READ skipper Kyle O’Connor believes his team-mates have set the bar in terms of performance levels for the campaign.
The Whalley Road club stormed to a 71-run triumph over Great Harwood at the Cliffe on the opening day of the Houldsworth Ribblesdale League season.
After the experienced Jon Harvey fell to Ben Dowling with 25 on the board, Andrew Laycock came to the fore and developed a startling partnership with professional Jordan Clark. The duo put on 111; Clark firing 76.
But once the Lancashire cricketer returned to the pavilion, Laycock (80) continued to shine and forged a match-winning 119-run pairing with Mohammed Jamal, who ended the innings with 73. Read set a superb opening total for the new term, culminating on 268-5.
“Saturday was really good for us,” said O’Connor. “Everyone batted really well. It was a good toss to win in the end. Andrew Laycock hit 80, Mohammed Jamal got 73 and our pro Jordan Clark fired 76 so it was a great way to start the season.It was a brilliant total to start off with, very competitive, so I’m pleased.”
In reply the hosts had no answer for Read’s bowling prowess. Amar Ullah totalled 35 and paid man Syed Shahabuddin accumulated 68 but on his exit victory never seemed likely for Great Harwood. Paul Holdsworth added an unbeaten 28 while Dowling chipped in with 19 but the home side fell short.
“We looked strong and hopefully that level of performance can push us towards the title. We need to build on that now but it’s nice to have points on the board early on.”
Meanwhile, Clitheroe skipper Paul Gaskell was delighted to see the club’s debutants make a good first impression.
Gaskell’s side flew straight to the top of the Ribblesdale Cricket League hierarchy after crushing Salesbury in a 186-run triumph at Ribchester Road.
Stuart Lemon smashed 10 fours and eight sixes on his way to a whopping 123 total, paid man Kashif Siddique hit 35 while Peter Dibb marked his return with a knock of 24. Tom Lord, who joined Clitheroe’s ranks from Nelson, fired 37 and Gaskell added an unbeaten 13, setting their opponents a target of 273.
And they would get nowhere near, with openers Ian Rabagliati and Will Cook dismissed with just four runs on the board.
Clitheroe’s bowlers tore through Salesbury’s batting order with Jack Dewhurst taking four wickets, and there was two apiece for Lord and Joshua Marquet.
It was a good day,” said Gaskell. “Stuart batted unbelievably to be fair, hitting 123 on his debut, Tom got in on the runs and took a couple of wickets as well and Peter did well with the bat.
“They had all shown their qualities in pre-season so there was no doubts about their capabilities.
“It was great that it all came together on the opening day.”
Elsewhere, new Whalley professional Wilkin Mota top-scored with 44 to guide the Station Road side to victory over Ribblesdale Wanderers.
Opening batsmen Martin Davies contributed 26, Richard Lamb added 17 and Declan Fitzhenry hit 12 in the away side’s total of 137.
Wanderers captain Ian Britcliffe had seemingly done enough at Church Meadow, with his six wicket haul restricting Whalley. But in bat the hosts crumbled and fell 69 runs short. Mota took four victims with the ball, while Sean Duckworth and Simon Gorton scooped three wickets each.
Talk of the Houldsworth Ribblesdale League’s future dominated the opening day on Saturday.
The season got underway with news of a future change to the league’s structure.
On the eve of the new campaign, teams voted by 20-14 to switch to a new two tier system.
The eventual make-up of the league is yet unknown but is likely to include at least two new clubs - Euxton and Brooksbottom.
It is expected that the senior league will consist of 24 clubs next year, playing each other once, before splitting into two 12-team divisions in 2014.