OTLEY Cricket Club will make their long-awaited return to competitive action on Saturday, with an away trip to Saltaire.

After months away, Otley will take to the field once again in the Airedale and Wharfedale Division 1 Cricket League as they look to retain their league title.

Covid-19 forced the season into ending abruptly and Otley who won all 11 games and the league winner’s trophy, will now go into a 22-game season with high hopes.

The Yorkshire side resumed training on March 29, after government guidelines permitted them to do so and club chairman, Chris Smith is extremely happy to be back.

“After a long and dismal winter, I think everybody is happy to be back playing cricket or doing groundwork.

“I think people are extremely pleased to be just meeting other people and to be out there playing.

“I think it’s really exciting this time around.”

With Covid-19 restrictions still in place, the league campaign will begin with the absence of a crowd, to the disappointment of Smith.

“I do hope it’s the beginning of us going back to normality, but the disturbing thing is that there may not be spectators allowed for the next few weeks, which is disappointing to say the least.

“For a lot of people, they have spent the long and gloomy winter looking forward to returning to cricket and if they can’t go, it will be very disappointing.

“It’s just up to date information coming through all the time. The last I heard, was that they may be allowed back in mid-May.”

Otley, who defeated rivals Rawdon on the final day of last season’s league campaign, will be hoping to emulate last season’s form into the upcoming campaign.

Beating every side in the division over 11 games, Smith has conceded that it may be difficult to produce the same kind of form.

“We had one or two difficult challenges last year but still managed to maintain a 100% record, so with a full 22- game season, I’m expecting even more.

“We will take nothing for granted, however we will remain very competitive.

“Obviously, we’ve been champions for the last couple of years so we want to just finish as high as we can. We’ve got a very good side, similar to last year and with a couple of additions thrown into the mix.

“So, I do think we will be challenging, but there will be other teams that believe that too, so we won’t be complacent.

The two signings in question are Oliver Halliday, who joined the West Yorkshire side from Morley and Sam Kellett, who returned to the club after spending some time at Sheffield Collegiate.

“They’ve well integrated into the club and they are great additions to the squad”, added Smith.

The return to training and match situations will be accompanied by government protocols to ensure the safety of everyone.

“We have to follow the government guidelines, which involves training in groups of six, sanitising and doing everything the government and ECB insist on”, added Smith.