Skipper Dewhirst targets a follow-up title success

It is all systems go for Walsden, who will look to put a troubled last couple of months behind them when they start their Central Lancashire League title defence on Sunday.

Chris Dewhirst’s side travel to Clifton for their opener, after further blowing away the cobwebs at Huddersfield League top section new boys Barkisland on Saturday.

Walsden won a friendly at Burnley last weekend when Nick Barker made an unbeaten century and new pro Richard Sladdin snapped up a couple of quick wickets to help ensure the hosts were never going to chase down a 200-plus total.

Some first teamers missed that game due to lower team player Chris Marrow’s wedding, including Dewhirst, but most are expected to play on Saturday.

One absentee will be overseas amateur Shuhbam Harkal, an Indian batsman and leg spin bowler who is still awaiting a visa. “He will miss the first couple of matches but he is still coming,” said Dewhirst.

Walsden were forced into late changes with ex-county spinner Richard Sladdin replacing Sri Lankan ace Ranil Dhammika and Harkal drafted in when Aussie Brenton Edwards gave back word.

However, Walsden have retained their nucleus of local players and much will again be expected of Matthew Dawson, James Rawlinson, Jake Hooson and the Barker brothers.

Dewhirst said replacing Dhammika and Edwards had been an “absolute nightmare” but he was optimistic of another bold showing.

“Last season will be a hard one to follow but our aim is to go out and win it again,” he said.

“We’ve still got a really strong amateur side and although I have not seen the pro play he has a lot of experience and with 99 first class wickets he obviously has a bit of quality as well.

“It was always going to be tough because all the teams are very strong and can beat anyone on their day.”

Clifton are expected to have a couple of Aussies in their line-up - one is hard-hitting ex-Monton and Weaste batsman Cameron Murray - plus ex-county quick bowler Steve Cheetham.