MANY things were different about the 2020 cricket season – but one thing that wasn’t was Otley winning matches.

When many other leagues fought shy of having promotion and relegation in what was half a season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Aire-Wharfe League defending champions Otley carried all before them by winning 11 out of 11 to lift the Division One title.

While their form on the field was a major cause for joy, underneath that was the sadness that coronavirus had rather punctured their 200th anniversary season.

Plans for a bi-centenary reunion dinner, a match against the MCC and many other worthy events had to be shelved, but at least the contest against the MCC has been re-scheduled at Cross Green for Friday, May 21 (11am).

It is almost a decade since Otley have finished outside the top three – they were fifth in 2011 and 2012 – and they have also been champions in 2018, 2015 and 2014, finishing runners-up to Beckwithshaw in 2016 and 2017.

Otley remain the team to beat but they have a new man at the helm this time, with George Huntley, nominally second XI captain for the past four seasons, replacing James Davies.

The Cross Greeners have been boosted by the signing of Ollie Halliday, whose aggressive batting and bustling fast-medium pace bowling make him a man to watch, and fellow all-rounder Sam Kellett, who is back with the champions after a season at Sheffield Collegiate.

Rawdon, runners-up last season by 39 points, who will be without Bradford League-bound Andrew Duckworth, hope that the capture of pace bowler Alex Robinson from Yeadon, plus Joel Morley, Callum Murgatroyd and James Milligan returning to the fold, can help them at least narrow the gap.

Burley, third last season under the leadership of Redmond Bolton but now without Henry Barrow and Hashim Sajjad, want some of their younger players to step up to the plate.

The club will spend money raised from their match against a Lashings World XI to refurbish the clubhouse.

Ilkley, who have had another difficult winter due to flooding, only realised the true extent of the damage when they came to redecorate.

They must hope that new signings Struan Connor and Sam Housam, both from Ben Rhydding, as well as the returning James Nixon, back from his extended ‘break’ in New Zealand, can put smiles back on faces.

Horsforth were another club to face a winter of bad news with the passing of stalwarts Tony Worcester (president) and Michael Smith (secretary).

Meanwhile, Undercliffe have signed Bailey Worcester and Ollie Hardaker, which makes Ben Bowman’s job as captain all the more testing.

Olicanian, who only escaped relegation by three runs last season, have bid farewell to Danny Revis and Chris Beech, who have returned to Farsley, but back, after a season at Harrogate, is Tom Smallwood.

In Division Two, Green Lane’s wish is promotion, after narrowly missing out last season, and hoping to help them tip the scales are left-arm spinner Junaid Jamshed and batsman Mohammed Ullah.

Horsforth Hall Park, under new skipper Ben Waller, have been even busier on the transfer front, signing Yeadon’s Michael Kelsey and Ali Long from Bolton Villas, but fellow capture Lewis McHale, a youngster from Drighlington, is likely to start in the second team.

Little-changed Guiseley must again hope that their juniors can make the step up, while Pool, who only played seven matches in 2020, would like some impetus from new boys John Heath (North Leeds) and Sam O’Sullivan (Adel).

They have even signed an overseas player – no mean feat these days – in Krutik Patel, although that has been made easier as he is a student at Leeds Beckett University.

Another club hoping to bridge the gap from nearly men to promotion are Menston, who are in Division Four and thus more often than not facing second teams.

The loss of power hitter and economical bowler Nadeem Hanif after five seasons, has been offset by the return of former first XI captain David Blackburn, Tomas Rhea and Adam Perring.