BURNLEY skipper Steve Brunt believes that former under 19 Pakistan captain Imad Wasim should arrive at Turf Moor next week.
Brunt has rued the absence of a settled professional after falling victim to some match-winning performances from the paid men at Rawtenstall, Ramsbottom and Colne. While Zahoor Elahi failed to make an impression for Burnley in the opening game of the season, Rawtenstall sub-pro Lou Vincent fired 108 of his side’s 292.
Similarly against Ramsbottom, with Riaz Kali taking a respectable 3-59 and adding 45 with the bat for Burnley, the champion’s professional Shannan Stewart scored 88 of a 275 total. And finally, against Colne, sub-pro Pieter Malan led the Horsfield outfit to a 65 run victory courtesy of a composed knock of 112.
“It’s looking more likely that our pro (Imad Wasim) will be with us next weekend,” Brunt said. “It always helps to have a settled professional because they bring control in the field. He’s a top line bowler and he’ll have an impact. It’s never easy with sub-pros.”
He added: “It’s been a bit of a hard start for us. We’ve been on the wrong end of a few decent pros. We are not playing that badly but we are not getting the rub of the green. We’ve got a younger team this year, we’ve played against a couple of decent teams and we’ve not been taking wickets early enough against them.”
Another double-header weekend awaits Brunt’s men with a tantalising away fixture at fellow basement side Rishton and a home match against Enfield on offer. And Brunt is certain that things can only get better: “There’s no better time to win and the only way is up from here. Confidence isn’t a problem in the squad but we’ve just lacked penetration. Our performances haven’t been anywhere near as bad as zero points suggests. Two wins this weekend would be just what we need.”
Meanwhile Lowerhouse chairman Stan Heaton insists that victories over Haslingden and Nelson at the weekend has set the platform needed to face champions Ramsbottom.
The West Enders cruised to double-header success with two and six wicket triumphs over their respective opponents and they’ll be looking to build on that as they entertain Todmorden at Liverpool Road tomorrow before facing Ramsbottom at Acre Bottom on Sunday.
Heaton said: “It should have given them a lot of confidence because Haslingden and Nelson are two good sides. It wouldn’t surprise me if those two teams were in the top five come the end of the season. Those victories should set them up nicely for the weekend.”
He added: “But we’ve got two more difficult games to face. I don’t think we could have had a tougher start to the season but so far so good.”
Ramsbottom pose a daunting threat to any side in the Lancashire Cricket League but Heaton believes that if his side can counter the prolificy of captain Jon Fielding then they could be in with a chance of causing a shock.
“”I think Rammy are even better than last year,” Heaton said. “They know what it takes to win the league and I can’t imagine they’ll be any complacency among their camp. I think they will be much harder to beat.
“We’ve got to believe in ourselves and have a game plan. They’ve got Jon Fielding who is an extremely good left-arm spin bowler but if you can learn how to play against him then you stand a chance of being successful. He took more than 100 wickets last year and he’s had a great start this year. It will be tough.”
In the Ribblesdale Cricket League Read will be hoping for a repeat of Sunday’s Ramsbottom Cup result as they face Cherry Tree in the league.
Warren Eastham’s side have opened the season with four wins from as many games in all competitions, though Baxenden and Edenfield currently stand in their way of top spot.
Professional Stuart Hornby notched up 20 fours and two sixes in scoring 109 against Andreas Sudnik’s men on Sunday which contributed to a whopping 102-run victory after Read ended the afternoon on 291-5. Joe Marshall added 78 for the hosts.
And Eastham is confident that if they isolate professional Paul Turner then they can record an even bigger victory tomorrow. He said: “We’ve got Cherry Tree again at the weekend. To be fair they are a good, young side but there’s not much help from their pro (Paul Turner). Basically if he doesn’t get runs then they are simply not going to win. Their bowling is average as well.
“When we played them in the Ramsbottom Cup they batted well and put 189 on the board but we had a bit of a play with our bowling line-up. We never felt under any pressure at any time. We will certainly be looking to make it four league wins from four. I feel we can beat anybody.”
Eastham, who experimented with seven different bowlers in the cup game, is now eagerly anticipating the imminent return of dynamic duo Will Driver and Oliver Newby to further strengthen the squad.
He said: “We are going to spring in to life very soon. Will Driver and Oliver Newby will be coming in to the fray. I can’t see many people taking us to task. There’s been some positive performances from Baxenden and Edenfield but they’ve got to play us and beat us. We are not worried about anyone this year.”
And John Bushell’s Padiham now have form and performance on their side.
The Arbories side claimed their first league victory of the season against Whalley at the weekend while official statistics show they have two of the most prolific players among their ranks.
Wicket keeper Kurt Robinson has taken seven catches so far in 2011, the most in the Ribblesdale league, and professional Chris Holt has taken the highest amount of wickets so far with 19.
Bushell said: “We believe that we’ve got the quality within the side it’s just about putting it together collectively as a unit. Kurt is a capable batsman and a terrific wicket-keeper. He came from Enfield and he’s only 19 but we’ve got a lot of confidence in him.
“And we all know what Chris is about. He’s a super pro for Padiham; his bowling has been exceptional and his batting has been consistent. We are both looking to take our batting performances one step further though. We’ve been hitting the 40s and 50s but we’d like to be in the 80s and 90s.”
Padiham welcome back Nesir Mehmood and Naveed Ashraf for tomorrow’s fixture at home to Edenfield and Bushell is confident that his side can record back-to-back league wins.
He said: “Edenfield are playing well at the moment and with confidence. They’ve got Paul Gallagher in form so it will be tough. But if we play like we have been doing, with everything coming together, then it will be a good game.”