HEATON showed further signs of their rapid improvement by bowling Blackrod out for just 44 to maintain their winning start to the Bolton League’s Association campaign.

The Lower Pools side have won back-to-back league matches, the most recent thanks to a stunning new-1ball spell of 8-13 from 8.4 overs from Darshan Varsani, a seamer in his early twenties.

Rewind 12 months and Heaton were far from the side they are now.

They started 2018 poorly, lost pro Anwar-ul-Haq and replaced captain Gary Garner, who has now left the club, with batsman Ollie Sutcliffe.

But they recovered to win six of their last nine games.

“Last year, promotion wasn’t the main aim,” said 24-year-old Sutcliffe. “We probably didn’t have the team at the start of the season.

“But definitely this year, that is the aim. We wanted to carry on our form from the end of last year, and we have done.

“We really worked hard over the winter. We started netting in November.

“We brought in Mick Fletcher as coach midway through last year, and we’ve now got Ray Eccleshare as manager. So we’ve got a proper set-up considering what we had at the start of last year.”

Home opener Daniel Robinson was the only batsman to make it to 20 on Saturday at Blackrod’s Vicarage Road and was last man out. There were five ducks in the innings and no one else made it to five.

Four of Varsani’s wickets were either lbw or bowled, one caught behind, one at first slip, another stumped and Robinson caught at deep square-leg after Blackrod had elected to bat.

Sutcliffe then helped to knock the runs off inside nine overs, with the match lasting only 26.3 overs in total.

Sutcliffe made an unbeaten 19 alongside opener Saliq Rasheed’s 22 not out for a Heaton side who had a week earlier beaten Little Hulton.

“Darshan bowled incredibly well, and he was swinging it both ways, which is hard to do,” said Sutcliffe, whose side also bowled Blackrod out for 35 in the penultimate game of last season.

“He probably wasn’t doing that last year, but he’s been working on it over the winter and is getting his rewards.

“The wicket was keeping a bit low, but it was absolutely fine. There weren’t any real demons in it.

“I would have bowled first, mainly because Blackrod had been bowled out for 60 last weekend. I was going to stick them in again.”

The other two Heaton wicket-takers were new ball seamer Irfan Muhammad, the professional late last year and now playing as an amateur, and new Sri Lankan pro Harsha Rajapaksha, a first-class all-rounder back home.

“We’ve definitely strengthened,” added Sutcliffe, who warned his side to keep their feet on the ground.

“But we also had a young team last year, so naturally people are going to improve.

“We’ve started so well, but there are going to be tougher games down the line. It’s about how we deal with those. But promotion is definitely the aim.”