DALE Deeb was ready for anything when he signed for Blackpool Cricket Club – except the weather.
The South African 21-year-old signed up for his first British club when he agreed to become this year’s club professional at Stanley Park.
The high standard of cricket in the Northern Premier League is precisely what he expected, though the recent warm weather has come as a pleasant surprise
Deeb told The Gazette: “It’s going very well. I’m really enjoying it.
“They are a great bunch of guys and the weather has been great. It was freezing at first, and it was difficult holding the ball, but it has warmed up.”
Despite his tender years, the all-rounder from Johannesburg has plenty of first-class experience in his homeland, having already taken a hundred wickets with his leg-spin.
Having captained South Africa Schools, he represented his country in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand and was selected for South Africa Emerging Players last year.
Playing for North West Province and the Lions in his homeland, Deeb is used to mixing in elite company, and is impressed by the calibre of the players at Blackpool despite their mixed start to the season, losing their last two matches after an impressive winning run.
He said: “The standard is good and you get to play against a good bunch of pros at the other clubs.
“Every team is different, some are stronger in the batting and some in bowling, but the standard is high.
“Our form has been up and down, but I have already seen that we can put in good performances.
“Our batting has been weak but I’ve been really impressed with our bowling. The batsmen need to get a start so they can go on to play longer innings.”
Deeb has been at his best in the Lancashire Knockout, scoring 114 against Baxenden, and taking 3-22 against Denton.
He said of his own form: “I’ve got a hundred and two 50s, but my batting has been a bit dodgy in the past couple of weeks. We have a big game against Netherfield this weekend and I hope to spend more time at the create.
“Wickets here are a bit slower and lower for batting and that takes some adjusting to. I’m also having to get used to playing on wetter wickets – they play on some wickets here we would not play on back home, but the more time I spend at the crease the easier it will come.”
Deeb lives close to Stanley Park and has settled straight into a busy work schedule: “I coach the juniors on Mondays, and the seniors on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as some individual sessions.”
It leaves little time for finding his way around Blackpool, but he’s making himself at home just fine.
Deeb added: “I haven’t been out much in the town. I did really not know what to expect, but I’ve already made some good friends.
“Of my team-mates, I think Richard Gleeson is a top bowler. He has 33 wickets already and is one of the best amateur bowlers I’ve seen.
“Hopefully he will get more chances playing minor counties for Cumberland, and may go further.
“Andy Furniss looks very good, and Paul Danson is a great captain with a winning attitude.”
A welcome distraction for Deeb from the rigours of club cricket will be the Test series between England and his homeland this summer.
But his top priority, though, is the form of Blackpool, and in particular their so far brittle batting.
“If we get the batting right, we can compete at the top of the league.
“But we need to get our heads down and focus on each game.”
Blackpool head to third-placed Netherfield tomorrow, looking to get back to winning ways ahead of Monday’s Stanley Park derby against St Annes.
Northern League champions St Annes, with only one league win so far, will be desperate for victory at home to fellow strugglers Carnforth tomorrow.
St Annes were due to visit Fleetwood for their first Twenty20 assignment last night.
Fleetwood have no such problems. Mat Clark’s side are sitting pretty in second after their derby win over Blackpool, and they visit Lancaster tomorrow. Fleetwood have no Monday match.