BOLTON League champions Little Lever failed to replicate their blistering start of last season as they went down to a 57-run defeat at Farnworth.
Last year’s opening-day fixture between the two sides saw Little Lever pro Kamran Younis smash a double century, but this time around the flamboyant Pakistani all-rounder fell to a first-ball duck.
By that point, the title holders were already chasing the game after Farnworth set them a total of 191-9 from their 50 overs.
Opener Adil Nisar led the way for the 2013 Hamer Cup champions with a classy 65, although he ploughed a lone furrow at times as the home side were reduced to 87-6 and then 158-8.
Younis may have failed with the bat, but he started the season off well with the ball, taking 6-82.
But Jason Raynor, coming in at number nine for Farnworth, provided a vital boost, hitting 43 not out.
To rub salt into the wounds, Curtis Anderton, who moved from Little Lever to Farnworth in the summer, returned the best bowling figures for his new side, taking 5-25, while Chris Wilson weighed in with 4-39 as the Little Lever innings petered out to 134 all out.
Elsewhere, most of last season’s front runners picked up where they left off, with wins for Westhoughton, Bradshaw, Egerton and Farnworth Social Circle.
Westhoughton, who finished runners-up in 2013, made light work of Heaton, bowling them out for 50 before knocking off 54 in reply without the loss of a wicket.
The Heaton wickets were shared between Westhoughton pro Qaiser Abbas (6-6) and Kieren Edwards (4-43), while Atiq uz-Zaman crashed 34 to chase down the total inside 12 overs.
Farnworth Social Circle laid down a marker for the season with an uncompromising 151-run win at home to Kearsley that included two centuries for their batsmen.
Tim Rees savaged the visitors’ attack with 21 boundaries in his 124 while Rameez Alam hit 12 fours and three sixes in his 100 as Social Circle put on a daunting 340-9.
It could have been worse but for Ata ur-Rehman and Sabah Ghause, who shared four wickets apiece for Kearsley.
In reply, Siraj Patel hit 86 and stand-in pro Amila Weththasinghe made 47 as the visitors reached 189 all out, with Dave Mather (5-80) and Chris Barrow (3-30) taking the wickets.
Bradshaw also kicked off their campaign in fine fettle with the bat, putting on 275-6 at Astley Bridge before the home side fell 67 runs short.
New captain Saeed Anwar Jnr came in with the Rigbys Lane men on 14-1 and proceeded to hit 17 boundaries, including five sixes, in his 138, before going on to take 5-48.
Astley Bridge stalwart Rick Northrop hit 57 in reply, putting on an 80-run stand for the fourth wicket with pro Syd De Silva, who fell two runs short of his half century, while Ifran Puda made 42 in the home side’s total of 208.
Egerton edged a low-scoring game at home to Tonge by four wickets. Will Halton (4-50) and Amal Dalugoda (4-29) took four wickets each as Tonge were bowled out for 138, with new pro Chanaka Ruwansiri top-scoring with 42.
Ruwansiri then took 4-52 but could not stop the home side from reaching the Tonge total as Egerton pro Amal Athulathmudali hit 52 in their 141-6.
South African batsman Travis Townsend hit a century on his debut as the new Walkden pro, while Ryan Ayres made 45 as they finished on 233-8 at Eagley.
The hosts, who had 15-year-old Lancashire prospect Will Shuttleworth opening the batting, could only muster 135 in reply as they crashed to a 98-run defeat. Walkden captain Richard Dempster took 3-22 and Liam Jackson 3-40.
Andy Kerr’s debut as Greenmount captain ended in a 33-run defeat at home to Horwich.
With Mark Stewart stepping down, the experienced opening batsman would have hoped for a positive start.
And after Horwich were restricted to 241-7, with Peter Halliday top-scoring with 38, it looked like the run-chase was on.
Ryan Senior (75) gave them every chance with his half century, while Alex Rodzoch – a new recruit from Farnworth – made an encouraging 47.
But Greenmount fell away in the final 20 overs as Babar Naeem worked his magic with the ball for Horwich, taking 7-91, to leave the hosts on 208-8.