IT WAS a summer of highs and lows for Hyndburn teams in the Lancashire League. For the highs, there were two pieces of silverware picked up by local sides.
RISHTON were crowned champions for the first time since 1996 after Andy Bartley’s side went to the top on June 1 and never looked back. Their star of the show was Pakistan pro Saeed Anwar Junior who finished just 11 runs short of 1000 league runs and with 80 wickets. He is due to return to defend the title.
"We are probably not the best team on paper but we have all grown up together and are Rishton lads," said Bartley.
They held off the challenge of Rawtenstall - who had put together a run of ten straight wins - and had sealed it by the time the two clashed on the final game in the season to spark the celebrations at Blackburn Road.
Enfield were also cup winners as they picked up the 20/20 Trophy in August, beating Haslingden at Bentgate thanks to their pro Brandon Hiini. David Bracewell’s side had early season title promise but it fell away and they finished in eighth spot in the league. Ex-Lancashire bowler Bernard Reidy still took 56 wickets and Adam Bracewell was the league’s leading wicketkeeper.
On the lows, a lot of the season was overshadowed - literally - by rain. It was one of the wettest summer’s on record and 45 games were rained off and all five fixed dates, increased from the usual three, were used. And they even added one extra on a free Saturday in July to make sure there was some cricket in the summer - which divided the cricket enthusiasts.
2007 will also be remembered as a tough season for Accrington.
Hopes were high with their prolific pro Nishit Shetty back but they stuttered and off-the-field problems added to their on-field woes.
An Extraordinary General Meeting was called in June because a £10,000 revenue black hole was made public. The club’s future was threatened and Accrington-born Sky commentator David Lloyd stepped in to help save the cash-strapped club’s immediate future. There is talk now of trying to sell some of the land to make sure there aren’t similar problems at Thorneyholme Road.
The Accrington saga also sparked off debates about pros and the future of the Lancashire League which are ongoing.
On the field, David Ormerod took over the captaincy at Accrington, calling it "an honour" to manage his hometown club but he could not steer them off the bottom. They lost their first eight matches and it was always an uphill struggle.
Shetty will not be returning this year but they have pulled off a major coup as ex-England and Lancashire batsman Graham Lloyd will be back with his home club in the summer.
And it was largely a season to forget for Church which was a shame as it was Sri Lankan paid man Ruven Peiris’s last at the club after four seasons. He has the Church batting record and guided them into second spot in his first year but they couldn’t find their form on the pitch.
They finished 12th and also lost veteran bowler Nick Westwell early on in the season through injury.
And, at the end of the campaign, their captain of six years Phil Sykes stepped down with Phil Gilrane taking over. They will hope to improve next season with bowler Andy Bentley finding his form at the end of the campaign.
IN the Ribblesdale League, Baxenden had one hand on the title - but lost it in the penultimate weekend of the season. At one point, they were 14 points clear of main rivals Blackburn Northern but - with 12 points for a win - Northern came back. They beat Bash in the third from last match of the season which proved the turning point and Mark Rishton’s side had to settle for second spot.
It was still a good season, however, as Bash also made the final of the Ramsbottom Cup but Blackburn Northern were again the victors.
Pro Jonathan Fielding was the league’s leading wicket taker with more than 100 wickets but he won’t be back next season as Bash look to go one step further.
They have instead signed Lancashire all-rounder Will Purser as their pro and Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year in 1999 Ian Austin as an amateur.
Great Harwood hoped they could win the title for the first time in more than a century especially as they had ex-pro Peter Sleep as their amateur and were eagerly awaiting highly-rated paid man Sohail Tanvir. However he didn’t come and then his replacement Jermaine Lawson seemed to take age to arrive. Injuries caused chaos with Allan Armer and Russell Whalley missing vital games and they finished the campaign in fourth spot. They have moved quickly this season as they have signed Indian all-rounder Syed Shahabuddin and will hope for better things.
Oswaldtwistle Immanuel enjoyed a strong end to the season to finish third from bottom. They won 10 games in all competitions which pleased captain Gerard Metcalf after they had won three the season before. "We are going in the right direction," said the skipper. Pro Ahmed Saeed may return.