THE glory days are back at Otley Cricket Club – and no-one can say they had not been coming.
After success at several levels last season when the second XI won their title in the Aire-Wharfe League and the third XI were Championship play-off winners, the trophy cabinet at Cross Green has had a few more choice additions in 2014.
In truth, it is probably bursting to capacity with the prize additions coming in the shape of the first XI Division One championship, for the first time since 1993, and the Waddilove Cup, which Otley had previously last lifted in 1988.
The late Eighties and early Nineties represented a halcyon era for Otley, with the man who was at the heart of it back then also playing a key role this time around.
The person in question being chairman Chris Smith, captain during Otley’s trophy-laden trail, a time when they won the league and Waddilove Cup double in 1987 and 1988.
The present-day Otley, led by James Davies, have now emulated the feats of the class of ‘87 and ‘88, building on their third place finish in 2013 and fully justifying the belief that they would be the team to beat in the Aire-Wharfe League this time around.
The aim now is to build something of a dynasty at Cross Green in much the same way as they did a generation ago when the likes of Smith, Steve Davies – father of current captain James – and Ray Beadle all made it a special era for Otley.
To continue in the good news vein at Otley, the second XI have reclaimed their title with the third XI also lifting the Conference B championship. It has been some year.
Smith said: “It has been a great season. The first team had not won a trophy since 1993 after winning many honours in the late Eighties and early Nineties and to do the double is a terrific achievement. We got relegated in 1996 and then got back up and we are the longest surviving club in Division One. But we had not won a trophy in that time until now.
“In the last two or three years, we have got stronger each year and this year, after finishing third last year which was a strong side, we felt we had a team to compete.
“It has been building up for the last few years and hopefully we can sustain it and build on this.
“We have won four more games than all the other teams and it has been a super year. I think we were favourites to win the league, to be fair and we have come through it.”
“It’s been another really positive year for the club. I have been chairman a lot of years and we are a family club with a super set-up and everyone gets behind it.
“We have a lot of willing workers and we have got our rewards in the past few years.”
Led superbly by Davies, who joined from Bradford League outfit Bradford and Bingley and inspired by the likes of Aussie overseas player James Wilcock, Otley have been moulded into a formidable outfit with bat and ball in a season in which they turned the title race into a procession. It all augers well for 2015, with Smith full of praise.
He said: “We got our overseas from Australia in for this year and Jamie Pickering joined us from Castleford and we set off very well and have played well throughout.
“We had a blip towards the end of the first half when we lost a couple of games on the trot. But apart from that, it has been pretty faultless. We have bowled a lot of teams out for under one hundred, which has actually cost us a lot of points as we have been denied batting points.”
While the contributions of players from one to 11 have helped make it such a vintage season for Otley, the captaincy input of Davies has been a prominent factor, with the all-rounder also leading from the front with bat and ball.
His new-ball partnership with Wilcock has been one that a whole host of rivals have found too hot to handle, with no weak link in their batting line-up all giving Otley a mean and formidable sheen throughout 2014.
Smith said: “It is a strong first team throughout and the bowling attack is particularly strong with captain James Davies and James Wilcock, who are without doubt the best bowling attack in the league backed up with three or four other seamers and a slow bowler. It is a very well balanced side.
“Batting wise, our captain has had a super season and everyone has chipped in and we bat literally to No 11.
“James (Davies) is an absolute class cricketer and he really does lead from the front. We have got the perfect captain in him really.
“Our overseas player, James Wilcock has been here for three years and we are hoping he will be playing for us next year as he’s an outstanding cricketer with the ball and bat.
“He actually didn’t break any pots playing for Upper Wharfedale, but he has really got stuck in for us.”