Former Lancashire 2nds spinner Daniel Woods has revelled in the welcome he has been accorded by York Cricket Club, where, as STUART MARTEL discovers, he is determined to get back on a top track.
LEFT-ARM spin bowler Daniel Woods joined York Cricket Club to win matches, take wickets and get noticed. And, boy, is he getting noticed.
The 21-year-old bowled a near-faultless spell to send Hull & YPI spinning to defeat in the Oxbridge Yorkshire ECB County Premier League on Saturday.
Figures of 7-38 from 22 mesmerising overs represent the best bowling return in the league so far this season.
The Hull haul – at York’s Clifton Park base, a renowned batsman’s paradise – further embellished Woods’ compelling career statistics with the reigning champions.
In his seven games to date, Woods has claimed 19 scalps at an impressive average of only 11 runs per wicket to stand fourth in the bowling rankings.
He is also one of the most economical bowlers in the highly-regarded competition, with his statistics comparing favourably with celebrated Yorkshire Academy spinner Azeem Rafiq.
The capture of the former Lancashire Second XI player is beginning to look like one of the most astute signings of the campaign.
And Woods is delighted with the start he has made.
“I’ve settled in really well and enjoyed it,” he said. “They are a good set of lads and they welcomed me with open arms.
“Playing in a winning team always helps. That was one of the major reasons why I joined York.
“It’s great playing for a side that has won trophies and wants to win more.
“It didn’t take me long to realise why they have been so successful. When we turn up to play, we expect to win.”
The arrival of Woods has given captain Marcus Wood two frontline spin bowling options, with the newcomer complementing the off-spin of Alex Renton.
With Neil Laidlaw and Duncan Snell supplying the pace bowling ammunition and Nick Kay and Ashley Hulme providing back up, York boast a varied attack.
Said Woods: “There is strength in depth. York have got a squad of players and that keeps you on your toes.
“If I don’t bowl well, there are lots of people who could take my spot. I’ve got to be on top of my game.”
York have all-rounder Duncan Snell to thank for selling the club to Woods. The pair are team-mates for the Leeds-Bradford University Centre of Cricketing Excellence (UCCE) side.
“I think Duncan mentioned my name to Marcus Wood and Nick Kay,” he said. “When I spoke to them I was impressed with the way the club is set up. I wanted to try playing in a different league and get out of my comfort zone.
“I was playing in the Cheshire County League with Hyde and the big difference I am noticing is the quality of the wickets and facilities.
“The standard is more like Minor Counties and Second XI cricket – and that’s the level I want to get back to.”
Woods, who this winter was on a six-game MCC Tour of Mozambique, played second-string cricket for Lancashire in 2005 and 2006, and also figured for Kent Seconds last season.
Trial periods with Kent and Essex this season have convinced Woods his future lies in the professional game.
“A lot of the lads I played with in the seconds are in the Lancashire first team now – people like Saj Mahmood, Gareth Cross and Steven Croft – which is good to see,” he said.
“I was on the Academy staff there for two seasons and really enjoyed it. I was a bit raw when I played for the seconds... not quite naive, but not as experienced as I am now.
“Hopefully, if I keep performing well for the UCCE side and for York, I can get back to that level.”
As well as his Lancashire grounding, Woods has an impressive pedigree in the game.
His father, Malcolm, played Minor Counties cricket for Cumberland between 1984 and 1992 as a right-handed batsman who bowled off-breaks, and he now plays a major role in his son’s career.
“My dad has been the biggest influence on my career so far,” said Woods.
“He played for Cumberland for a lot of seasons and I grew up watching him play, and learning how to play. He now comes to watch me whenever he can.
“I respect his career and his advice, and the help he gives me.”
A Manchester Grammar School education is another standout entry on Woods’ cricket CV.
The school has a tradition of producing Lancashire cricketers, with alumni including former England captain Mike Atherton, ex-Lancashire and England batsman John Crawley and Mark Chilton, who captained the Red Rose county from 2005 to 2007.
“The school have had a lot of successful cricket sides and I was part of a good team there,” said Stockport-born Woods.
“I loved it there. I played a lot of good sport, not just cricket, and it helped me with my game.
“I got a lot of opportunities to play cricket at school that other people don’t tend to get, and I feel grateful for that.”
Woods’ quest for wickets will continue at Driffield Town on Saturday, as York look to make inroads into Yorkshire Academy’s early lead at the top of the table.
“I think it will be close this season,” he said. “There are other sides doing well and that can only raise the standard of the league and the profile of the people playing in it.”
If the left-armer can keep up his prolific strike rate, it will only be a matter of time before the counties start to take notice.