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Lancashire League: Big hitters collide on the opening day
3:00pm Saturday 19th April 2014 in Sport
THE preparation is complete, the teams have been picked and at 1pm, tomorrow the 122nd Foster’s Lancashire League season will swing into action.
And the fixture list has thrown up a fascinating opener as reigning champions Accrington begin the defence of the coveted crown with what could turn out to be one of the matches of the season.
Accrington host fancied Ramsbottom at Thorneyholme Road for an opening day showdown and while Easter Sunday is too soon to start talking about season-defining games, there is no doubt that it could be a yardstick for the coming months.
Accrington have a new professional with a familiar face as Ockert Erasmus makes the move from East Lancashire after three years and the South African has already made an impact on the training ground with fitness routines and with a new skipper in the shape of Stuart Crabtree they are confident of another big season.
Graham Lloyd has relinquished the captaincy after being promoted to the First Class umpires list but he plays on the opening day and Accrington have a strong side out.
Ramsbottom have made a host of changes over the winter with Rob Read the new skipper in place of Jon Fielding, who will still play a massive part with the ball.
There is no Steve Dearden or his son Harry but South African pro Daryn Smit is expected to have a big season.
Two more fancied sides meet at Bentgate as Haslingden host Burnley.
The sides contested last year’s Worsley Cup final and while they both have numerous changes from that date, they both look the real deal.
Chris Holt is the new Burnley pro after his success at Padiham and former county star David Brown also takes to the field.
New Haslingden skipper Phill Hayes is without pro Brenton Parchment, who is waiting for a visa, but they have a strong side and they have borrowed former Accrington pro Ashar Zaidi from Sussex.
Jon Finch returns to the Lowerhouse squad for their opener as Church visit the Neville Gee Recruitment Ground for a clash of two more sides expected to be in the frame, while Enfield have recruited well over the winter and the pace of Ben Dowling and the batting of Liam Bedford will cause Bacup issues.
East Lancashire begin their 150th season with a trip to Nelson with new pro Matt Kleinveldt going up against fellow South African Ryan Canning, while the pace of Michael Neser is unleashed for Todmorden against Colne.
Neser is a key member of the Queensland Bulls side and is regularly clocked in the 90mph zone.
That pace will unsettle batsmen but Colne’s new professional Ali Azmat is relishing his spell in the Lancashire League.
Rawtenstall head to Rishton in the day’s other game.
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