Talking cricket with Ray Taylor: Bolton League title is Farnworth Social Circle's to lose
6:00am Monday 14th July 2014 in Sport
THE decision to include replay dates for whole sets of fixtures completely washed out by bad weather seems to have proved popular.
Two sets of fixtures in May were wiped out by rain and have been re-arranged for spare Sundays in the final weeks of the season.
However, this does make a mid-season review difficult as some clubs have played each other twice and some are yet to meet.
Despite losing to neighbours Farnworth in the league and a surprise defeat at the hands of Little Lever in the Hamer Cup last week, pre-season joint favourites Farnworth Social Circle have the all-round capability to take the title.
Even when key players have been missing, they have still had the quality and strength in depth to beat most of their rivals reasonably comfortably, possibly helped by the fact they have a number of all-rounders in the side.
For seven out of the previous eight seasons, all a team has had to do to win the title is finish one point above Greenmount, the exceptions being in 2010 when they finished sixth.
This run of one championship and six very near misses means they must always begin the season as favourites or joint favourites, but like last year they have not begun the season well and may have too much ground to catch up.
Social Circle’s nearest rivals Bradshaw curiously find themselves in second place, exactly where they were at the same stage last season, before a disappointing second half found them dropping out of the Lancashire Knockout places.
In 2013 Bradshaw relied heavily on professional Saeed Anwar Junior for their runs, but this season Lancashire Under-17s’ wicketkeeper Bradley Yates is close to matching Saeed run-for-run, with almost 400 at the time of writing.
However, the second half of the season will not be as easy as the first for Bradshaw as they still have to play close rivals Greenmount and Farnworth twice.
One of the five Lancs KO places will go to Little Lever or Heaton, the Hamer Cup finalists, with the others going to the top four in the league, assuming one of the three clubs still in the competition do not reach the final, in which case one or two more places will be allocated to Bolton League clubs.
At the other end of the table, last season’s bottom side Eagley are without a win to date this season, but I have a feeling the club’s fortunes are about to change with the arrival of members of the Bhojani family, who made such an impact at Blackrod in the Bolton Association a few years ago.
It has already become a two-horse race for the second team championship, with Westhoughton – winners for the past four years – currently trailing Greenmount by a handful of points.
Earlier on in the season I mentioned some of the leagues in Greater Manchester had discussed the possibility of forming one larger organisation within the county, with promotion and relegation between the tiers.
To date, the chairmen of the four leagues – the Bolton League, the North Manchester League, the Lancashire County League and the Saddleworth League – have agreed to explore the potential for a single system of cricket.
A letter has been sent to the other professional and amateur leagues in the county to see if there is any interest elsewhere.