BAXENDEN’S players are aiming to make Ian Austin a very proud man on Sunday.
The former England one-day international is still putting his all into the game at the age of 43.
But even though he has played at the highest level, Austin has made no secret of the immense satisfaction he would gain if Baxenden won the Ramsbottom Cup this weekend.
And here, Austin gives Observer Sport an exclusive run-down of the side who will be chasing cup glory against Clitheroe at Settle this Sunday.
Callum Waddington: He made a vow at the start of the season that he wouldn’t get his hair cut until we lost a game. When we finally did lose against Edenfield earlier this month, he liked his new look so much that he’s decided to keep it! Callum has been good with the bat this season, and has formed a nice opening partnership with Babar Naeem.
Babar Naeem: A high-quality spin bowler and a big-hitting batsman from Pakistan – our professional. His track record was excellent before he joined us, and we’ve given him the freedom to play as he wants. As with Kevin Pietersen, it doesn’t always work, but he has been outstanding for us this season.
Mark Rishton: Our former captain has been freed of those responsibilities to concentrate on his batting this season, and it’s given him a new lease of life. He had suffered frustration with Baxenden’s near-misses in the league and cup competition in recent years. He comes up with big performances when we need them.
Lewis McIntosh: A batsman who came in from Haslingden, which was where I first met him. He’s the life and soul of the dressing room – but there will be trouble if you get between him and the mirror! He started like a house on fire this season, and has played consistently well.
David Cronshaw: When the chips are down, you can rely on Cronny to help you out with the bat. He played a big part in winning us a key game at Great Harwood recently with Ben Swindells, when we looked to be in trouble. He’s useful as a stand-in wicketkeeper too.
Dominic Bulcock: He batted up the order in a Twenty20 game for us a couple of weeks ago, and scored 60-plus. Dominic is really coming into his own, and always looks as if he will get runs. His brother Toby is part of the Lancashire set-up.
Ben Swindells: He’s only 16, but Ben has an old head on young shoulders. A bowler who made his first-team debut this year, Ben has learned quickly. He has made valuable contributions with bat and the ball. A good prospect.
Gary Sudworth: Like Callum Waddington, vowed to keep growing his hair until we lost. Unlike Callum, he couldn’t wait to shave it off – he looked like he had a sheep on his head! Gary’s bowling has come on in leaps and bounds. In fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s been our best bowler this season.
Russell Howarth: Our wicketkeeper started the season really well, and just kept going. He’s improved his glove work, which isimportant when you are facing a spinner of the quality of Babar Naeem. Makes plenty of noise, always encouraging the bowlers, which is what you want from a wicketkeeper.
Simon Payne: Probably the eldest statesman in the team – after me! He bowls and bats a bit. One of the quieter members, but is always happy to make sacrifices for the team cause.
Ian Austin: Useless. Don’t know what he’s doing in the team! Seriously, my job is to act as the figurehead, and use my experience to steer the boys through. I’ve been around for a while, and seen plenty, so nothing that happens on the field is going to come as a shock. I aim to make sure that we keep our heads when we need to.
Meanwhile, Baxenden have opened up a 30-point lead at the top of the table after victories over rivals Great Harwood and Ribblesdale Wanderers over the weekend.
Paul Whalley top scored for Harwood but they could only make 115 and Austin’s unbeaten 67 guided Bash to a comfortable win.
And it was even easier on Sunday when Naeem took four wickets as Baxenden saw off Ribblesdale Wanderers for the loss of just one wicket.
Andrew Metcalf claimed a five wicket haul as Oswaldtwistle Immanuel overcame Ribblesdale Wanderers on Saturday in a low scoring game. But they couldn’t get going with the bat on Sunday as Cherry Tree chalked up a six wicket victory.