Lowerhouse professional Cobus Pienaar is no stranger to excelling in pressure situations.
The 28-year-old all-rounder has notched up 70 First-Class career matches in his native South Africa - appearing for Easterns, Titans and Northerns where he clocked up 3,507 runs plus 141 wickets.
Pienaar, the nephew of Test cricketer Fanie de Villiers, who also featured in the Lancashire League with Todmorden and Colne, warmed up for the 2014 term with a half-century for the Titans in an 87-run triumph over the Warriors at Centurion’s SuperSport Park in April.
The one-time sub-pro for Nelson and Bacup, back in the 2012 campaign, also played among high-profile names in the Birmingham Premier League when representing Knowle and Dorridge for two seasons from 2009.
The left-handed batsman, who hails from Klerksdorp, Transvaal, made a tentative start to life in Liverpool Road, accumulating just eight runs in his first two outings, but went on to fire 69 in victory over Enfield and and 56 in the comprehensive triumph over East Lancs that followed.
Then, after being sent packing for a solitary run against Todmorden on home soil, Pienaar struck his first ton for the club, only the eighth of his career, in the Worsley Cup first round win over Lancashire League champions Accrington at Thorneyholme Road.
The South African hit six fours and a six in making 104 from 125 deliveries after being dropped on 14 to set up a quarter-final tie with East Lancs on June 14th.
“It was a great moment,” he said. “I really enjoyed it. It takes the pressure off a little bit now - especially with me being the professional. Expectations are quite high - when you’ve played First-Class tickets - so it’s good to do it early on. I haven’t done it many times in my career so it was great to achieve another with Lowerhouse.”
He added: “This is a great club with a good set of lads. I’ve really enjoyed my stay so far. It’s an impressive set-up with lots of people working behind the scenes to make it a success. That’s really pleasing to see.
“We definitely want to get some silverware this year because that’s what you’re judged on. Everybody is putting in the work to build towards that and confidence is growing. We are determined to win. This is a great opportunity and experience for me and winning trophies will make it all worthwhile. Lowerhouse is a fantastic club and I want the best for them.”
Meanwhile Burnley skipper Bharat Tripathi was delighted to stay on the Worsley Cup trail.
Burnley started the weekend with a two-wicket loss to Rishton at Blackburn Road, but began the defence of their cup crown with a seven-wicket triumph over Colne at Turf Moor 24 hours later.
After being drawn with Todmorden in the quarter-final of the competition, Tripathi said: “We didn’t look like a team that had lost five matches. The cup has something about it that influences and inspires your performances. There’s a great reward at the end of it.
“It was nice to be in the hat for the next round because one of our main priorities was to stay on track to defend what we consider as our property. There’s some really strong team still in it so it’s going to be tough.”
Tripathi added: “The league is very competitive which is why we’re not seeing it as a setback yet. We’ve been in the position to win games but not quite got over the line.
“We had David and Michael Brown plus Jon Clare for the cup game, and we haven’t had teams like that out for the league. But once we get that first win we’ll shift up the table quite quickly.”
Burnley will welcome Cole Hayman back from injury for the fixture with Haslingden on home soil on Sunday, while the West Enders travel to Church.