Blackrod have enjoyed a highly impressive season and are plotting a route to progression ahead of next year’s Anthony Axford North West Cricket League Premiership division.

Given Blackrod - landslide winners on Saturday at home against Feniscowles - will almost certainly finish fifth with a final-round victory next weekend, it’s not unrealistic to suggest they could be title challengers in 2024.

Performances such as Saturday will help. They bowled Feniscowles out for just 45 and won by six wickets.

A couple of key signings will also aid the cause of a side who started this summer with eyes only for a top-half finish ahead of next year’s split to two divisions.

“We also got into the Hamer Cup semi-final,” said captain Joey Pryle. “We fancied our chances against Padiham, but we underperformed that day. They outplayed us.

“It would have been nice to get into a cup final. What a season that would have been. But it’s been a very good year.”

Saturday’s win - Blackrod’s 12th - was achieved against struggling Feniscowles, who were skittled having elected to bat.

Excellent new-ball duo Matt Readey and Sami Senapathi claimed three wickets apiece before sub professional Hamad Ul Hassan - an all-rounder from Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex - claimed 4-6 from 5.4 overs of off-spin.

Ul Hassan then top-scored with a calming 27 not out in pursuit.

“I just brought Hamad on for a bit of variety because our opening bowlers were getting tired in the heat. He’s come on and done a job,” said Pryle.

“The opening bowlers were fantastic. It was a brand new wicket with good carry.

“Matt bowled really well and Sami the same. He kept it tight at the other end. We just bowled straight and put them under pressure.

“Unfortunately for Feniscowles, I think they struggled with a bit of confidence because they’ve had a disappointing season.”

Blackrod’s regular pro Ankit Lamba has returned to India following 1,112 runs in all competitions added to 24 wickets. Red tape means he may not be returning in 2024.

“We need a top quality spinner and a seam bowler. If we can get those, I think we can push on and challenge higher up,” said Pryle, whose side continue to be indebted to the performances of veteran Sri Lankan all-rounder Thushendra de Zoysa.

“Tushy has stepped up again with a good season. Others lads have as well.”

Pryle continued: “Look, it’s all about bringing the younger players through, and that will continue whatever we do in the winter.

“I’ve been quite protective of our juniors. We’ve got a really good junior set-up here. They’re flourishing in all competitions, and I want there to be a pathway through to first-team cricket.”

Some of those younger players may even get a pretty special experience before next season starts, with De Zoysa and compatriot Senapathi looking into organising a pre-season tour of sorts to Sri Lanka.

“The lads are talking about it. Tushy and Sami want to go back home for a holiday, and they’re thinking about a tour for the lads,” explained Pryle. “I can’t go because of work, but there’s potentially 10 or so who are quite keen.

“It will be around March time just before the season, and as part of the package they would potentially play at Galle’s Test ground.

“If our younger players can get experiences like that, it would be amazing.”

And, on the Blackrod’s experiences of the inaugural NWCL campaign, the skipper added: “It’s been a shake-up we’ve needed.

“It’s been interesting to go to some new grounds, and it’s only healthy.

“When it gets to this two-divisional structure, there’s even more at stake. Everyone’s got to up their game. We’ve had a good year, but we can’t rest up.

“It’s a work in progress. There have been teething problems. That’s only natural. But we’re all working together to develop and progress as a league.”