DEANE and Derby say they are encouraged by the development of their club from first-team level down to an exciting crop of junior cricketers, as they celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Playing in the Greater Manchester Cricket League, the first team are chasing a top-six finish in Division Two B in order to be placed in the fourth tier of next season’s restructured competition.

With three games to play, they are sixth and four points clear of Whalley Range after Saturday’s 28-run win at Oldham defending a 150 target.

Meanwhile, their second team are flying high at the top of Division Four West, while their under-17s are also leading their league.

Treasurer and former second-team captain Maaz Atcha, an ex-Canada u19s international, says the club’s long-term aim is to produce a county cricketer.

“If even just one youngster progresses through to play for Lancashire or some other county, it’s brilliant,” he said.

And, in boys such as county u10 player Husaifa Patel and older brother Umar Farooq, who is also in the Red Rose system, they have high hopes.

“The biggest improvement is our second team,” said Atcha. “I was captain last year, and thank god I’m no longer skipper and not playing!

“Somebody like Dawood Rawat (404 runs and 27 wickets) has been brilliant for us in that team. He’s an all-rounder in his mid-thirties. His main function is bowling, but they rely on his runs too.

“Anis Patel (403 runs) is also a top performer in the first team. Without his runs, they would struggle. He used to pro for Radcliffe.

“But he is someone who doesn’t play during Ramadan, which fell midway through the season. That’s when we take a dip because of either dehydration or unavailability issues.

“It’s a significant end to the season for us because we can’t really afford to drop down any further.

“But I think we’ll be all right because the team is starting to gel. It’s a matter of believing in themselves.”

Atcha continued: “With the youngsters, we’re going well.

“We lost a couple of kids who are getting paid in the Bolton League. But that’s alright. We haven’t got a problem with that because it’s progression.

“Someone like Husaifa is in the Lancashire u10s and is doing really well. He’s not a tall kid, but he’s brilliant.

“He’s been coached by his dad, Siraz. His brother, Umar Farooq, is also in the u15s or 16s Lancashire team.

“The family just love cricket, which is the most important thing.

“This time last year, we needed players. Now we are getting them.

“The concern at this level is always the finances, but even that is taking good shape.”

Off the field, Atcha has passed on his thanks to Bolton Council and sponsor the Al-Khair Foundation, who have helped with recent drainage work and car park renovations.

The club are also hosting a 50th anniversary celebration party on December 28, to which all current and former players are invited.