CRICKET finally returned to the Lancashire League but not as we know it.

With the Covid-19 pandemic playing havoc with local sport, ‘recreational’ cricket finally got the go-ahead with the government and ECB agreeing the sport can return with strict guidelines.

The first action of the delayed season saw Ramsbottom, Rawtenstall, Haslingden and Bacup take part in the opening round of fixtures in the The Surridge Sports Valley Challenge Trophy – a mini-competition for the four valley teams.

Ramsbottom enjoyed a 73-run victory over Rawtenstall while Haslingden beat Bacup by 76 runs.

At Acre Bottom, new signing Kieren Grimshaw settled in to his new surroundings with the former Accrington man top scoring with 76 – hitting eight fours – as Rammy posted 166-5.

Professional and new captain, Daryn Smit scored 34.

The evergreen Keith Roscoe was the pick of the Rawtenstall bowlers taking 2-41.

In reply, Matthew Kershaw carries his bat through the Rawtenstall innings but ran out of partners as he top scored for the visitors with 41.

Rizwan Shafiq (20), Dean O’Brien and Jack Hallows (both 10) were the only other players to reach double figures as Rawtenstall were dismissed for 93.

Daniel Pyke took 3-10 with Jack Wynn (2-27) and Smit (2-15) doing their bit with ball.

At Bentgate, Graham Knowles hit five fours and a six as he scored 51 as Haslingden were dismissed for 144.

Opener Matthew Griffin, with 28, was the only other batsman to trouble the scoreboard as Matt Thompson (3-36), Sam Lord (3-42) and Finlay Testa (3-21) shared out the wickets.

In reply, Bacup were bowled out for 68 – Chris Gansler top scoring with 14 – with Oliver Lord taking 3-11. The league will start in full next month with the President’s Cup replacing the regular home and away season and instead teams will be split in to four groups

Group One includes all the teams that have England-based professionals; Burnley, Ramsbottom, Middleton, Littleborough and Norden.

Group Two sees the Hyndburn clubs Church, Rishton and Accrington joined by East Lancashire.

Clitheroe, Rawstenstall, Colne and Bacup are in Group Three while Group Four is made up of Darwen, Walsden, Crompton and Todmorden.

The first round of fixtures will take place on Sunday, August 2 with the last of matches scheduled for August 30.

The winner of each group will progress to the knockout stages. The semi-finals are due to take place on September 6 with the final to be played a week later.

Elsewhere, the Ribblesdale League will finally start this month with teams set to play half a season.

The delayed season will commence on Saturday, July 25 with all clubs to play each other once in a reduced campaign.

A similar plan has been put in place for the First and Second divisions.

The Ramsbottom and Lawrenson Cups will not be played for this year however there are plans to run a Twenty20 competition which will be a knockout event rather than the usual group format.

While there will be no third team league cricket to played, there is a possibility that a Twenty20 Cup could go ahead.

The season is scheduled to conclude on the weekend of September 26-27. League chairman Bill Slinger said: “We had a number of options which included running all the cup competitions but in the time scale we have, this is probably the best one to go with.”