GREAT Harwood skipper Paul Houldsworth won't believe that new professional Jermaine Lawson has arrived until he is stood ready to bowl.
The Cliffe Park club have snapped up the 25-year-old Jamaican, who has an outstanding CV, after they were forced to cancel the contract of Sohail Tanvir this week.
Fast bowler Lawson has 51 wickets in his 13 Tests and 17 in his 13 One Day Internationals.
He made his Test debut in 2002 and burst onto the scene with 6-3 against Bangladesh, a hat-trick against Australia in 2003-4 and 7-78 against the Aussies in the same series.
He was then reported for "illegal action" by the ICC in 2003 and, after remedial work, came back to the Test cricket in 2004.
He has since suffered from injuries but just missed out on being selected for the West Indies squad for the current Test series in England.
This paved the way for Harwood to snap him up after they learnt Tanvir was unavailable.
"It has just been a nightmare with the professionals," said Houldsworth, who had just begun his second spell as skipper. "And I won't believe Jermaine is here until he is stood there, ready to bowl.
"I just feel sick. We thought we had Tanvir and it hasn't happened and we have had five substitute professionals so far this season who have got eight runs between them and eight wickets.
"That's poor. If any amateur had played that badly they would have been dropped to the seconds.
"Every week a different sub pro turns up and I have to ask them if they can bat or bowl and decide where to put them in the order.
"It has just been hard work. I think Stuart Maher, the secretary, has come close to giving up because it has been so stressful.
"The only good thing is that we are still in the Ramsbottom Cup and are still in touch with the top of the league - we are just one win away - and, if Jermaine arrives, we can go on from there.
"I would definitely rather have him on our side than against us as I wouldn't like someone bowling at me at more than 90 miles an hour!"
Harwood have lost two league games this season but are still not far off top side Baxenden with 12 points up for grabs for a win - and Houldsworth is desperate to clinch the league crown which has eluded the club since 1900.
"We are like all clubs - we want to win the title and we all want the world class professional who will help us do it.
"But it has been a real monkey on our backs for years. If we can do it then I can retire a happy man!" he said.
They certainly have the amateurs to make a charge, especially having added Australian Test batsman Peter Sleep to their side, after he retired from the Lancashire League with Rishton.
"I don't think it has gone too well for Sleepy so far playing-wise but he is great to have around the club," said the captain.
"He brings professionalism, he takes training and works on fielding and really gets involved. He is a big asset."
Sleep will have to be a calming influence again tomorrow (Sat) - with Harwood relying on yet another sub-pro - as the amateurs will be fired up to see off champions Clitheroe in the league.
Clitheroe beat Harwood in the 20/20 final and the Ramsbottom Cup final last year and there is always plenty of friendly banter between the sides.
"For some reason, we always want to beat Clitheroe," said Houldsworth. "They are one of those teams that, over the last few seasons, they have become really competitive matches and we do enjoy it if we beat them."
Harwood will also be relieved they are still in the Ramsbottom Cup as it could have been tense in the first round against Read last weekend.
"We didn't think we had got enough runs but we bowled and fielded really well," added Houldsworth.
Harwood were 159 all out with Allan Armer (36) and Ian Howarth (35) top scoring. Paul Newton then took four wickets as a poor batting show by Read left them 104 runs short.
Harwood come up against Blackburn Northern in the next round.
OSWALDTWISTLE IMMANUEL'S cup game was closer as they sneaked past Earby with 14 runs to spare.
Paid man Ahmer Saeed was the Ossie hero with 72 although Daniel Metcalf's 23 and Paul Dignan's 21 proved vital in the end in their 164. Andrew Metcalf, Gerard Metcalf and Saeed took two wickets each and they will now face Cherry Tree in the round two. Tomorrow though it is a trip to Blackburn Northern in the league.
BAXENDEN are still in pole position in the league and booked their place in the next round of the cup after a nervous victory over Edenfield.
Opener Dave Parkinson has been in blistering form with the bat this season and his 72 - and his second wicket partnership with skipper Mark Rishton - proved decisive. Baxenden made 190-9 and pro Jonathan Fielding took four wickets as Edenfield fell just seven runs short in a tense finale.
They will be looking to cement their place at the top of the table when they take on struggling Cherry Tree tomorrow.
They are also in Lancashire Cup action on Sunday, at home against Standish.
- GREAT Harwood are on the lookout for new sponsors. All businesses and individual who would like further details contact Ian Haworth on 07845 612893.