It has not been a particularly happy introduction on the field to life in the new Anthony Axford North West Cricket League Premiership for Walkden, but captain Mustafa Bashir says the club still has plenty to smile about.

Walkden have won just two matches across all competitions through this season - one in the Hamer Cup and another in the Birtwistle Cup T20 competition.

They have lost all 13 completed matches in the league to sit bottom of the table, with two more rained off, including Saturday’s trip to Oswaldtwistle Immanuel when the entire 15th round was washed out.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, insists the skipper.

Opening bowler Bashir has been at Walkden since 2020, joining from Hoylandswaine in the Huddersfield League.

In the two seasons before the prolific seamer arrived at the Oval, they won the Bolton League but have since been hurt by an exodus of senior players and have fallen down the tables season by season as a result.

That has left the club needing to play some youngsters, with further hope in the years to come coming from junior teams from under nines to U13s, who will in turn progress through the third and second teams down at Harriet Street.

“We have some very good young players, but they just need that experience and patience,” said Bashir, who has not played since June 17 due to a knee injury but was due to return this weekend.

That patience is clearly something the Walkden hierarchy have, led by president Frank Hinks. “The club is very supportive, and there are a lot of good people,” said Bashir.

“There are a couple of things which we’re working on at the ground - some new nets and some changes to the clubhouse. Things are going well there.”

On the field, there have been shoots of encouragement in the last few weeks.

In their last completed match at Farnworth Social Circle on July 8, for example, they were encouragingly placed at 115-3 batting first before falling away to 142 all out. The following Saturday, they reduced visitors Whalley to 29-3 before rain.

“We beat Whalley in the Hamer Cup, and we were in a good position against them last weekend. Unfortunately, we came off for rain,” said Bashir.

“We were in the top three in the Bolton League table for a number of seasons (2018-2020), but this is the first one that we’ve really gone downhill.

“The pro (Asif Hussain, from Pakistan - 394 runs) has got a few fifties, and I’ve got 34 wickets.

“A couple of other lads have chipped in as well, but it’s been a mixture of everything that’s let us down.

“Through to the end of the season, we’re trying to get a couple of wins so that as a team we can keep going and build for next season. That’s what we want.”

Bashir spoke with enthusiasm about the new NWCL, his only reservation being some of the travelling. But he did add: “Some of the grounds we’ve been to have been really nice, and we’ve been well looked after. We’ve enjoyed it, and it’s been positive.”

* The Birtwistle Cup T20 Finals Day has been rescheduled for this coming Sunday at Padiham. It was due to be played on Sunday, but the wet weather forced a rethink. Barnoldswick will face Farnworth at 10.30am before Padiham host Little Lever at 1pm. The final takes place at 4pm.