OSWALDTWISTLE Immanuel are hoping the experience of Indian big hitter Raja Ali will propel them into the top half of the Ribblesdale League table.
Oswaldtwistle had Australian youngster Wesley Morrick last season but he struggled to make an impact. So this year they are hoping 27-year-old Ali, who plays for Railway in India, will be the answer to their problems.
"The batting has let us down in the last few seasons so we are hoping getting a batsman will be a benefit. Hopefully we will be able to make scores to bowl at," said captain Gerard Metcalf.
Ali, who is predominantly a left-handed batsman, is the first Indian pro to be appointed by the New Lane club. He has scored over 3,000 runs in first class cricket, in 57 matches at an average of 42.70. In one day cricket he has scored over 1,000 runs in 42 matches at an average of 47.17. During his career he has scored eight centuries and 14 half-centuries in first class cricket, and has scored one century and seven half-centuries in the one-day competitions. He has a top score of 148. He is also an occasional slow left arm orthodox bowler, having taken wickets at first class level.
Although he has not been a professional in England before, the Ossy officials have done plenty of research on the player and are satisfied with their signing.
Chairman Phil Clare said: "Raja appears to be an excellent prospect and seems enthusiastic. We expect him to be successful in the League and everyone at the club is excited by the signing of such a high class player. The committee decided that we should try to sign a player who would be capable of winning games for us with the bat, which is something that we have lacked in previous seasons. We are hopeful that we have found a player who will do this.
"We have also been informed that Raja is a decent bowler and we expect him to take wickets as well. His opportunities with the ball in first class cricket are limited due to the quality of his Railways team-mates."
He added: "Our first team had a difficult season in 2003 but we feel optimistic for the future. The junior section has been successful for a number of years. Our 1st XI now includes a number of good young players and we are hopeful that, with some input from Raja, they will develop even more."
Raja also comes highly recommended. Among his team-mates are Test players Sanjay Bangar, and Murali Kartik who will be the pro for Ramsbottom this season.
- IMMANUEL'S first team captain this season will again be Gerard Metcalf while second XI skipper will be Chris Horsfield. Mark Groom is the third XI captain.
- ENFIELD CC pro Alviro Petersen could miss the start of the Lancashire League season because of a 20/20 competition in South Africa. The Standard Bank Pro20 Series begins on 7 April with group matches. The semi-finals are on 27 and 28 April with the final on 1 May. The Lancashire League season starts on 18 April. "It does depend how well Northern Titans do in the competition," said Enfield chairman Geoff Dixon. "There isn't anything concrete yet. He could miss three games or maybe five but we will have to wait and see."