IT was hardly a flaming June but St Annes CC professional Dinuk Hettiarachchi was certainly in sizzling form last month.
The Sri Lankan spinner more than played his part as the Vernon Road club surged 23 points clear in the Northern Premier League title chase, taking 25 wickets in the past month’s four league games.
That comprised seven-wicket hauls against Preston last weekend (for 49 runs), Blackpool (for 60) and Lancashire Colts (for 32, his season’s best), and a comparatively modest 4-43 against Kendal.
If Dunuk’s July figures are anything like as impressive it will be a massive boost for St Annes, whose next three matches are against the other top four sides and may well have a major bearing on the title race.
After visiting fourth-placed Chorley tomorrow, Andy Kellett’s side are at home to champions and closest rivals Leyland before visiting Morecambe, who are third, a fortnight tomorrow.
But the pro sees no reason why St Annes should not continue their fine form.
“Yes, I’m bowling well, but the whole team is doing well and everyone is contributing,” he told The Gazette.
“We have a few big games coming up in the next couple of weeks but this team is definitely good enough to win the league.
“We are a young side but the young players are doing very well. The batters are scoring and I’m bowling well.”
Dinuk doesn’t mean to sound like a one-man bowling attack but it would be understandable.
He tends to bowl his left-armers from one end throughout the innings, while the other bowlers rotate at the other end.
They couldn’t hope for a better mentor and Dinuk is enjoying watching their progress.
“The other bowlers are all helping me,” he says. “We are an improving side and the bowlers Ben Downing, Jake Sutherland, Ben Willis and Matthew Grindley are all doing well and getting better.”
The spinner always insists it’s a team game but it’s only natural to ponder personal goals.
He hasn’t managed eight wickets in an innings in any of his three seasons at the club – 7-26 against Carnforth last August remains his best return – and there’s also the target of 100 victims for the season.
He fell six short in 2010 and is handily placed for a three-figure total after reaching 49 at the halfway stage.
“Hopefully I’ll get to 100 this time,” he said. “Last year I missed a couple of games, which may have cost me the hundred, but the most important thing is to win the league.”
Bottom club Fleetwood will look to do St Annes, but mainly themselves, a big favour by pulling off a shock at Leyland tomorrow.
Blackpool will look to maintain their outstanding cup form on Sunday, when they visit Bolton League club Greenmount in the third round of the Lancashire Cup.
But before then, Paul Danson’s side will be intent on halting their league slide after three successive defeats, and their hopes have been boosted by the availability of Lancashire’s Steven Croft on a day off between Friends Life t20 matches.
Blackpool host Lancaster in the only NPL game on the Fylde coast tomorrow.
n Champions Lytham CC face a massive match in the Liverpool Competition tomorrow.
After successive draws saw Anthony Mulligan’s side slip to fourth in the ECB premier league, how better to return to winning ways than away to leaders Ormskirk?
On Sunday, the Lytham CC stages a fun-filled family charity day in aid of Help the Heroes.
The centrepiece will be a triangular twenty20 competition involving the hosts, local rivals St Annes and the armed services, as represented by the second batallion the Yorkshire Regiment. The competition begins at 9.30am.