IT may not be cricket weather just yet but the new season gets underway for many this weekend. Here, BRYAN WATERS assesses the prospects for some of our local sides.
Following their disappointing performance last year, Unsworth are looking to get the new Central Lancashire League season underway this Sunday with victory away to Monton & Weaste.
The Pole Lane club finished 13th last year and with the league splitting into two divisions for 2013, captain Jon Wiggans has set his sights on a top eight finish.
They will have a youthful flavour this season with Jack O’Brien and Aman Arora rated as good prospects. But Wiggans believes that Unsworth has the right blend of youth and experience in the first team to make the top eight a viable proposition.
Summer recruitment has seen the arrival of wicketkeeper Mark Hague from Bury and highly-rated overseas amateur Hussain Bhadat, who plies his trade in the highly competitive Durban Premier League in South Africa.
In the North Manchester League, Tottington St John’s are undergoing a period of squad redevelopment.
New captain Asif Iqbal, pictured, will look to improve on last season’s mid-table finish, as the club look to bring through a talented crop of academy players. Tottington travel to Westleigh away on April 21.
Elton were runners-up in last year’s Bolton Association and are eager to go one better this season.
The same nucleus of players will be captained by Jon Ashworth.
They have also strengthened, with the signing of professional Chris Read from Edenfield, who is tipped to be a star of the season.
In the Manchester Association, Bury are looking to build on last season’s second place, after being pipped to the title by Swinton Moore.
Bury have the Divisional Trophy to contend with before the league begins in May and good form in that competition will give them confidence towards their opener away at Wythenshawe.
The arrival of Sri Lankan overseas pro Milinda Siriwardana, as well as young talents such as Rhys McCarthy and opening bowler Lewis Jarvis, have given captain Simon Belston great hope of a successful season.
Prestwich, the reigning Lancs County League champions, will be looking for a repeat success, although the league is widely tipped to be closely contested this season.
Flowery Field are the first opponents for the champions at Heys Road on April 21, but they will be without slow left arm spinner Chris Jones, who has moved on to Roe Green.
Prestwich will, however, welcome back Oliver Holt, who is back with the club after a season away.
Weekend fixtures Saturday Ribblesdale League: Edenfield v Settle Manchester Association Premier Division: Bury v Worsley.
Division One: Brooksbottom v Newton Heath.
National Club Championship: Little Lever v Prestwich.
Sunday Central Lancashire League: Monton & Weaste v Unsworth, Radcliffe v Middleton.
Inter-League Challenge: Uppermill v Prestwich.