2021 marks the first season of the newly-merged Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League. The proposal to bring together the area’s Premier League and the South Yorkshire Senior Cricket League was made only just over a year ago, and it has been brought about by twelve months of hard work behind the scenes by a small band of officials. 
 
On the field, players and spectators will see little change, with the division names corresponding to those before – Premier, Championship, and One to Eight – and there have only been minor tweaks in playing conditions. 
 
In the longer term, the league wants to lay down the foundations to become one of the best leagues in the country – South Yorkshire is a hotbed of cricket, and there is a great opportunity for the League to really ‘put the area on the cricketing map’. 
 
Former SYSCL sponsors Nicholas Associates will sponsor the Premier Division; ExtraCover Insurance have agreed to sponsor the Whitworth Cup; Viking Cricket continue their sponsorship of the Knock-Out Cup joint with Yorkshire League North; and there are lucrative ball sponsorship deals with both Oxbridge and Readers. 
 
Inevitably, the Covid pandemic will have a bearing on proceedings. We hope for a full season with normal length games and promotion and relegation – but current restrictions will affect the arrival of overseas players; spectators are currently not allowed on private grounds; and sanitising and social distancing measures will be in place for the start of the season at least. 
In the Premier Division, it has been a busy winter for Appleby Frodingham who have recruited impressively to add depth to their playing squad. Joining the Steelmen for their Centenary Year are former England under 19s slow-bowling all-rounder Jordan Cook, who returns to Brumby Hall from Cleethorpes, bringing with him opening bowler Joe Baker; talented teenage wicket keeper/batsman Drew Sylvester joins from Messingham CC; and making up a quartet of new arrivals is Barbadian all-rounder, Jamar Ifill. 
 
Barnsley Woolley Miners have strengthened all four teams during the close season, despite losing a couple of players. The biggest news is the return of the prolific Indian all-rounder Harpreet Singh Bhatia and new vice-captain Beck Frostick, who was marooned in Australia during the last year’s lockdown. Opening bowler Harrison Quarmby and batsman Leo Johnson join the club after their release from the Yorkshire Academy. With possibly the League’s best spin attack of Oliver Jackson and Ali Jahangir, long-serving skipper Jason Booth is confident the side will more than compete in the Premier Division. Callum Honeyman and Josh Bell are welcome signings for the Championship side, and the seconds should be equipped for the higher standard with talented youngsters like Jay Smith, Zak Jahangir and Sheryaar Ali boding well for the future. New third team skipper Craig Wilkes brings considerable experience to bear as he manages the next generation of talent. With last year’s top scorer Freddie Chapman alongside young players like William Nicholson, William Chapman and Owen Smith, the team should be competitive despite its comparative youth. With new skipper Tom Butcher nurturing the youngsters in the fourth team, the club are hopeful that they can enjoy a successful summer both on and off the field. A new pavilion extension is also planned for the Woolley ground, which hopefully be started this autumn. 
 
Cawthorne have signed Taruwar Kohli, an Indian first class batsman who has scored two triple hundreds in the Ranji trophy and played in the same under-19s World Cup winning team as Virat Kohli; and middle-order batsman and wicket-keeper Luke Bullingham from Darfield CC. The Dark Lane club has said goodbye to Ben Simpson, who has returned to Green Moor, and will be without Ben Cliff, who has joined the Yorkshire Academy, when he is required by YCCC. The experienced Steve Nuttall is the new captain, with father Gary taking over the role of groundsman. The club has also made ground improvements including extra outdoor seating and improvements to the players’ area around the clubhouse; whilst an on-square astroturf strip is to be installed imminently. 
 
2019 Champions Doncaster Town have signed Pakistani professional Usama Mir, a leg spinner who has appeared in the Pakistan T20 competition. Other new arrivals are opening bowler Joel Gunn from Wath and top-order batsman Rhys Mann from Warmsworth. Seasoned all-rounder Duncan Heath has left the club and Jack Shutt has moved to Elsecar. Town Fields will host two Yorkshire 2nd XI T20 matches later in the season. 
 
In addition to Jack Shutt, Elsecar have signed former Yorkshire opening bowler Moin Ashraf from Bowling Old Lane. The club are hoping that their new overseas professional Kashif Naveed, a left-arm spinner and batsman will be able to get to the UK. The club will look to consolidate on their fine start in their second full season in South Yorkshire’s top flight. Off the field, a highlight will be the opening of a new pavilion balcony later this season. 
 
Hallam have lost talented all-rounder Andre Bradford, who has moved to play in the Derbyshire Premier League, to further his quest to qualify to play for Derbyshire CCC. The club will also be without Charlie Bourne and Romir Singh for most of the summer, as they have joined the Yorkshire Academy. The new visitors’ dressing room at Crimicar Lane is now completed, and is waiting for Covid regulations to allow its use. 
 
Sheffield Collegiate, who have been knocking on the door for a few years and will be favourites in many peoples’ eyes, are strengthened by opening bowler Stephen Cantwell from South Northumberland CC; all-rounder Luke Shutt, who has rejoined the club from Wickersley Old Village; and top order batsman Jacob Waterson, who has re-joined the Club from Raistrick CC in the Bradford League. Stalwart batsman Simon Guy has left Abbeydale to play nearer to home, and his experience and ability will be sadly missed, both by the club and the league in general. Key all-rounder Shaaiq Choudhry will be looking to contribute heavily with bat and ball, whilst youngsters Sam Meadows, Josh White and Isaac Parkin will be looking to earn places in a strong looking first team squad. 
 
Tickhill have lost no players but have several new signings. Josh de Caires and Joe Billings will add depth and flair to the top order. De Caires, the son of former England skipper Mike Atherton, recently scored a hundred for Leeds-Bradford UCCC against Yorkshire, whilst Sussex CCC batsman Billings returns to the club after playing club cricket in his home county last season. New opening bowlers Jake Marshall, who spent last summer on loan to Barnsley from Warmsworth; and Hugh Teesdale from North Middlesex, will add some fire power with the new ball until Pakistani seam bowler Sameen Gul arrives at Alderson Drive. Tickhill aim to build on tough lessons learned last season and get some early wins under their belts, whilst the second XI aim to gain promotion utilising a talented crop of youngsters. 
 
Treeton were one of the most consistent sides in the YSPL, and will be seeking to go one better in their centenary year. They have recruited opening batsman Dave Rogers from Wickersley and Michael Hunter from 2018 National Village KO winners Folkton and Flixton. The Washfield Road club are seeking to foster links with the University of Sheffield, and have already hosted one game for the university. University student George Hardman, from Stockport, has also joined the club, along with batsman Will Cooper from Wath. 
 
With doubts about overseas availability in 2021, Wakefield Thornes moved early to sign former South African junior international Byron Boshoff, who is now resident in the UK. Byron is a top order batsman who played as an overseas for Horsforth in the Aire-Wharfe League three years ago – becoming the second leading run scorer of all time in that league. Seam bowling all-rounder Imran Mahboob joins from Batley, where he was the second top wicket-taker in last season’s truncated Bradford League campaign. Highly promising teenage seam bowler Kamran Hussain also joins the club from Sandal. Left-arm spinner Danny Moorhouse has left the club, whilst veteran seamer Mahmood Rasool is likely to miss most of the season due to business reasons. Thornes will give opportunities to a batch of highly-regarded youngsters, one of whom, James Rhodes, impressed in a pre-season friendly against Hanging Heaton with a quality half century. Off the field, Thornes have extended and refurbished their pavilion to create a new changing room, officials room, meeting room and toilet facilities, and the Field Lane ground is reported to be in fine fettle. 
 
Whitley Hall will be hoping to build on last year’s Jack Bland Trophy success this season and will be largely unchanged from last year. They have recruited opening bowler Dan Waldron from Barnsley, who replaces Abhishek Kulkarni, who has returned to his hospital placement in London. The club have also re-signed evergreen Jim Tasker from Hallam and hope that opening batsman Chris Siddall will be available for around half the season. On the debit side though, skipper James Moorhouse will undergo a shoulder operation following an injury sustained last season, and is likely to miss the whole season. The club is proud to have opened a magnificent new three-lane off-field practice facility at Baxter Field, which they hope will futureproof the club for many generations to come. 
 
Wickersley Old Village have lost a number of players; Tom Knight, Gary Park and Chris Durham have all left to play in Derby, whilst Dave Rodgers and Luke Shutt have left for Treeton and Collegiate respectively. The experienced Jonny Younis and Iftikar Afzal have returned to the club, and other new arrivals at the Burrows Oval include Connor Snelgrove from Oughtibridge, Ben Richardson from Maltby, James Atkin from Upper Haugh, and Shanaal Nathan, from Banstead CC in Surrey, who is at Sheffield University. 
In the Championship, Cleethorpes, after losing both Jordan Cook and Joe Baker to Appleby Frodingham, have Ian Mansfield back at the club after playing for Clifton Alliance last season. Overseas player Sameera Sadamal has arrived from Sri Lanka but is isolating and will miss the opening game. He spent three seasons with Millom in the Cumberland Premier League and topped the leagues batting averages, so the club are hoping that, with his spin bowling ability, he will fill the void left by the two departures. The experienced Bill Kirby will continue to lead the side in what will be his 18th season with the club, and will have the dangerous all-rounder Alex Osmond available to strengthen both batting and bowling departments. 
 
Houghton Main have strengthened their first XI for the 2021 season by re-signing strike bowler and hard-hitting batsman Imran Khan from Elsecar. They have also added off-spinning all-rounder Matty Bowering, who makes the step up from Kexborough. A third first team addition is Umair Tariq, who will strengthen the top order batting. On the debit side, Callum Honeyman has gone to Barnsley and James Exley will be at university. The Middlecliffe Lane side are hoping to be challenging for a top-four spot in the league and looking forward to cup runs in both the Whitworth and National Village Cups. The second XI are looking to build on winning their Covid cup in 2020. Kye Kitching was persuaded to return from Darfield to lead the side and can hopefully build on his personal success last season. 
 
Wath have signed batsman Ainsley Swallow from Elsecar and leg-spinning all-rounder Luke Roddison has joined from Wickersley. The Moor Road club hope that South African opening bowler Bradley Williams, who plays first class cricket for Border, will be arriving in early May. Notable departures are batsman Will Cooper to Treeton and young fast bowler Joel Gunn to Doncaster Town. The second and third teams, who are expect to be pushing for promotion, are relatively unchanged. Off the field, the club hope to be able to enjoy their new bar facilities once Covid restrictions are lifted. These were necessitated by the floods in November 2019 and, although opened last season, were rarely used. A new net facility, to replace that ruined by the floods, has been in use since the end of March. 
 
Whiston Parish Church have made two senior signings. They have engaged Pakistani all-rounder Aamir Jamal, who had a tremendous season in 2019 at Doncaster Town, as their overseas professional; and Mussa Chaudry, a young bowler from Sheffield Collegiate. The second team have a new captain in veteran Richard Spurr. The Churchfields side have lost Lewis Brearley and Sam Taylor, who have both returned to their previous club of Anston in the Bassetlaw League, and also Anthony Lancashire who has joined Whitwell in the Bassetlaw league. 
 
Elsewhere, Green Moor are relishing getting their 2021 season underway this weekend, with the first XI welcoming Treeton 2nd XI to Hill Top Lane in Division One, whilst the second XI travel to Handsworth in Division Six. The first XI are buoyed by the return from injury of several key players who missed last season and also the return of Ben Simpson from Cawthorne to strengthen the batting. They are confident of finishing in the top half following three successive promotions through the leagues. Benefiting from the depth in the first XI, the second XI will be looking to secure promotion to Division Five. 
 
All-rounders Lee Stewart, from Anston CC, and Will Thomas, from Clydach CC, return to Millhouses Works, and the club also welcome back Joe Morgan, Ben Hyman and Peter Chamberlain to reinforce their senior team. This intake counterbalances the losses of Jason Hutchinson to Baslow, Sri Sirijala to Wentworth, and young Louie Owens, who moves up the road to Sheffield Collegiate with the club’s best wishes for his future cricket career. The fact that the club will field seven junior teams this year, a womens’ team and a Sunday team show the excellent progress being made. Off the field, the building of a new pavilion is likely to commence in May and be completed by October. 
 
Norton Woodseats have signed Indian seam bowler Venkata Sagi, who is in Sheffield as a university student, as an overseas amateur. Overshadowing the playing side is the news that the club is to have a new ground on the nearby Matthews Lane recreation field. The club now has a 25-year lease for Matthews Lane which enabled a successful grant application to Sport England, resulting in an award of £75,000 towards the construction of a new pavilion, in addition to section 106 funding. The intention is to build a pavilion to use as a clubhouse, a new access road, car parking, ball stop netting and a scoreboard on Matthews Lane. Over recent years, Sheffield has lost 18 cricket grounds, and this is the first new ground to be built in the city for 80 years. The club has partnered with a local football club and two junior pitches are to be provided. The pavilion will also host other health-related activities. 
 
Parkhead CC 1st XI have made the move to the YCSPL after being founder members of the Yorkshire & Derbyshire Cricket League, in which they have won the title a record 14 times. They will be taking the field with mainly the same side as last season, under the captaincy of Chris Turner. They look forward to meeting and welcoming new teams to their ground, which they are sure they will enjoy playing on. 
 
There are plenty of positives for Rotherham Town for the new season. The first team squad is again captained by Irfan Mirza, who is also the club's director of cricket. The team is largely made up of the side that finished third in Division One in 2019 with the addition of opening batsman Dhruv Shahi from the Notts Premier League. Kazeem Hassan, a 17-year old left-arm quick bowler, has moved up from the second team and all-rounder Rahim Karim has re-signed with the club. Cameron McLean will captain the second team, in Division Five, with an emphasis on youth, headed by 15-year old wicketkeeper and opening bat Matthew Fidler; Nottinghamshire under 15 all-rounder Ayman Karim; and 13-year old Nottinghamshire batsman Saif Karim. The experienced Habil Malik will lead the attack. Clifton Lane has had a new square installed during the close season and the club are forging a number of partnerships with co-tenants Rotherham Titans rugby club off the field. Tim and Luke Staveley will once again lead the club's junior programme, with Cam McLean and Ben King-Smith as assistant junior coaches. Richard Fidler continues as the club’s cricket secretary. 
 
Thorpe Hesley & High Green welcome new signing Muhammed Subhan and the return to Smithywood Road of Mark Dufty and Alistair Stanistreet after a year out. 
 
It is all change at Wentworth with a number of new players and a new committee. Under new chairman Paul Turner the club welcomes Sri Sirijala, Chris Dobson, Tom Dobson (also now club secretary), Shaun Coulson, Scott Jones, Reece Bennett, Nick Hague, Simon Bennett and Ewan Bennett to Clayfield Lane. 
 
The biggest news at Wombwell is the new scoreboard. The completion of upgrade work is still a few weeks away from completion due to waiting on frame materials, but when finished will boast a modern electric scoreboard. 
 
For all YCSPL fixtures see www.ycspl.co.uk/fixtures/  
 
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