THE 2014 Andy Hire Scarborough Evening League kicks off earlier than previous seasons with the first games being played tomorrow.

The season also finishes later with the last games on July 31, with generally only one rather than two league games played each week through the season - something many clubs had requested.

There are eight teams in division ‘A’ and now seven in division ‘B’ after Oriel folded, and they will play each other home and away. There is no division ‘D’ this year, with division ‘C’ comprising 13 teams, who will meet each other once.

All league and cup games are still made up of 15 eight-ball overs per innings, though this can be reduced on darker evenings, and bowling and fielding restrictions are enforced, similar to Twenty20 cricket, like last season.

Division ‘A’ looks more competitive following the promotion of Heslerton and Forge Valley ‘A’, who will want to give a strong challenge to champions Staxton ‘A’ and runners-up Flixton ‘A’.

Staxton have won the title 19 times since 1974 with nine of those wins coming in the last 14 years. Heslerton rejoined the league from the Ryedale Beckett Evening League two years ago, entering division ‘C’ and winning back-to-back promotions. Other strong contenders could be Ebberston ‘A’, who finished third last season.

The Andy Hire Harburn Cup, for division ‘A’ teams only, will see the final again played at Scarborough CC’s North Marine Road county ground, on Friday, July 25. In the last two seasons, Flixton ‘A’ have beaten Staxton ‘A’. Flixton visit Seamer in round one this year while Staxton host Forge Valley. Heslerton go to Cloughton and Ebberston entertain Wykeham.

Division ‘B’ also looks much stronger, with Scarborough, who joined the league in division ‘D’ two years ago, quickly making their way up the tiers.

Division ‘C’ champions Oriel ‘A’ are no longer involved as their club have folded, but relegated pair Cayton ‘A’ and Filey – who now only have one evening team and therefore should have more strength in depth – will expect a quick return to the top flight.

The Hunter Cup, which is contested by division ‘B’ teams, was won by Heslerton last year, with Flixton ‘B’ runners-up. Its final will again be at North Marine Road, on Monday, August 4.

The enlarged bottom tier has a new look, and the teams who were in division ‘C’ last season are likely to have shorter odds than those from the old division ‘D’.

They include Ebberston ‘B’, Wykeham ‘B’ and Staxton ‘B’, who were relegated last term. Division ‘D’ champions Forge Valley ‘B’ and runners-up Cayton ‘B’ will be hoping to make their mark too.

League newcomers Valley Bar Nomads will play home games at Scalby. Oriel ‘B’ have folded.

The McCain Cup, for division ‘C’ teams, has in the last two years been won by Heslerton and Scarborough on their entry into this tier. Ravenscar have been runners-up both times and will hope to go one better this season.

League sponsors Andy Hire Sales and Service, of Scarborough, will again provide awards for the batsman with the league’s highest score and the bowler with the best performance. Those awards will be presented at the division ‘A’ winners versus division ‘B’ winners presentation game, on August 5.