THE 2011 Thwaites Wainwright Lancashire Cricket League gets underway this weekend and both Burnley and Lowerhouse are looking to make an immediate impact.
The two sides’ season culminated in disappointing eighth and ninth place finishes respectively but Turf Moor captain Steve Brunt and Liverpool Road chairman Stan Heaton predict better fortunes this year.
Burnley will be without the services of Bharat Tripathi for the forthcoming campaign after the prolific wicket-taker joined Liverpool as their professional. Bharat found himself in tremendous form last term taking a total of 63 wickets. However, Brunt has been buoyed by the capture of Pakistani paid man Imad Wasim, as well as father and son partnership Nasir and Umar Iqbal.
Brunt said: “Wasim is a left arm spinner who has previously captained Pakistan under 19s and I believe he toured England during that spell as well. He will bring with him that extra bit of quality we need and we just hope that he settles in quickly. But he comes highly recommended so we want him to provide us with some match-winning knocks and become the backbone of our batting.”
And the skipper believes that he’s acquired a squad capable of competing on all fronts this season: “We had a good first half of the season last year but tailed off towards the end. We want to be competitive in the league this time and challenge in both cup competitions. We won’t be on anyone’s radar so hopefully we can go about our business quietly.”
Burnley’s local rivals Lowerhouse will also be looking towards their professional to bring success among the West End ranks. Heaton is confident that Francois Haasbroek’s stay will prove to be very prosperous, especially when supported by some exciting up-and-coming youngsters.
Lowerhouse missed out on the signing of James Young from Belvedere, but aside from that it’s as you were for Lowerhouse. He said: “I’m always reluctant to cast a net for new players, because we’ve now reached a stage where we feel we can be self sufficient to produce youngsters for the first team. I’m very pleased that we are able to afford the youngsters the chance to play cricket and develop in the first team.”
The club has high hopes that the likes of Patrick Martin, Ben Heap, Joe Martin, Matthew Walker, Fergus Bailey, Oliver Bayliff and Jonny Whitehead will excel this term and further develop their games.
Heaton added: “We will be looking to the pro to lead the way, the youngsters are a year older and they’ve already performed admirably for a spell in the first team. They all got a maiden 50 and the bowlers among them took wickets.
“We are extremely excited about Francois’ potential and we are pleased with the way he’s approached his cricket. Due to his rehabilitation program in South Africa he hasn’t been able to bowl in friendlies, so we haven’t seen him, but his stats are very good and he’s played over here before.”
Elsewhere, in the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale Cricket League, Read will be hoping to make it two wins from two as they face Ribble Valley rivals Whalley. The last time the two teams met, Whalley inflicted a trophyless season on their neighbours as they scooped the 20/20 title.
Whalley Road skipper Warren Eastham said: “We’ve got strength in depth but Whalley could be a slippery fixture. They’ve got a good pro (Kamran Younas) and they’ve got a great team spirit. But there’s a great team spirit here at Read and the club’s in a good state at the moment so we are looking to push for honours this year.”
He added: “It’s great to get them at home, especially if the weather stays fine. Whalley are more of a threat this year and I really rate their pro, he’s a good all-round cricketer. They have plenty of useful amateurs in the ranks as well. They can be a tricky team to get round but we are confident and have the strength in bowling that we maybe lacked last year.”
Meanwhile, Eastham believes former Accrington pro Will Driver is only weeks away from making a return: “Will Driver will be a few weeks yet; we are expecting it to be around mid-May when he arrives on the scene. A few years ago he dislocated his shoulder playing football and he’s undergoing physio at the moment. Hopefully he’ll be on the road to recovery soon. He was watching this weekend and he’s chomping at the bit to play for us.”
And despite defeat away to Barnoldswick on the opening day of the season, Padiham captain John Bushell is adamant that there were plenty of plus points to take from the encounter.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the result but there were positives to take from the game,” Bushell said. “We were playing a far more experienced side who will be looking to be one of the favourites this year.
“We started nervously but after the first five or six overs we settled down. Chris Holt was exceptional in his first game as pro; he was instrumental in bringing their innings to an end and he also batted very well.
“Some of the younger lads like Kurt Robinson had a great all round game. He took three victims behind the stumps and scored 47 with the bat. Nesir Mehmood returned as well and he put in a top class bowling performance. All in all we thought we did very well and if we continue to play in that manner we will be okay this season.”
The Arbories outfit entertain Ribblesdale Wanderers at the weekend with a view of turning positives in to points: “It’s our first home game and we’re really looking forward to it. It’s going to be difficult but we’ll approach it with the same enthusiasm. Hopefully that positivity will transform in to results.
“They will be competitive and we will be aware of their pro (Muhammad Majihuddin). From an amateur point of view we certainly see ourselves as good as Ribblesdale. The youngsters are still finding their feet but hopefully they’ll provide us with the goods soon and it’s up to the more experienced players to help them do that.”
cleaning up: Pictured are four-year old Elliott Johnstone, NatWest staff and Burnley Cricket Club volunteers, who donned overalls and grabbed paintbrushes to help spruce up Turf Moor as part of the 2011 NatWest CricketForce programme (s).