One Lehmann has already had a significant impact on the Anthony Axford North West Cricket League, and now another is helping to develop one of the competition’s brightest stars, writes Graham Hardcastle.

Everybody connected with the league will know about South Australia captain Jake’s influence on last season, helping Little Lever win the inaugural Premiership title with a flurry of overseas runs.

However, this winter, Aussie legend Darren is playing his part in aiding the progression of 18-year-old Adam Hodge, the Earby all-rounder who is currently with the Darren Lehmann Academy in the sunshine of picturesque Adelaide.

Hodge is one of two dozen young cricketers training hard with the Academy and playing grade cricket at the weekend, the teenager turning out for the Woodville South club in the Premier Grade of the Adelaide Turf Cricket Association.

“This is the first winter I’ve had free from college and school, the first opportunity, so I thought, ‘Why not’,” said Hodge, of his decision to head Down Under.

“I had to apply for the Academy and put in a CV of what I’ve done cricketing wise, and then they pick 24 I think it is to spend the winter here.

“You pay for it, but they sort out all the accommodation and food and clubs and stuff like that.”

Hodge is a former Lancashire age-group cricketer - a left-arm seamer who bats.

“Pretty much everyone has played county stuff through the juniors, and they’re all pretty much 18 so it’s their first summer out here as well,” he continued. “There are a good few who are aiming to go back and get county contracts in the future.

“I haven’t played for Lancashire for a year or two, so I’m probably not thinking about going professional anymore.

“But I’d like to push towards a pro’s job in the leagues at some point in the future. Also, playing in a different country like Australia was always a dream, and I’ve absolutely loved it. If the opportunity pops up again, I’d like to take it.”

The cricket Hodge is playing is a level below first grade cricket, where you will see a number of county pros play as overseas players. Just down the road at Woodville, for example, young Yorkshire fast bowler Dom Leech is in their team.

“It’s a really good standard where I am,” he said. “A lot of the lads want to be progressing to play in the top league, so that adds to the competitive nature of it. Especially the standard of batting, it’s unreal.

“I’ve bowled a lot, but I’ve not had too much of an opportunity with the bat.

“The format is different out here. We play two-day cricket, played over two weekends. You bat one day and bowl the other. So teams are used to batting all day with their top five. I’ll get a chance to do that at some point, I’m sure, but the bowling’s going well for now.

“It’s been a new challenge which I’m definitely enjoying, and Woodville South are a brilliant club. They’ve been fantastic with me.”

England star Joe Root once spent a winter at the Darren Lehmann Academy, highlighting its pedigree.

“We train every day other than Fridays, and you get access to some top-class coaches,” said Hodge.

“Darren came in for the first week or two and was around all the time.

“He’s struggled to be with us a lot since because he’s a coach with the Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash. But I did mention that I’d played against Jake.

“Straightaway, he asked who I played for, how I did. He was really interested in me and the league, and he seems a lovely guy.”

Earby finished 17th last season in the NWCL Premiership, winning eight of their 23 matches. They will play in the second-tier Championship in 2024.

For Hodge, he scored 482 runs and claimed 41 wickets in all cricket last summer.

He added: “It was a good season, and I really enjoyed it. Playing against some new teams and faces, at some new grounds was exciting, and it was nice to come away with some runs and wickets.

“Earby’s season was up and down.

“We’re a young side - we have two lads who are 15 still. I think the skipper’s (Chris Walton) the only one over 25. But we’ve all come through the juniors together, and we’re really close. That can go a long way in a side.

“It’s a lovely place to play, and I couldn’t speak any higher of it.

“Hopefully we can have a good season and push towards that top division.”