SETTLE Cricket Club is undergoing its biggest transformation in a generation.

After long years in the Ribblesdale League, which they left as legacy champions, and a season in the North West League, where they were cup finalists, the 1st XI has now achieved premier league status.

This summer they compete in the prestigious Northern Premier League, along with heavyweight clubs such as Blackpool, St Annes, Longridge and Kendal. Apart from trips to the coast and countryside, they will have to adapt to 90-over matches with declarations, winning/losing draws and an intricate points system.

With elevation to the top echelon of UK club cricket, competition for first-team places will certainly be fierce. The club relies on a very strong local player base and its exceptional Sri Lankan pro Ashen Silva, fresh from reaching 5000 first-class runs, but has boosted its ranks with new signings. Attacking left-hand hat and left-arm spinner Amar Ullah joins as an amateur after serving as a match-winning pro in premier leagues throughout the north.

Brothers Lewis and Lloyd Smith are welcomed back to Settle’s ranks from Morecambe CC. Lewis, a left-hand bat and right-arm seam bowler, has scored nearly 3000 runs and taken 97 wickets with that club, while Lloyd has taken 185 wickets with right-arm seam. Settle has also signed exciting prospect Will Smith from Steeton. Another local lad, he has played Yorkshire age-group representative cricket.

The 2nd XI will compete in Westmorland League Division Two, with the same new rules as in the affiliated NPL. The thirds play on Sundays in WL Division Four. Both teams will meet neighbouring clubs Ingleton and Kirkby Lonsdale as well as touring the Lake District.

Women’s cricket is also thriving. The first XI now compete in the Lancashire Federation East league, while the Girls’ U15s have joined the West Yorkshire league. Junior cricket remains the bedrock for success in the senior teams. It is a major feat of organisation that some 120 boys and girls play at all age-group levels in the Upper Airedale League. Outside the leagues, Settle runs a midweek friendly XI taking on local villages, while the Walking Cricket squad look to expand their horizons.

The club has over 200 fixtures, with up to seven games on a single day. To ease the strain on the Marshfield ground, chairman Andrew Davidson has spearheaded an innovative partnership with Settle College, where the club will help with boosting the ground facilities.

There are pre-season friendly matches against Ilkley, Morecambe and Upper Wharfedale, but the summer starts in earnest on 20 April as the firsts go cross-country to Garstang while the second string entertain Sedgwick.

Though a small market town, Settle has long punched above its sporting weight, with highly successful rugby and football teams. Now that top-level cricket is coming to Marshfield with its attendant supporters, there are attractive sponsorship packages available, both for senior matches and for individual players.

Davidson is delighted that his team can now perform on outstanding grounds like Blackpool, where Lancashire played only last year. He added, “Settle is buzzing with anticipation at this exciting new era, with ground preparation and indoor nets in full swing. There will be tough matches with new rules and tactics for us at this level, but our record shows that we are ready for the challenge.”