Fylde coast cricket preview: Lytham skipper's upbeat feeling after their start to the season
Lytham Cricket Club captain Matt Taaffe isn’t too disappointed by the delayed arrival of eagerly-anticipated professional Zia-ur-Rehman Akbar as the Church Road club have made a fine start to the season without him.
Taaffe’s side are one of only two clubs to have won their first two games in the Liverpool Competition first division ahead of last weekend’s washout.
They have done so without spin star Akbar, 23, who is regarded as such a promising talent in his native Afghanistan that his recruitment by Lytham is seen as a real coup.
However, they must be patient as Akbar completes a 10-day quarantine in his homeland, which must be followed by a similar period in isolation on arrival in this country.
In Akbar’s absence, others have come to the fore as Lytham hit the ground running in a bid to bounce back after relegation from the competition’s ECB premier league in 2019.
Tom Hessey has taken eight wickets to date, including 6-59 as Lytham followed their one-wicket victory over St Helens Town on the opening day with a four-wicket success at Liverpool a fortnight ago.
Ed Fiddler notched 82 in the latter game, following Josh Holden’s half-century in the opener.
Taaffe’s first impressions of his side and their new competition have been favourable.
He told The Gazette: “I think the standard is very similar to the premier league, except that it’s more about teams collectively than about one or two outstanding individuals.
“Of course individual players have stood up – Tom has been outstanding so far – but we’ve had two great team performances.
“I think the competition will go up a notch as more pros arrive, including ours, but this division is more about groups of 11 and it should be a good season.
“We’ll have a better idea when we’ve played some of the top teams.”
Highfield are the only other club with two wins under their belt and Lytham visit them in three weeks.
First up is a visit to winless Rainford tomorrow and a home game against Newton-le-Willows next weekend.
That will be the first match at Church Road with spectators on the ground and an open clubhouse after restrictions ease next week and is an occasion everyone at the club is looking forward to.
Taaffe added: “Yes, we usually get good crowds at home and the club has done well in organising the hospitality side, so it’s a day we’re all looking forward to.”
By then, Lytham will be another week closer to Akbar’s arrival.
Great Eccleston will face Kirkham and Wesham in the first round of the Palace Shield’s Meyler Cup on June 6 after Ecc won their preliminary round tie by eight wickets at Tarleton. However, South Shore and Thornton Cleveleys fell at the first hurdle.
In the Loxham Cup, Norcross’ reward for victory over Fleetwood 2 is a trip to Chorley 2 in the next round. Also through are Blackpool 2 and St Annes 2.
Northern Premier League: Fulwood and Broughton v St Annes, Kendal v Fleetwood, Morecambe v Blackpool, Chorley v Longridge, Garstang v Netherfield, Leyland v Lancaster.
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield premier division: Croston v Fylde, Penwortham v Great Eccleston, South Shore v Kirkham and Wesham, Thornton Cleveleys v Penrith, Barrow v Eccleston, Vernon Carus v Preston
Division One: Blackpool 2 v Morecambe 2, Fleetwood 2 v Kendal 2, Great Eccleston 2 v Leyland 2, St Annes 2 v Fulwood and Broughton 2
Division Two: Longridge 3 v Norcross, Wrea Green v Penwortham 2, Ingol v Thornton Cleveleys 2.
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