IT has been all change during the close season at Bolton League’s two title holders – Little Lever and Farnworth – who meet in tomorrow’s opening round of fixtures.
Both captains have left for pastures new, with league champions Little Lever losing Jon Kerrigan to Bradshaw, while Egerton have tempted David Morris Jnr from Hamer Cup holders Farnworth.
There have been plenty of other ins and outs in both camps, with Farnworth-bound former Lancashire wicketkeeper Warren Hegg the stand-out signing.
The two clubs have also traded players – experienced batsman Curtis Anderton will be turning out for Farnworth this season, while Adam Rodzoch has gone in the opposite direction.
The biggest changes, however, will be at the helm, with 23-year-old middle-order batsman Josh Gent hoping to repeat his predecessor as skipper Kerrigan’s success at Victory Road and former vice-captain Simon Booth promoted at Farnworth.
It would seem a tall order for Gent to replicate Little Lever’s stunning march to the title in his first season in charge, but the ambitious young cricketer has promised to give it a good go.
“Nobody would have backed us to win the league at the start of last season, but just look what we did,” said Gent.
“I think the secret of our success was the spirit in the camp.
“Apart from the pro, all but one member of our title-winning team came through the ranks here at Little Lever.
“There were no stars in the team, but everyone made a telling contribution in at least one match that helped turn the result in our favour.
“We also had a never-say-die attitude, which Jonny was really responsible for instilling into us.
“That is the kind of spirit I want to rekindle and if I can be even half the captain Jonny was then we will be okay.
“We certainly won’t roll over and relinquish our title without a fight.”
While Kerrigan’s departure was undoubtedly a big blow for Little Lever, the club acted early to ensure they retained the services of inspirational professional Kamran Younis.
The Pakistan all-rounder smashed a double century against Farnworth on the opening day of last season and while his form with the bat tailed off towards the end of the campaign, his bowling proved crucial in the run-in.
Farnworth have also retained their pro from last season, Adil Nisar, who is registered as an amateur this time round, allowing the Bridgeman Park outfit to recruit 29-year-old South African leg-spinner all-rounder Carl Raubenheimer as their professional.
The addition of Hegg – snapped up after his previous team Banford Fieldhouse were thrown out of their league –s and Anderton will further bolster their batting.
But it is the promotion of youngsters Neil Hyde and Michael Daley from the second team that Booth believes signals their intent.
“Our main focus has been on bringing our own players through to reduce the average age of the squad, which is now pretty young,” he said.
“We might not reap the rewards straight away, the move is really part of a longer term plan.
“We also have quite a few new players, who will need time to gel together as a unit, so it is hard to say how we will fare this season, but, as ever, we will go out to win every game and see where that takes us.”
Tomorrow’s fixtures Bolton League Astley Bridge v Bradshaw, Eagley v Walkden, Egerton v Tonge, Farnworth v Little Lever, Farnworth SC v Kearsley, Greenmount v Horwich, Westhoughton v Heaton.
Ins and outs at the Bolton League Captain: Simon Entwistle.
Pro: Syd de Silva (Sri Lanka).
In: Nigel Partington (Tonge).
Bradshaw Captain: Saeed Anwar Jnr.
Pro: Saeed Anwar Jnr (Pakistan).
In: Jon Kerrigan (Little Lever), Mohamed Jameel (Church).
Out: Anthony Harris.
Eagley Captain: Danny Counsell.
Pro: Agar Salman (Pakistan).
In: Adam Warburton (Greenmount), Sam Holden.
Out: George Holliday (Edgworth).
Egerton Captain: Paul Stafford.
Pro: Amal Athulathmudali (Sri Lanka).
In: David Morris Jnr (Farnworth), Mustafa Bashir (Audley), Rizwan Javed.
Farnworth Captain: Simon Booth.
Pro: Carl Raubenheimer (South Africa).
In: Curtis Anderton (Little Lever), Chris Wilson (Bradshaw), Warren Hegg (Bamford Fieldhouse), Adil Nisar (former pro), Neil Hyde and Michael Daley (promoted from seconds).
Out: David Morris Jnr (Egerton), Adam Rodzoch (Little Lever), Alex Rodzoch (Greenmount), Anwar ul Haq, Mohammed Adnan.
Farnworth SC Captain: Matt Parkinson.
Pro: Rameez Alam (Pakistan).
In: Liam Bones (Edenfield), Chris Barrow, Tim Barrow.
Greenmount Captain: Andy Kerr.
Pro: Akbar ur-Rehman (Pakistan).
In: Chris Evans, Alex Rodzoch (Farnworth).
Out: Richard Hevingham (injured), Danny Metcalf (Oswaldtwistle), Adam Warburton (Eagley).
n Heaton Captain: Imran Mirza.
Pro: Humayun Farhat (Pakistan).
In: Mohammed Ali (Tonge).
Out: Tom Liversedge (Cheshire League).
Horwich Captain: David White.
Pro: Babar Naeem (Pakistan).
Kearsley Captain: Darren Whittle.
Pro: Chesney Hughes (Anguilla).
In: Sabah Ghause (Magull), Siraj Patel (Magull), Grant Cordin (Darcy Lever), Charlie Dorsey (Walkden), Ata ur-Rehman.
Out: Mel Whittle (retired), Steve Becks, Steve Parker (Westhoughton).
n Little Lever Captain: Josh Gent.
Pro: Kamran Younis (Pakistan).
In: Adam Rodzoch (Farnworth), Dave Hargreaves (Darcy Lever), Jack Kallas (Barrow).
Out: Jon Kerrigan (Bradshaw), Curtis Anderton (Farnworth), Jake Wylde (Walkden).
Tonge Captain: Iain McLellan.
Pro: Chanaka Ruwansiri (Sri Lanka).
In: Gullam Abbas (Flowery Field), Zohaib Mirza (Cheetham Hill), Sam Hardman (Bradshaw), Mohammed Ali (Heaton).
Out: Neil Tong (Woodbury), Nigel Partington (Astley Bridge), Paul Tong (Lymm),.
Walkden Captain: Richard Dempster.
Pro: Travis Townsend.
In: Jake Wylde (Little Lever), David Dempster (Golborne).
Out: Charlie Dorsey (Kearsley), Rafi Afridi, Philip Wolstenholme (Little Hulton), David Smith.
Westhoughton Captain: Rob Houghton.
Pro: Qaiser Abbas (Pakistan).
In: Steve Parker (Kearsley).
Out: Rob Brown.