outlane v Queensbury (K Hartley & S Hemmingway).
Second Division seconds: Augustinians v Old Town (A Rushworth), Clayton v Cullingworth (J Wilson), Greetland v Luddenden Foot (S Bottomley), Low Moor HT v Southowram (S Tomlinson), Stones v Leymoor (C Jones).
HUDDERSFIELD LEAGUE, Drakes Premiership: Barkisland v Moorlands.
Jedi Championship: Elland v Holmfirth, Rastrick v Clayton West.