“It’s not going too badly,” is Christi Viljoen’s assessment of his first season at Blackpool Cricket Club so far – surely a candidate for understatement of 2014.
Stanley Park’s Namibian professional is the top wicket-taker in the Northern Premier League with a staggering total of 59, including eight five-wicket hauls.
The 26-year-old has played a huge part in Blackpool’s rise to the top of league and understandably he sees no reason why Paul Danson’s side can’t stay there.
They will be full of confidence going into Saturday’s derby at Fleetwood, who by contrast have seen their title hopes fade in recent weeks.
They were skittled out last weekend for 75 by St Annes, who are without a game this weekend.
Viljoen is no stranger to English league cricket but is in his debut NPL season, and he’s enjoying every minute.
But this outstanding individual is quick to stress it’s a team game.
He told The Gazette: “My team-mates are really good and I’m having a great time. We are all playing together and that’s really important.”
As for his phenomenal wicket-taking feats, his modesty again prevails.
Christi added: “The pitches are not the best and it’s not too hard to take wickets on them, but they are getting better.
“I’m doing a lot of bowling in tandem with Richard Gleeson. It really helps having someone at the other end who is fairly patient and bowls tightly. It means the batsmen don’t have any release of pressure and that helps me to take wickets.”
And the perfectionist pro is unhappy that he hasn’t scored more runs – he averages under 25 and has two league half-centuries with a top score of 72.
“I’d definitely like to have scored more and I’ve been a bit unlucky in some games,” he says.
But Viljoen fully appreciates the importance of a productive pro at this level and is pleased Blackpool have been rewarded for taking a gamble on a player unproven in this competition.
“From what Danno (Danson) tells me, it certainly helps to have the right pro. I think it also helps that I’m a very positive character. That helps the rest of the team to stay positive and to build their performances.
“But it really is about the team. The pro can maybe win you one or two games in a season but he can’t win you every game. The whole team needs to perform and that’s what is happening at Blackpool at the moment.”
Among those vital team-mates, he singles out a couple more individuals.
“Steven Twist is a phenomenal player, who starts hitting from ball one, and Danno is a great captain. He takes charge and leads the team really well. He is one of the best captains I’ve played for.
“The youngsters are working hard but I would like to see them working even harder.”
The only disappointment for Viljoen so far was missing out on silverware in the TWP Wealth Twenty20, in which Netherfield defeated Blackpool in the final at Darwen.
It’s made Viljoen and co all the more determined to defend their Readers Cup knockout crown, and after tomorrow’s visit to Broadwater they welcome Kendal to Stanley Park for Sunday’s quarter-final.
The winners will face Barrow or LCB Colts in the semis in a fortnight.
Viljoen added: “We were missing a couple of players in the t20 final and some decisions went against us. That makes the other cup competition all the more important.
“We’ll be missing Richard on Sunday (Gleeson is on Minor Counties duty with Cumberland against Norfolk) but we should be OK.”
Blackpool are doing better than OK in the league, and having hit top spot a fortnight ago, Viljoen will do his utmost to stay there.
“I hope we can keep playing consistently to stay top and seal the title early,” he adds ominously.
n Lytham CC are anxious for a return to winning ways in the Liverpool Competition after last weekend’s high-scoring affair against New Brighton resulted in a five-wicket defeat.
That result left Guy Roberts’ third-placed side 41 points behind New Brighton, who in turn trail leaders Ormskirk by 26. It means the Church Road club need a morale-boosting victory at second-bottom Fleetwood Hesketh tomorrow.