HALF of the contracted professionals will be missing when the Warburton's Bolton League makes a belated start to the cricket campaign on Saturday.

It was thought that seven clubs could be without their professionals, due to playing commitments and work permit problems.

League rules state that clubs must field a professional, which has led to a last minute scramble by clubs to sign replacements.

The first port of call for that is usually Old Trafford, and Lancashire could provide something of a bonus tomorrow when at least three County players could be on view.

One of them is Lancashire Second team captain Mike Watkinson, who is already contracted to Walkden for the season, but also on the scene could be Chris Schofield and Gary Yates.

Astley Bridge are hoping to bring in Schofield, as they have still not found a permanent replacement for Aditya Manohar who failed to gain a work permit, while Yates has been called up by Egerton, who are without Neil McGarrell, a current member of the West Indies squad for the Test and One Day series against South Africa.

Kearsley at home to Egerton are also looking for a deputy, after Fazal Akber was called up for the Pakistan Test squad. Also missing will be Bradshaw's Sairaj Bahutule, who is in the initial squad of 30 for India's series against Zimbabwe, while Farnworth SC's Mahendra Nagamootoo is still involved in West Indian cricket.

Little Lever's Kashif Raza has still not arrived, leaving his club searching for a deputy, but Heaton have called on Jason Kerr, who learnt his cricket at Tonge before joining Somerset. He deputises for Rashmi Parida who was prevented from coming over because of work commitments.

The rest, two South Africans, two Englishmen, two Pakistanis and an Australian, are all available for the opening games, after last week's programme was postponed because of the weather. By Peter Mensforth