Elland face crunch three-game spell

Grabbing his chance: Chris Goulden is among the wickets for Elland
Grabbing his chance: Chris Goulden is among the wickets for Elland

Regional leagues: Ian Rushworth

ELLAND cricket chairman Stuart Fletcher believes the Hullen Edge club’s season has reached a critical stage.

Ex-county bowler Fletcher had no great expectations of a young side captained by his son Craig pulling up any trees in 2011 after a major rebuilding programme following the exodus of some key players.

However, Elland are third in the Huddersfield League’s top flight approaching the half-way point of the season and buoyant after last Saturday’s eight-wicket home derby win over Barkisland.

Fletcher said: “We are ticking over quite nicely but our next three games are massive.”

Elland head to leaders Delph and Dobcross tomorrow before a home game with sixth-placed Shepley on Sunday and a home game against fifth-placed Golcar the following Saturday.

Delph have already won at Hullen Edge but Elland beat Shepley a fortnight since. As for the Golcar match, Fletcher admits recent player movement between the clubs is likely to add spice to the fixture.

Elland have lost opening bowler Danny Rhodes to the Swallow Lane outfit and subsequently picked up a replacement for him in 16-year-old Jack Hendy, who has moved in the opposite direction.

Fletcher runs the Huddersfield Joe Lumb side which contains Hendy but he insists the capture of the youngster wasn’t an act of retribution on his part and has already explained the circumstances to the league.

“I have told the executive that I have not gone out and got him,” he said. “He contacted me by text because he was worried he might have fewer opportunities with Danny’s arrival.”

Hendy, described as “having a good pair of shoulders” by Fletcher, picked up a couple of wickets last week and his addition has been most welcome with Elland down on numbers.

Top batsman Paul Winrow is out for the best part of two months after a cartilage operation last Friday which didn’t stop him watching the match between his present and past clubs the following day.

Indian all-rounder Ranchal Chaudhury, over in this country to improve his physiotherapy qualifications, is also out with an ankle injury having played just a few games for the club.

It means Fletcher senior has had to don his whites again to add some experience to a team which had an average age of 24 last Saturday, even allowing for him.

“I haven’t got the playing bug back and I’m nowhere near fit enough but I am enjoying it alongside the kids, especially last week when they knocked off 164 in 22 overs,” he said.

The Wood brothers, Dan and Greg, are racing each other at a good pace to be first to 500 runs while Dominic Finn has also had “two or three priceless knocks” at the top of the order, according to Fletcher.

The skipper is leading the bowling attack well while Fletcher senior had special praise for Chris Goulden in his second spell at the club.

The off spinner is probably the side‘s leading wicket-taker in spite of the sudden death of his father Keith, the Halifax League secretary, and getting married just before the start of the season.

Goulden had limited opportunities in his first spell at the club but with fellow slow bowler James Thornton having retired since then he has grabbed his chance.

“Gouldy keeps coming on and picking up threes and fours for us. He has been doing brilliantly,” said Fletcher.

Meanwhile, Fletcher admits he fears for Barkisland after last Saturday’s game but believes their battle for top section status may improve if their South African Kimeshin Chetty can really put it together.

“Their overseas player had us hopping around a bit and if he gets it just right he could blast some teams away,” he said.