BOTH of the town’s Lancashire Cricket League representatives will be looking at this double-header weekend to get their seasons underway.
Steve Brunt’s Burnley and Charlie Cottam’s Lowerhouse were defeated by Rawtenstall and Bacup respectively in their opening fixtures, but they now have two bites of the cherry to get off the mark.
Burnley will face champions Ramsbottom, who have already added silverware to their trophy cabinet in the form of the Ron Singleton Trophy, tomorrow before facing a tantalising mini-derby against Colne at the Horsfield on Sunday.
The Turf Moor outfield battled well with last season’s title winners, beating them on home soil in the league before taking them the distance in an epic Worsley Cup semi-final which they eventually lost.
Brunt said: “It’s always going to be a hard game against Ramsbottom. They are everyone’s favourites to retain their title. But we are always okay against them. We beat them by about 30 runs at our place in the league and that we had that close game in the semi-final.
“I expect them to be very strong again. They’ve signed a good pro in Shanan Stewart and they will be the team to beat but we will put up a decent challenge.”
Colne will also be looking for mini-derby success to kickstart their season after losing to Ramsbottom in the Ron Singleton Trophy by 80 runs and then suffering defeat away at Haslingden in the league.
“They’ve got a couple of former Burnley players in their ranks so there’ll be a few familiar faces,” Brunt said. “We will be going all out for the win because we want to get our season underway.”
Brunt welcomes back Qasim Ali for a busy Bank Holiday weekend of cricket though he will once again be without professional Imad Wasim. He said: “We are relying on sub pros again this weekend. It always helps having a settled pro in the side because you know what to expect rather than scrambling around for a pro at the last minute.
“Sub pros are not really committed to your cause and you never know what to expect. Settled professionals can win games single-handedly.”
Cottam’s West Enders will also be looking to erase the memories of a dismal opening weekend.
Haslingden, who thrashed Colne at the weekend, will be House’s first obstacle before Liverpool Road will play host to a mini-derby against Nelson on Sunday, which has been entitled Pendleside Hospice Day where all takings from the gate will be donated to the charity. Live entertainment will also be featured after the clash.
But there was better news for Lowerhouse’s second string at the weekend as they beat Bacup.
John Waite, Dec Bailey, Phil Haggerty, Scott Hope and Lewis Marsden all fired 20-plus knocks to claim a four wicket win. Hope had earlier claimed 4-28 and Keiran Tighe added 3-15 to limit the hosts to 137.
The club’s Under 17s and Under 11s also recorded victory in their respective fixtures. Jonny Whitehead (37) starred with the bat in House’s 90-4 before a solid fielding performance earned victory over rivals Burnley who ended on 82-4.
And the youngsters will now face Todmorden or Darwen after they defeated Longridge in the cup. Joe Halstead, Ross Birchall and Josh Waddington were the stand-out performers.
Meanwhile, Read may be facing reigning Ribblesdale Cricket League champions Clitheroe tomorrow, but skipper Warren Eastham is showing no fear.
The Whalley Road side boast quality in abundance and victories over Great Harwood and Whalley have given them an ideal start.
Eastham said: “Clitheroe are a much weaker side this year. I’d never back against us no matter who we were playing. We are looking strong and it’s going to take a good side to beat us. I’m confident we can go all the way but we’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
Paid man Stuart Hornby is in devastating form with 62 runs and 13 wickets to his name already.
“You never know what Clitheroe are going to throw at you with these sub pros,” Eastham said. “They can pick and choose sub pros according to each game but that’s their perogative. We’ve got a quality pro (Stuart Hornby) and we know full well what he can do. Nothing is won in April but we are very confident at the moment.”
Read then face Cherry Tree in the Ramsbottom Cup on Sunday and Eastham is determined to fight on all fronts this year: “We just want to win as many games as we can regardless of which competition it is. A good side competes on all fronts and different players will shine on different platforms. We’re determined to add some silverware this year.”
And Padiham will be hoping their glowing dressing room atmosphere will be transformed in to a match-winning performance away at Whalley.
Skipper John Bushell welcomes Tom Mustoe and Naveed Ashraf back to the starting XI this weekend and he believes that will make a significant difference.
He said: “Tom is a key player and there’s no doubt that he’ll strengthen the side and Nav is one of the best all-rounders in the league. He’s influential, consistent and will be a big addition for us.”
It’s a busy weekend with Great Harwood their opponent’s in the cup. Now Bushell is eyeing this weekend as the one to get a first win on the board. “We are still looking at the positives. The commitment is superb and the atmosphere in the dressing room is fantastic so we will give our best. It’s a big weekend for us and we hope this is the one but if we continue to play the way we have been doing then a result won’t be far away.”