Thousands of cricketers across Yorkshire will begin their league campaigns over the next couple of weekends with hopes high.
Trophies will be pursued, hundreds and five-fors celebrated and, maybe most importantly, teas will be devoured.
There is plenty to keep an eye on across the county this summer, and we spoke to a couple of Yorkshire players about their aspirations.
Matthew Weston, 18, is a batter in his second year with the club’s Academy. He will be playing for Huddersfield League side Barkisland, who open their campaign at home to Broad Oak on Saturday.
James O’Conner, the 25-year-old Yorkshire Disability off-spinner, will be leading Acomb’s charge in the Yorkshire Premier League North. They begin a week on Saturday at home to Woodhouse Grange.
That is the league won last season by Castleford, who went on to be crown the best team in Yorkshire by winning the Premier League final against Bradford League side Woodlands at Headingley last September.
Weston, a left-hander who bowls off-spin and has YCCC second-team experience, is someone who has gained comparisons to Adam Lyth.
“I’d like to think his style is my style,” he smiles. “He is a great player.
“That’s the role I’m trying to achieve. It’s good to have that benchmark.
“I’m more of a red ball player at the minute. But I want to work on my white ball stuff. I think if you have the red ball basics, the rest follows and looks after itself.”
Barkisland, also home to Yorkshire Emerging Players Programme all-rounder Harry Finch, finished eighth in last season’s 14-team Drakes Huddersfield Premiership and reached the quarter-finals of the Sykes Cup.
“Hopefully we can win something,” continued Weston, who scored 329 runs in 12 YPL North games for the Academy last season and is relishing the expectation on him to perform in a different league.
“We should be pushing top four in the league, and fingers crossed we can get a good Sykes Cup run.
“The Yorkshire Academy and EPP lads are expected to go back to our clubs and do well, and it’s good to have that additional pressure.”
Weston has praised the work of new Academy director James Lowe and his staff over the last few weeks, plus that of the interim coaching team who filled in following the departure of Ian Dews and Richard Damms last December.
“I can’t wait to get stuck into the season now,” he continued.
As well as advancing the causes of Barkisland, the Academy and Yorkshire Under 18s, who will be involved in a national competition later in the summer, Weston is hoping for more second-team exposure in 2022.
“I got two games in the seconds last year, and the aim is to push for as many games as I can this year,” he said. “That’s the best way to get better and progress, by playing with better players.”
He is also likely to gain more captaincy experience with the Academy this year.
“I’ve captained all the way through age-groups, and I enjoy it,” he added. “I like to see that as another area of my game where I can help the team out.”
Talking of captaincy, off-spinner O’Conner leads Yorkshire’s D40 side.
Acomb were promoted to the YPL North in 2019, finishing ninth out of 12 last year – their first full season back in the top flight.
“We’ve lost a couple of players to York, but we have plugged the gaps. I’m confident we can get into the top five,” he said.
O’Conner has first grade experience in Queensland, where he grew up, and counts the likes of Samit Patel and Sam Hain amongst his list of wickets taken.
His appearances for Acomb in 2021 were limited to only nine games, with three wickets taken.
“When I was in Australia, I dislocated my shoulder. I had an operation on it, but it popped out again,” he said.
“When they popped it back in, I was told I wouldn’t be able to play cricket again. So I came back here and saw a specialist, who said, ‘No, you’re fine, carry on playing’.
“I’ve had a lot of psychological barriers to overcome, thinking it’s going to pop out again.
“But I’ve done a lot of training this winter, for my club, Yorkshire and the ECB Disability Premier League.
“Last year, I would bowl two good balls an over and the rest would be average. I now feel a lot stronger and really confident to be able to compete against the best batters more consistently.”