THE Upper Airedale Junior League look as if they are bucking a trend.

Junior cricket has been in decline over the past decade, but the green shoots of recovery are showing for hard-working secretary Terry Thompson.

In his report to the junior league’s annual meeting at Sutton Cricket Club, he said: “We face a new season where demand for junior cricket places seems to be very much on an upward curve after seven years on the opposite track.

“Last season we gained new clubs and saw a modest increase of one team in Haworth, after a six-year absence, (newcomers Harden joined but Cononley left) and 18 players as small indicators that things might be improving.

“I am delighted to confirm that this year we have two more clubs wishing to join the UAJCA (Barnoldswick and Long Lee) and rumours of expansion at many existing member clubs.

“Indeed, wherever we look there has been significant change, and to add to that, the sustainability of most of our clubs is yet more certain.”

Trevor Coe has stood down from his roles as league chairman, after seven years, and child welfare officer and, while the chairmanship has still to be filled, Rachael Caton (Settle) has stepped up as child welfare officer and Keith Gilert (Oakworth) will be compliance officer.

Four team managers - Richard Powell, Jon Hall, Alistair Harrison and Richard Craddock - have stood down over the winter.

However, Alex Howarth (Steeton) and Chris Cummings (Burley-in-Wharfedale), will looking after the under-10 development team as manager and coach respectively, while Oliver Gledhill (Steeton) and Robin Youngman (Embsay) are taking care of the under-12s.

But more help is needed overall for the annual 35-40 representative matches that the association undertakes.

In total, 52 teams played in the league in 2019, half of whom played pairs cricket and the rest the more standard game, with player numbers rising from 637 to 655.

A total of 301 league fixtures were planned and 235 were played while 31 were conceded and 35 abandoned or unplayed.

Of the 44 cup ties scheduled, 40 were played - a success rate of 78.9 per cent compared to 81.4 per cent the previous year.

Oakworth, Skipton and Embsay won the UAJCA festivals, while Great Horton Church and Steeton won the under-11 and under-15 cup finals, while Oakworth won the other three age groups.

Great Horton Church (2), Oakworth (2) and Steeton won the league titles, with two being decided on run rate and one via a play-off.

Representative matches were again played against Cumbria, a touring team from Suffolk and, at two age groups, the teams from New Delhi, while the annual meeting heard about tentative plans to play matches in India.

The UAJCA’s under-15 team reached the Yorkshire Festival semi-finals, while the under-10s got to the final of the unofficial K3 Dental Knockout Cup.

League treasurer David Allen reported a loss of about £500, due to umpires’ expenses, reduced fines, increased printing costs and the purchases of additional kit.

Tom Bates, the YCB’s Club and Community Officer for North Yorkshire, offered help for clubs in setting up All Stars Cricket (for five to eight year olds) and Dynamo Cricket (for eight to 11 year olds), as well as the continuing drive to develop women’s and girls’ cricket.