Ambitious Blackpool CC frustrated by delayed start

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Blackpool Cricket Club’s quest for a second Northern Premier League title in three years has been put on hold after the start of the new campaign was pushed back a week.

Instead of opening the 2016 season at home to Barrow tomorrow, Blackpool’s first game of the season will now be at Darwen seven days later.

The late start to the 2016 season comes after a vote between all 13 clubs on Wednesday night brought about by concerns over the ongoing wet weather.

Blackpool were one of three clubs that voted to start the campaign tomorrow as planned, but nine voted to delay the start due to the wet conditions and forecasts of further rain (one club abstained).

Blackpool won the league for the first time in 24 years in 2014, and after a disappointing 2015 chairman Dave Cresswell is eyeing a successful season.

And he admitted the club, whose Stanley Park ground has good drainage, is disappointed at having to wait another week for the new term to begin.

Cresswell told The Gazette: “We would have been delighted to play this weekend.

“We are disappointed in the decision but it is a majority decision.

“We are disappointed but we understand why the majority of clubs voted to push it back.

“We are hoping that with the development and progression of our youngsters, we will be there or thereabouts this year.

“If we can repeat what we did in 2014 that would be fantastic.”

Blackpool have snapped up New Zealander Daryl Mitchell as their overseas professional for 2016.

Mitchell is a top order batsman who also bowls fast-medium.

He represents the Northern Districts and Northern Knights in his native New Zealand and he has also played for New Zealand A.

He is the second Kiwi professional to play for Blackpool after Heath T Davis’s spell on the seaside in 1997, and he comes highly recommended by former Blackpool player and current Lancashire captain Steven Croft.

The 24-year-old is due to arrive on Thursday and Cresswell hopes he can fire Blackpool to glory.

He said: “We are looking forward to our pro coming over.

“We knew he was going to be delayed but he arrives on Thursday. I’m hoping he will help fire us up there.

“He was highly recommended by Steven Croft, who recommended him a couple of years ago but we have only just been able to get him.”

Strike bowler Richard Gleeson will hopefully be able to play for the club this season, even though he is registered to play County Championship Division One cricket for Northamptonshire.

Gleeson didn’t get to bowl in Northants’ season-opener against Sussex, in which no play was possible after the second day.

With Championship games staring on Sundays, Blackpool are hopeful of selecting their long-serving strike bowler for Saturday matches.

Blackpool have also signed a second New Zealander, Daniel Pile, as an overseas amateur.

And Cresswell says he is pleased with the development of the club’s junior section ahead of the new campaign.

He said: “Richard Gleeson will hopefully be able to play for us, even though he is playing for Northants.

“We have a number of up and coming youngsters. I am very pleased with the juniors’ development.

“We have a couple of new players but it is still too early to say how they will all play together as we have not been able to get out on the grass.

“Daniel Pile is an 18-year-old from New Zealand. He used to live in Blackpool and I’m looking forward to seeing how he fits in.”

The decision to delay the start of the season was communicated to clubs in an email from interim league chairman Chris Lavery.

It reads: “As the vast majority of the clubs (9-3 with one sitting on the fence) felt it prudent to postpone this weekend’s matches owing to ground conditions and the forecast, the executive committee have decided to postpone this weekend’s round of matches, with them being rearranged on a date to be agreed later in the season.

“The executive were concerned about the real possibility of injury because of ground conditions.

“I know that this decision will not please those clubs who wanted to play but it is felt that the right decision has been made, having regard to all the circumstances.”

Other victims of tomorrow’s Northern League wipeout include Fleetwood’s home clash with Leyland and St Annes’ visit to Netherfield.

With the Palace Shield only scheduled to start a week tomorrow anyway, it means the only senior match that could go ahead on the Fylde coast this weekend is Lytham’s cup-tie against Prestatyn in the Liverpool Competition’s traditional start-of-season Ray Digman Knockout.

However, new captain Dom O’Brien warned the fixture could go the way of the others if there is further rain ahead of tomorrow afternoon.

O’Brien told The Gazette yesterday: “When I checked the pitch on Wednesday night there were still puddles of water, and that was after a rain-free, sunny day.

“It looked to be OK but it’s the predicted weather on Friday night that is the worry. If it does rain, the chances are slim.”

Our Northern League previews conclude tomorrow with a look at St Annes CC.