FLIXTON all-rounder Steve Hammond believes the key to success against Blackrod tomorrow is the prize wicket of Thusendra de Zoysa.

The game of the day in the Bolton Association sees Hammond’s third-placed side host Blackrod, who are one point and one place better off in the table going into the clash at Lawrence Road.

Hammond has been impressed with Blackrod’s start to the campaign and knows the experience and form of De Zoysa has been key to that. The professional is third in the batting averages with 358 runs from just six innings and top bowler with 21 wickets.

And Hammond says stopping him performing with both bat and ball is vital. “Tush is a class player and has been for years, but this season and last his form has been superb.,” he said. “I’m sure when he walks to the crease we will all be chirping up trying to put him off his stride. His wicket is a prize one and it’s massive we try to resrict him if we are to win this big game.”

Hammond was skipper last season as Flixton finished runners-up after pushing champions Atherton all the way. This season, under Aiden Fetherston’s stewardship, has also started positively with the only blemish a two-wicket defeat to league leaders Bury.

They visit Edgworth in the Lancashire Knockout on Sunday in the second leg of an important weekend. Hammond says the league is wide open and reckons eight teams are in with a chance of topping the table. He said: “We had a tough game against Bury which toed and froed before they got the better of us.

“Like Blackrod, they have started well but there are seven or eight in with a shout this season. “I am still confident we can win the title though as long as the weather does not continue to hamper things.” Last season’s experience should stand Flixton in good stead and he says they look even more equipped, with a stronger batting line-up this campaign. Alton Beckford (286) and Ashley Perry (173) are riding high in the batting averages and Hammond himself has chipped in with 144 from his five innings.

He added: “We have a very strong batting line-up which goes all the way down to Adrian Holmes in the middle order. “Ashley and Alton have done really well and I have been pleased with my own batting. “When you have a good batting line-up you get totals that give the bowlers something to work with. But the real positive for us this season is that we are not relying on one or two individuals – it is a real team effort and that should stand us in good stead.”