Hamer Cup champions Padiham are hoping for another successful summer in the Anthony Axford North West Cricket League.

They certainly don’t want it to be as challenging on the pitch as it was off it this winter as a result of the bad weather.

Local league cricket across the country, never mind just the North West, has been beset by early summer rain.

A host of competitions delayed their scheduled start dates, including the NWCL, who pushed it back twice from April 20 to April 27 and then to May 4. Grounds just were not going to be ready before the weekend just gone.

And Padiham were very much in that boat - a rather apt pun given the circumstances.

“We certainly wouldn’t have been ready before Saturday,” said captain Toby Burrows, whose father Ian - more widely known as Bugsy - is the club’s groundsman.

“Dad spends pretty much all his life up at the club because he’s retired. But he’s been pulling his hair out.

“He usually wraps up for the year around October and gets up there straight after Christmas, but it was only about the start of April that he gave it its first cut.”

Padiham had quite a bit of winter work planned at their Arbories home.

“The Top Banking, as we call it, it’s all been landscaped now,” continued Toby. “We’ve had that completed. But the actual ground itself has been untouched.

“We were meant to have meant four new drains put in, and they first came up around January 8 or 9 to start work. They dug the initial hole and then needed two or three days of consecutive dry weather to do the work. But we haven’t had that since.

“There was a six-week bedding in process after the work had been done.

“So we had a deadline of late March. In the end, we just had to go with it as it is and look to next winter.

“We’re usually a good drying ground, but we just need the weather to pick up because we could struggle all summer. Having the old collapsed drains isn’t ideal.”

Burrows junior describes the task of getting the ground ready as “impossible”, but they did manage to play at home against Blackrod on Saturday - a Premiership fixture they lost.

Despite the winter weather challenges, Burrows says the club is in “a good place”.

That is in no small part down to their on-field exploits, which saw the first team finish fourth in the league last year and win the Hamer Cup, beating Settle in the final.

As champions, they have been handed a first round bye so won’t be in action when the competition gets under way this weekend.

“We have three strong teams, and the first team especially had a good year. That got the club bouncing,” said spin bowler Burrows, who is heading into his second year as captain.

“Hopefully we can carry that on.”

On specific aims, he continued: “We obviously want to do well in the cup again. That was amazing last year.

“With the league, I always aim for the top - I wouldn’t play if I didn’t.

“I thought we had a good chance to win the league last year and came up a little bit short, especially against some of the better Bolton teams. We lost to Little Lever, who were the best team. Farnworth Social Circle, we were cruising and got rained off. Then we lost the re-arranged game.

“We lost the first two games of the season.

“We had similar problems with the weather last year, so we didn’t have any friendlies. That just set us back.

“Had we won the first two against - Ribblesdale Wanderers and Salesbury - last year could have looked different.

“But to win the Hamer Cup, to finish fourth in the league and get to the Finals Day in T20, which we hosted, it was a really good season.”

Padiham have lost Jonny Whitehead to Lowerhouse, but fellow all-rounder Jack Edgar remains as professional.

“We haven’t necessarily replaced Jonny with a signing, but we have definitely got people who can replace him in more ways than one,” added Burrows.

“He’ll be a massive miss given he helped me a lot in my first year as captain, but I’m expecting others to stand up.

“Jack is into his fourth year. He’s one of the lads and knows everybody around the club. It doesn’t take time for him to settle in, like a lot of the pros have to do.

“That’s one of the biggest positives with having a local pro.

“We’re a young team, and Jack’s younger brother Joe is 16 or 17 and plays for the league rep team. He will get his chance to show what he can do opening the batting this year, and he’s a great player.”