The Sykes Cup hits its centenary year with a new sponsor in WisdenAuction.com and presents a mouthwatering clash between two teams from out of the town that have dominated Huddersfield League Cricket in recent years. Current holders Delph & Dobcross have the most daunting of assignments in keeping a rampant Hoylandswaine team at bay and will have to put their wretched league form to one side and rediscover their A-game.
Delph have struggled with an awkward season of transition directly following their third Sykes Cup triumph last season which saw several players move on to pastures new with as many new recruits struggling for consistency themselves. The standards have been set high in the Oldham-based club over the twenty years they have been a Huddersfield League member, which may currently feel like an albatross to new captain Alex Peters. However, he can put his side’s league form to one side and focus on silverware knowing that if every one of his players play to their full potential they can be a match for anyone, including Hoylandswaine.
Delph’s run to the final saw them skip past Denby in the first round where winter signing Adam Hayes scored the only century of the season by a Delph player. Mirfield Parish Cavaliers provided a slightly stiffer test in round two which saw Peters step up to the mark with a fine all-round performance taking four wickets and scoring 73 runs. Broad Oak were overwhelmed at the Quarter Final stage as they hit their highest score of the season and the semi-final handed them their toughest test yet as they edged past Kirkburton thanks to Luke Hargreaves’ hammer blows when Delph had their backs to the wall.
Leading Delph’s batting threat will be Peters who has scored the most runs for the Lancashire club with 676 runs at an average of 33.80, closely followed by Mosun Hussain with 635 (ave: 31.75). Hussain hasn’t quite assailed the heights of his previous two seasons this time round, where he scored over 2,500 runs, but he will be itching to put that straight and the former England junior finished with a man of the match performance in last season’s final win against Shepley. Delph have power all through the batting lineup with any one of their starting XI capable of putting on a score. It’s with the ball where Delph pose their biggest threat and if the trio of strike bowlers Muhammad Shakir, Umer Yaqoob and Wasim Qasim bowl well in tandem then you’d not find many more lethal combinations at local league level. Spin and slower bowling options will come from Lancashire U17’s Xander Selby and Adam Hayes with Peters himself available to offer support if needed.
Hoylandswaine swept aside Lascelles Hall by six wickets in the first round which set up a humdinger of a second round tie at home to Shepley; the side that knocked them out at the semi-final stage last season. They asserted their revenge on their opponents with a 61-run win thanks to a rescuing century from middle order all-rounder Usman Arshad. Moorlands were dumped out in the quarter final as Arron Lilley (84) took centre stage for his new club and Lilley once again became their match winner away at Golcar in the semi-final when he silenced a boisterous home crowd with another typically quickfire half century.
Bejewelled with County players, both current and former make Hoylandswaine such a tough nut to crack as Delph have found in their two league matches this season; both won by Swaine in comfortable circumstances. Delph know only too well the main threats that Hoylandswaine will pose with former players Lilley and Waqas Maqsood at the heart of most of their success this season. Few bowlers have as much pace and fluidity as Maqsood who is jostling on the fringes of the Pakistan national team. In just half a season with Delph last season he took 51 wickets and was a key part of their team that lifted the Sykes Cup last season. This term, he has been even more lethal taking 72 wickets at an average of 11.35 including no less than seven hauls of 5 wickets or more.
Leicestershire’s Lilley had previously spent ten full seasons with his former club and his stats rank him as one of Delph’s all-time greats. 6,890 runs, 16 centuries and 437 wickets in 250 matches made him a formidable opponent for anyone when he was available away from his County commitments. This was crushingly evident when his only century for his current club came against Delph in a league match at Haigh Lane where he ruthlessly took the match away from his former team in a 118 run victory in June.
Hoylandswaine can also count on the services of three other County players in Alex Lees, Ned Eckersley (both Durham) and Harry Dearden (Leicestershire). It may be debatable how many will take part in the Sykes Cup Final since the Natwest T20 Blast is in full swing but it’s clear that all will be requesting permission from their employers to play. Even without them, Swaine have an embarrassment of riches to choose from with many of their 2XI (currently second in the Cedar Court Conference) able to make the switch into the 1XI seamlessly. Gangly quick bowler Adnan Ghani is normally found at the tip of the spear having collected 35 scalps at an average of 16.54 this season with 136 wickets in total spanning three seasons. They have more pace in Usman Arshad, the former Durham all-rounder known as “Benny” whilst their slower option comes from Gurman Randhawa - who also slots in the batting order to stiffen up moments when quick wickets are lost. Leading their run tallies is powerful upper order batsman Chris Holliday, into his fourth season with Swaine, who has scored 697 runs so far. They have a quick scoring opening batsman in Iftikhar Naseer who can ruin bowling setups in next to no time on his day. Like Delph, they bat deep and still pose a threat if they are down to the tail as they have proven on numerous occasions in recent seasons.
The Sykes Cup Final sponsored by WisdenAuction.com starts at 12:00pm at Elland Cricket Club on Sunday 11 August.