Westhoughton CC's Atiq Uz-Zaman hopes to lead from the front against league rivals Farnworth
IF Westhoughton are to challenge for the title then opener Atiq Uz-Zaman knows his experience must come to the fore in tomorrow’s key clash at championship rivals Farnworth.
Both teams sit just behind early front-runners Farnworth SC.
But something will have to give this weekend and Uz-Zaman – one of the league’s leading amateurs – believes he must shoulder the responsibility to take the challenge to their opponents.
“Titles can be won and lost in these matches and this is when you have to rely on your experienced players to come up with the goods,” said the 38-year-old batsman, who has one Test cap for Pakistan and first class experience with Northamptonshire.
“I haven’t had a big score yet this season, but I think one is coming and if it is going to be anywhere then Farnworth is favourite.
“They have one of the best batting tracks in the league, so if the weather is favourable then I think it is time I scored big.”
Uz-Zaman scored one century in his first season at Westhoughton last year, 116 not out against Farnworth SC.
He was consistently in the runs, finishing ninth in the averages with 43.42. And while the former St Annes batsman has not quite hit those heights yet this season, successive half-centuries in his last two innings suggest he is nearing top form.
“I think everyone in the team is going into the match with a lot of confidence,” said Uz-Zaman.
“We have won four matches in the league and would have beaten Bradshaw – our only defeat – but for a batting collapse.
“We will also take a lot of confidence from our last match against Farnworth, last season, which we won by nine wickets after chasing down nearly 200 runs in 33 overs.
“I scored 86 not out in that match, so that is something I will be focusing on going into the game.”
Uz-Zaman is wary of getting too carried away at such an early stage of the campaign but he will not be happy to settle for second best again after finishing runners-up to Little Lever in 2013.
“When I came to the club last year, I don’t think anyone dreamed we could finish second,” he said.
“Westhoughton had finished bottom the year before, but we did well and showed what we could do.
“The players now have an extra year’s experience under their belts and must believe we can go one better.
“But the Bolton League is one of the strongest in the North West. It is not just the top four teams that can win it, it is the top six, seven or eight, so whatever we do against Farnworth, we know we must focus just the same in every game.”