DEFENDING champions Clitheroe dug themselves out of a hole to make it a winning start to the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale League on Saturday.

Paul Gaskell’s men were on the ropes against Great Harwood and were in a world of trouble at 73-7 as Stuart Maher bowled like a dream.

Maher, who claimed 72 league wickets in a productive 2013, and started 2014 in the same fashion as he claimed six victims.

But Clitheroe managed to get up to 156 with Harwood professional Jack Wildermuth joining Maher on the wicket trail with three victims.

Harwood made a rapid start with 39 coming from the first five overs but no-one could go on and make the key score as Clitheroe turned the screw and bowled them out for 98.

New pro Janaka Gunarantne made an immediate impact for the champions as he claimed 7-23.

Baxenden made a winning start to the campaign as they brushed Cherry Tree aside at Preston Old Road.

But that defeat was harsh on home skipper Mark Hadfield, who shone with both bat and ball.

Hadfield claimed 5-32 from 10 overs with his left-arm spin as Bash posted 184-8 with Asif Iqbal top scoring with 42 and Richard Staines making a very impressive 36.

Cherry pro Ruan Sadler bowled better than figures of 1-70 suggest and he failed with the bat as he got a second-baller on debut.

Hadfield made 52 for the hosts but that was pretty much as good as it got for them with Bash skipper Gary Sudworth bowling marvellously to collect a five-wicket haul to send Cherry spinning to 136 all out.

Oswaldtwistle Immanuel carried on from where they left off last season with a big win over Euxton that was very much a family affair.

Immanuel posted 189-9 with the returning Daniel Metcalf top scoring with 69 while his dad Gerard hit 44. Euxton’s wayward bowling saw 26 wides out of a total of 48 extras and that certainly didn’t help their cause.

But those sundries didn’t really matter in the long run as the third member of the Metcalf clan Andrew claimed 5-52 as Euxton collapsed to 69-8. They did recover slightly before being bowled out for 90.

Nathan Whitehead claimed five wickets for Padiham but they were beaten at Settle.

Whitehead’s return of 5-55 saw Settle bowled out for 134 but Padiham’s batting failed and they were 115 all out with Imran Khalid claiming five wickets and the pace of skipper Eddy Read earning four victims.

Whalley made the perfect start under Richard Lamb as they beat Ribblesdale Wanderers.

Professional Wilkin Mota hit 72 from 77 balls as Whalley posted 153-7 with Mark Thompson claiming five wickets.

Mota was far from finished, however, and he got down to work with the ball to dominate the Wanderers’ batsmen.

He claimed 5-37 with only Brannon Varley offering much in the way of resistance with 33.

Jon Harvey marked his retirement u-turn with a big display for one of the title favourites Read as they crushed Salesbury.

Harvey claimed 4-3 in yet another magical spell of bowling while pro Brandon Scullard claimed three wickets on debut as the Red Caps were routed for 110.

That was never likely to test Read too much and they were in a serious hurry to get home with skipper Kyle O’Connor making a blistering 60 and Will Driver 28 as they won by eight wickets.

David Crotty’s debut for Earby was memorable as he claimed five wickets and then hit 48 in a win at Edenfield.

The ex-Nelson man claimed 5-29 as Edenfield were 139 all out and then he made 48 not out as they got home by six wickets.

New boys Brinscall had a glorious Senior League debut as they thumped Brooksbottom by eight wickets after bowling the visitors out for 104, Lee Burgess claiming six wickets.