READ skipper Kyle O’Connor believes his team-mates have set the bar in terms of performance levels for the campaign.
The Whalley Road club stormed to a 71-run triumph over Great Harwood at Blackburn Old Road on the opening day of the Houldsworth Ribblesdale League season.
After the experienced Jon Harvey fell to Ben Dowling with 25 on the board, Andrew Laycock came to the fore and developed a startling partnership with professional Jordan Clark. The duo put on 111; Clark firing 76.
But once the Lancashire cricketer returned to the pavilion, Laycock (80) continued to shine and forged a match-winning 119-run pairing with Mohammed Jamal, who ended the innings with 73. Read set a superb opening total for the new term, culminating on 268-5.
“Saturday was really good for us,” said O’Connor. “Everyone batted really well. It was a good toss to win in the end. Andrew Laycock hit 80, Mohammed Jamal got 73 and our pro Jordan Clark fired 76 so it was a great way to start the season.
“Everything that we’d practiced just gelled together on the day. All the lads dug in early on and when they’d settled they did what they do best. It was a brilliant total to start off with, very competitive, so I’m pleased.”
In reply the hosts had no answer for Read’s bowling prowess. Amar Ullah totalled 35 and paid man Syed Shahabuddin accumulated 68 but on his exit victory never seemed likely for Great Harwood. Paul Holdsworth added an unbeaten 28 while Dowling chipped in with 19 but the home side fell short at The Cliffe.
“We just targeted their key players and once they’d gone we knew we were well in to them,” O’Connor said. “They needed to score more than 10 runs an over with 10 overs remaining so we were comfortable and confident then. We eventually won it with six overs remaining.
“We looked strong and hopefully that level of performance can push us towards the title. We need to build on that now but it’s nice to have points on the board early on.”
Meanwhile, Arbories captain John Bushell conceded that Padiham’s total wasn’t competitive enough to threaten Barnoldswick.
Lee Anderson top-scored with 66 but paid man Chris Holt (19) and Anthony Hall (22) were the only other contributors of note as Padiham were extinguished for 152.
“We’ve got our first game out of the way and although the result could have been better there were some positive performances and aspects of the game we know we can build on,” said Bushell.
“Losing the toss and being put in to bat, Lee Anderson started us off well. We’ve promoted him to opening batsman and he did well and in return put in a knock of 66. He will develop, he’s very capable, so that was the highlight for us.”
He added: “We were fairly solid in our top five but nobody really went on to support Lee as well as they could. A score of 170 or 180 would have been a really challenging target and I felt we should have achieved that.”
It took 32 overs for last season’s third place finishers to overhaul their target, with Liam Bedford strolling to 66. In fact 96 runs were on the board before his partnership with Abdul Saddique (38) was broken. Holt’s five wickets couldn’t prevent a three-wicket defeat but it was however rewarded with three bonus points.
“We knew we needed early wickets but that didn’t come,” Bushell said. “Chris Holt bowled really well all the way through but amateur-wise we failed to support him initially. Once we took the first wicket we rapidly went through them and at one stage it was very interesting. Chris bowled exceptionally well and as always was inspirational.”
Bushell added: “We picked up three bowling points which was a bonus and that gives us three more points than we had at this stage last year.”
Talk of the Houldsworth Ribblesdale League’s future dominated the opening day on Saturday.
The season got underway with news of a future change to the league’s structure.
On the eve of the new campaign, teams voted by 20-14 to switch to a new two tier system.
The eventual make-up of the league is yet unknown but is likely to include at least two new clubs - Euxton and Brooksbottom.
It is expected that the senior league will consist of 24 clubs next year, playing each other once, before splitting into two 12-team divisions in 2014.
Champions Baxenden opened their title defence with victory as the Back Lane outfit scored a 78-run over Oswaldtwistle Immanuel, thanks to a great all-round performance by stand-in professional, Babar Naeem.
Naeem hit 85 out of 213 and then claimed 7-47 as the visitors were bowled out for only 135.
Clitheroe posted the day’s highest score with 273-6 against last season’s wooden spoonists Salesbury. Stuart Lennon top scored with 123 before Salesbury were skittled for only 87.
Cherry Tree’s Paul Turner produced the only other century with an undefeated 114 for Cherry Tree in their 57 run success against Earby.
Other winners were Settle and Whalley.