THERE will likely be several bridges to cross before the season starts, but the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket Association (UAJCA) are optimistic about the forthcoming campaign.

Association secretary Terry Thompson was particularly pleased about the number of potential teams for the 2021 season and the possible growth of girls' cricket within the association.

Addressing the annual meeting, which was held on Zoom, he said: "The provisional team entries are unbelievable.

"In 2019, we had 51 teams and provisionally last year we had 61, which I was very enthusiastic about, but due to Covid that number was reduced to 47.

"Our number for this year is 61 (Under-9s 13, U11s 15, U13s 15, U15s 13, U18s 5), which if it materialises at the pre-season meeting on March 18, when commitments are made, will be fantastic."

Thompson added: "All age groups, apart from Under-18s, will almost certainly have two conferences (North and South), which will be good as far as travel is concerned, and there will be play-offs between the conference winners to decide the overall champions.

"As far as the cups are concerned it will be a matter of trying to wrest the trophies from Great Horton Church (who won at U15s, U13s, U11s and U9s).

"At Under-18 level, we have only five entries, which is the same as last year, and is just about workable."

Entries for the Black Rat Festival at Skipton on Sunday, June 20 are full at the U9 and U11 age groups and over-subscribed at U13 level.

Cup finals will be held at Settle CC on Sunday, June 27 (U11s and U15s) and Upper Wharfedale CC on Sunday, July 4 (U9s, U13s and U18s).

UAJCA trials have provisionally been booked for Sunday, April 18 at South Craven School and, while the YCB Pathways scheme has been postponed for this winter, it is still hoped that the Elite Academy programme will go ahead.

While the higher age group is small in terms of clubs, it is hoped that girls' (and women's) cricket will be a growth area.

Thompson said: "We have three clubs that will be hubs for girls' cricket - Skipton, Great Horton Church and Crossflatts - and other clubs have expressed an interest in putting out teams.

"The idea is to form a committee for girls' cricket at each hub, hopefully containing five people - a team manager, co-ordinator, umpire, scorer and recruiter, at least one of which should be female.

"Thus is a major step forward, and Settle and Harden have also expressed an interest in forming girls' teams."

All of last season UAJCA committee members have been unanimously re-appointed, although the positions of chairman, umpiring administrator and results auditor remain vacant.