Luke Hargreaves (main image) became the unlikeliest of heroes for Sykes Cup holders Delph & Dobcross scoring a half-century; his tenth in the 1XI at Delph over a career that has spanned two decades. Delph dug deep to reach the showpiece final in a pulsating match at Kirkburton. There they will meet Hoylandswaine, the only team who have beaten Delph in Sykes Cup competition since 2014. Swaine negotiated their way past Golcar in a tricky test at the partisan surroundings of Swallow Lane to set up a fascinating final in its centenary year.
Sykes Cup Semi-Final
There’s something special about the 100-year old Sykes Cup when Delph & Dobcross are concerned, who seem to always find a way to step up to the occasion when it matters. The current holders came through a dramatic semi-final at Riley Lane that wasn’t unlike the edge-of-your-seat World Cup Final which unfolded in parallel. In fact, at a curious point in the second innings, just as the tension was turning up a notch, the bustling perimeter seemed eerily deserted as the majority of the spectators convened inside the clubhouse to watch Stokes, Buttler et al execute their gripping comeback mission at Lords. Earlier on, Toby Booth’s side had been inserted by new Delph skipper Alex Peters (Louis Aspeling had been captain up until two weeks earlier). It started to look like a possible error as Kirkburton steadily built a stern total to the chagrin of Delph’s bowlers. A 79-run second wicket partnership between Andrew Smith (29) and Alexander Scholefield erased the memory of the loss of the first wicket which left them stunned at 2-1 off Muhammad Shakir’s (3-57) first delivery. Scholefield (61) went on to score a half-century despite losing Smith, run out to quick reactions from Luke Hargreaves. Sri-Lankan Pro Roscoe Tahttil (43) displayed patience under growing pressure but when he along with skipper Booth (25) were removed, Kirkburton weren’t able to push further and put the game beyond Delph. Their bowlers, despite throwing away over fifty runs in extras, finished the innings strongly to prevent the tail from wagging. As it was, Kirkburton's 237-9 total felt about par and set up an intriguing challenge for cup holders Delph to meet.
On a wicket that was reasonably true, yet slightly slow-scoring, Delph kept the scoreboard ticking along enough to stay in the contest, although Muhammad Shakir (7) wasn’t alert enough for a quick run which saw him run out attempting to regain lost ground. Mosun Hussain (50) replicated his half-century at the same stage last season before he fell to a low catch at cover by Tahttil. Captain Alex Peters (26) and overseas Rehan Afridi (0) had also fallen to the excellent bowling of Andrew Smith (3-39) before that point which left Delph in a pickle with a rising required run rate to contend with. Two more quick wickets fell to leave the visitors hanging by a thread on 125-6 which tempted Booth to go for the kill by leaving his experienced bowlers Scholefield (1-37) and Smith (3-39) to bowl through, rather than leaving a few overs in reserve. Adam Hayes and Luke Hargreaves managed to see off the imminent danger before building a partnership themselves. Hayes (10) was unfortunate to be trapped LBW by Tahttil (1-47) prompting a final throw of the dice from Hargreaves, who was then joined by Umer Yaqoob. Young Kirkburton opening bowler Aaron Moore returned and promptly received some brutal treatment from Hargreaves with 24 runs scored off his over to pull Delph back into the match. Once the drama at Lords had finished, Delph summoned an extra gear to pile on the runs with Hargreaves (70no) sending the ball sailing over the long boundary with ease on several occasions. Yaqoob (26no) was happy for his teammate to take the lead as the hosts' lead eroded away with Delph reaching 238-7 with 15 balls remaining; a 74-run winning partnership between them.
A week earlier, Hoylandswaine reached their first Sykes Cup final since 2014 in a rerun of that very final; a comfortable victory against Golcar. The hosts knew with deadly seriousness that a strong start was imperative and it was all going nicely to plan with openers Abdul Wahid and Steve Whitwam keeping up momentum and offering up very little in the form of chances. A momentary lapse in concentration by Whitwam (34), scorer of two centuries in this season’s Sykes Cup run, saw him out cheaply as a chipped shot landed nicely for Adnan Ghani to take. It was then an uphill struggle for Golcar from there with new batsman James Howson (10) and Wahid (33) both out in quick succession at the hands of Waqas Maqsood. It was the sort of invitation Maqsood wasn’t likely to turn down and he began to systematically dismantle Golcar’s middle order which was only punctuated by a 45 run partnership between Jake Lockwood (22) and Dan Woodhead (25). Golcar’s last five wickets fell for only 20 runs and their overall first innings score of 156ao felt considerably short. However tails were up amongst the heady, vocal home support with an early wicket followed by a sublime stumping from wicketkeeper Mark Wilson, pausing with the ball then whipping the bails off as quick-scoring opener Iftikhar Naseer (13) overbalanced. Will Hinchliffe (1-39) gave the cauldron a stir by removing visibly infuriated captain Sarjinder Pal Singh (8) to leave Hoylandswaine on a potentially precarious 39-3, sparking the introduction of Leicestershire’s Arron Lilley. He typically wasted no time settling in before smoothly moving through the gears in a 91-run partnership with leading run-scorer Chris Holliday. Lilley smashed 10 fours and 4 sixes in a devastating display of clean hitting as Golcar switched bowlers rapidly to force a miscue. Respite never arrived, despite Oliver Pearson (1-25) trapping Holliday (40) LBW, but by then the result was academic. Lilley (76no) finished unbeaten as Hoylandswaine reached 157-4 just after the halfway point of the innings to tee up a mouthwatering clash against Lilley’s former side Delph & Dobcross at Elland Cricket Club.