OSWALDTWISTLE IMMANUEL are hoping to return of Indian pro Raja Ali will kick start their Ribblesdale League season.
The big hitter has missed the opening four games due to commitments with his home side Railway but is ready to start his season for Immanuel against Blackburn Northern on Saturday.
Immanuel haven't had the best of starts as they are still on the hunt for their first victory but they are hopeful the return of Ali, who did well for them last season once he got going, will inspire them.
"It has been hard," said captain Gerard Metcalf. "We had one game rained off, one played in farcical conditions against Barnoldswick and then two with sub pros.
"It is hard when you have sub pros as you never have a settled side. And then we have had injuries and unavailabilities and it has been stop-start. We also haven't been able to practise because of the weather and it just feels like the season hasn't started."
Saying that, youngster Kurt Smithson, the captain and his son, Andrew, have been getting in the wickets but his team have just failed to shine with the bat.
"We are always confident with the ball as we have done well over the last couple of years, it is just getting the runs but, with Raja back, hopefully we will be more settled and the runs will come."
Immanuel have a hard task on Saturday when they travel to leaders Blackburn Northern. And the week after it is bottom club Earby.
That is a dress rehearsal for the second round of the Ramsbottom Cup after Earby pulled off the shock of the round by defeating league champions Read. Immanuel had a bye.
"It will be an interesting game but the league is hard to judge at the moment," said the captain. "There are a lot of new pros, a lot of sides have strengthened and, from what I have seen, Barnoldswick and Settle will be up there.
"We have just got to keep going, consolidate and try and better the eighth place we finished in last season."
Great Harwood will be looking to bounce back following their early exit from the Ramsbottom Cup.
It was gutting for the side who have reached the final for the last two seasons and were hoping to make it third time lucky in this campaign.
But the whole team struggled as leaders Blackburn Northern chalked up 205-8.
Martin Nurse had hit a century the week before along with Russell Whalley but they both struggled with only Paul Houldsworth (52) and Allan Armer (32) able to put up a fight.
However, the league has always been their priority and they have the chance to perhaps make an early strike at the top of the table if they beat Padiham on Saturday.
And Baxenden, who also got a bye in the first round of the cup, travel to Ribblesdale Wanderers on Saturday hoping to move back up the table.