Fleetwood Cricket Club captain Dean Bell has dubbed South African Neels Bergh the best batsman in the Northern Premier League as their club aim to lift the Reader’s T20 trophy.
Bergh, 25, notched his second century of the season in Fleetwood’s defeat by league leaders Netherfield last weekend.
The right-handed batsman continues to top the division’s run charts with a mammoth 716 runs from his 16 games in the league and cup during 2018.
And wicketkeeper Bell says Bergh is the best in the division right now as they bid to get back to winning ways in the first division at home to rock-bottom Preston tomorrow and then contest finals day in the league’s T20 trophy at Fulwood and Broughton on Sunday.
He said: “Neels is a class act. He is definitely the best batter in the league and an asset to our side.”
But despite Bergh’s presence, Fleetwood have slipped into the lower half of the table after an inconsistent run.
Bell explained why he feels they are not pushing at the top of the league and says it is a case of improving their fielding and bowling.
He said: “Preston have been struggling and it will be a good chance to put in a good performance after being a bit up and down in recent weeks.
“We are looking for a solid performance. We just feel like our bowling and fielding have not been as good as they could be.
“We have been batting solidly as a unit and batting well. We just need to improve in the bowling and fielding departments.
“We feel we are not far away. The games we have lost have been tight affairs and nobody has beaten us convincingly.
“Everyone has to play each other again and nobody has run away with it yet, so there is all to play for.”
As an example of what he is talking about, Bell cites the league defeat last month at the hands of Sunday’s T20 semi-final opponents Fulwood in Broughton
Fleetwood posted 260-7 batting first, Bergh hitting 44, Declan Clerkin 39 and player coach Liam Castellas a splendid 108.
But despite this defendable total, F&B squeezed home at 262-7, powered to a three-wicket win by Rana Pratap Singh Thakur Shiv’s 81 and ex-England man Simon Kerrigan’s 75.
Now Fleetwood seek revenge on Sunday, knowing that should they do so they will meet either Chorley or Netherfield in the final later that afternoon.
And Bell wants his men to learn from that June defeat but says they are buoyed with confidence after beating both Blackpool and St Annes to top spot in the group.
He said: “With us not doing as well in the league, Sunday is a good chance to get some silverware.
“We have done well in that competition over the last few years. We are quite a good T20 side.
“We knocked Blackpool out and they are a strong side this season.
“We beat them well at home and that was a big result for us.
“It has given us confidence going into the weekend but we know what Fulwood and Broughton are capable of.
“The finals day is at their own ground. They will prepare the pitch and they are going to be confident at home, especially in front of their home crowd.
“We lost there and they passed 280, so it will be a tough game. We are going to have to be at our best but we are at full strength and we are confident going into it.
“We want to win and pick up some silverware.”
St Annes could strike a significant blow for the Fylde coast’s Northern Premier League title challenge if they can defeat champions Netherfield at Vernon Road tomorrow.
A home win would close the 15-point gap between the leaders and third-placed St Annes and could also open the door for Blackpool to return to the top.
Blackpool, whose only league defeat all season came at the hands of Netherfield a fortnight ago, are two points behind the leaders and welcome Fulwood and Broughton to Stanley Park tomorrow.
Fulwood and Broughton stage Readers T20 finals day on Sunday and the hosts face Fleetwood in the first semi-final on 10.30am. After the second semi between Netherfield and Chorley at 1.30pm, the winners contest the final from 4.30pm.
After Liverpool Competition leaders Ormskirk ended Lytham’s four-match unbeaten run in the ECB premier league last weekend, the Church Road club are at home to Wallasey in a mid-table clash. Sixteen points separate Lytham in seventh from the fifth-placed Wirral club.
In the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield, Great Eccleston face a Penwortham club just above them as both battle to stay above the bottom two. Thornton Cleveleys, who are second-bottom and just two points below Ecc, are at home to fifth-placed Eccleston.
Northern Premier Cricket League first division: Blackpool v Fulwood and Broughton, Chorley v Barrow, Fleetwood v Preston, Garstang v Morecambe, Leyland v Penrith, St Annes v Netherfield
Liverpool Competition ECB Premier League: Lytham v Wallasey
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division: Croston v Lancaster, Great Eccleston v Penwortham, New Longton v Kendal, South Shore v Vernon Carus, Thornton Cleveleys v Eccleston, Torrisholme v Longridge.
Division1A: BAC/EE Preston v Norcross, Kirkham and Wesham v Hoghton, Mawdesley v Grimsargh, Standish v Rufford, Tarleton v Freckleton, Withnell Fold v Fylde