AS far as Lancashire League cricket games go they don’t get much bigger than Burnley versus Lowerhouse.
And the hype surrounding the big town derby is such that a team from Sky Sports will be attending Sunday’s clash at Liverpool Road.
The media conglomerates have ear-marked Burnley Cricket Club as the first amateur side to feature in the sporting channel’s series ‘Club Life’.
And Steve Brunt’s outfit will be the first team aired in the six-episode programme which will be on screens over the international period, starting with England’s Test Match against Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Thursday, May 26th.
The programme will have an in-depth look at the Turf Moor club, evaluating how it fits in to the Lancashire League community as well as looking at distinguished county and international stars who’ve plied their trade at Burnley; namely Jimmy Anderson, current chairman Michael Brown, briother David and Jonathan Clare.
But there’s a game to focus on first and foremost and Burnley skipper Steve Brunt will be looking to take the local bragging rights.
He said: “They’ve had a good start with a decent young team but we are looking forward to it. We have started slowly but we are still playing some good cricket. It’s always nice to claim the town’s bragging rights, especially when the games are so fiercely contested.”
Knocks of 58 from Jon Finch and an unbeaten 61 from Chris Bleazard led to a five-wicket win in this fixture last season, but Brunt believes his derby debutants Cole Hayman and Gus Whitehead, both 16 years old, will rise to the occasion.
“It will be a new experience for a couple of the young lads but I’m sure they will rise to the challenge,” Brunt said. “We are certainly confident ahead of the derby and it will be good to put one over on them.”
Defeat for Burnley would see them sink even further behind the West Enders with the gulf already standing at 35 points.
But Brunt isnt concentrating on the table so early in the season: “We will just try to play the best cricket we can. We don’t want them to open the gap up too much but we are more focussed on what we are doing, and nobody else.”
Meanwhile, Lowerhouse chairman Stan Heaton is eagerly anticipating the performance of professional Francois Haasbroek who goes in to the fixture in remarkable form.
The South-African had a tough act to follow after last season’s paid man Aaron Heal smashed 650 runs in 23 matches, but it seems the all-rounder thrives on pressure.
So far, in five matches played, he’s notched up 117 runs and 17 wickets as Charlie Cottam’s side marched up to third in the table. And his application so far led Heaton to comment: “He’s exceptional - the best I’ve seen in years. He will be the one to watch on Sunday.”
Added pressures will be mounted from the Sky Sports coverage of their rivals but Heaton believes there will be “an element of apprehension, but once the players are out on the pitch they will forget about it.”
Lowerhouse go in to the game with an 80% win record from their opening five fixtures of the 2011 season and have only experienced league defeats five times in the derby over the last 10 years.
Elsewhere, Lowerhouse’s second string were thrashed by Ramsbottom. Chasing 290, the West Enders fell well short of their target at Acre Bottom as they were sent packing for 136. Matt Marquis, Shaun Heaton, Dec Bailey and Josh Lavin stood out in defeat for Lowerhouse.
The Under 13s Tigers were stopped in their tracks against their older counterparts who proved unstoppable in a great performance. The Lions posted 312-2 and then halted the Tigers 155 runs short. Harry Spark, who top-scored with an unbeaten 21, will be attending his county trial next week.
Oscar Coates and Laura Burrows were the star performers for Lowerhouse Jaguars, though their efforts weren’t rewarded with victory. Too many wickets for lost in the early stages as they ended the innings on 231-5, chasing Accrington’s 247.
But there was better news for the Bears who thrashed Nelson in the Under 11s age group. Joseph Halstead and Ethan Laraway, both awaiting the results of their county trials, starred with both bat and ball. Nelson could only accumulate 174 after the Bears had posted 287-4.
In the Ribblesdale Cricket League, Read will be looking to extend their winning run to five league games against Salesbury tomorrow.
But a narrow two-run triumph over Cherry Tree last weekend has taught skipper Warren Eastham not to get too complacent, regardless of his side’s obvious talent.
“The result against Cherry Tree showed that we can’t be complacent,” Eastham said.
“These games against Salesbury and Clitheroe are winnable and we’ll be expecting maximum points but it’s not a given so we need to go out there and do the business.”
Salesbury professional Susantha Pradeep is in fine fettle, posting 157 runs in three matches with the bat and claiming 12 wickets with the ball.
But Eastham is aware that Jason Rawson’s side are a much tougher proposition than last season.
He said: “They’ve got a decent pro (Susantha Pradeep) and look a much stronger prospect than last year. They are confident and seem up for all their matches at the moment. They’ll give it everything, they’ve got home advantage, and if they play as a unit they’ll make it very tough for us.”
And Padiham will be hoping to maintain their rich vein of form as they travel to face Oswaldtwistle Immanuel.
John Bushell’s side climbed to mid-table after ending Edenfield’s unbeaten league run courtesy of a spirited fightback. Now he wants his side to make it three league wins on the bounce.
“On the back of a couple of wins the confidence within the team is increasing. We know it’s going to be a tough game against Oswaldtwistle, they are just above us, but a result would see us keep in touch with that leading group.
“The confidence has been there throughout the season and it’s essential that we maintain that with a young and developing side. We didn’t do ourselves any favours in the first half against Edenfield but we responded well and it was a great chase to win the game.”
Padiham chased down a 227 target against Edenfield and although that character impressed Bushell, he’s challenged his side to make things easier for themselves in the first place.
Bushell said: “We know the areas where we need to improve to make things easier for ourselves, mainly in the catching and fielding departments, but I’m delighted with how this young side is performing. It’s a fantastic team to captain because the team spirit is great and now we will look to maintain that winning formula.”
• LOWERHOUSE draw winners: April - £100, 86, Maureen Scaife; £60, 161, Colin Humberstone; £50, 165, Gary Bradley; £30, 10, Paul Shufflebottom; £25, 32, Tom McKenzie; £20, 51, Scott Harrison; £15, 29, Keith Fairclough.