St Annes anxious for a second-half revival

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CAPTAIN Andy Kellett admits confidence is at a low ebb as his St Annes side CC bid to salvage pride from a miserable season.

This time last year, the Vernon Road club were 23 points clear in division one and on their way to a third Northern Premier Cricket League title in five years.

A fourth in six is now, Kellett freely admits, out of the question as his side languish in the bottom three, with only two wins to show for their 12 league matches.

Kellett can’t account for it, beyond accepting that St Annes have suffered a collective loss of form, with players struggling to support key overseas duo Dinuk Hettiarachchi, their prolific professional spinner, and opener Atiq-Uz-Zaman.

Kellett told The Gazette: “Confidence is really low. The simple fact is that we have not been batting or bowling well.

“Take out Dinuk’s wickets and our second-highest wicket-taker has eight all season. It’s the same with the batting – take out Atiq’s 300 and the next-best is 115. You won’t win matches without scoring runs or taking wickets.

“We have no excuses. We’ve had no continuity because of the weather but it’s the same for every team.”

St Annes may have been the only one of the Fylde coast’s NPCL sides to beat the weather last weekend, but they were resoundingly beaten themselves by Leyland.

Luis Reece and Brett Pelser both smashed merciless centuries for the visitors, who wrapped up a humbling 233-run victory by dismissing St Annes for just 78 as Reece completed an excellent afternoon’s work with 5-39.

St Annes managed to score only one run more on Tuesday, en route to a third straight defeat in the TWP Wealth twenty20.

Blackpool made light of their lack of recent match action to win by 53 runs as opener Nicholas Wall top-scored with 46 in their 132-5.

Uz-Zaman and Hettiarachchi were again the only St Annes players to make much impact, but not as you would expect: Atiq was their most effective bowler (2-20) and Dinuk their top scorer (19).

As St Annes failed by five balls to bat out their 20 overs, Ben Eckton took 4-19 and professional Dale Deeb a highly economical 2-8 from four overs.

It compounded the problems for Kellett, who added: “We have largely the same personnel as last year. We’ve lost Ben Downing and have brought in Peter Cummings, but we just have not executed well.

“We have a couple of young players injured (Nathan Armstrong is out for the season and Ben Willis’ sustained a back injury on his comeback last weekend), but the side we are putting out is pretty much our strongest.

“All we can do is play our way out of this bad run and hopefully we’ll find form with a couple of good performances. There’s no doubt we have the talent.

“Leyland batted really well last Saturday. Neither Reece nor Pelser had scored too many and they took it out on us. They made the most of the short boundary and their left-hander, right-hander combination. It was good to watch but not to be on the receiving end of.”

St Annes’ other scheduled match last weekend, the Readers Cup tie at home to the Lancashire Cricket Board XI, was a weather victim and has been rearranged for Sunday week.

That competition is now key for Kellett. “We need a good second half of the season and now the Readers Cup is really important to us.

“Obviously we are not going to win the league, so it’s the only trophy left to go for.”

That doesn’t mean the skipper is not anxious to start climbing the first division table, but that won’t be easy at home to third-placed Netherfield tomorrow.

Kellett said: “They are a good side. We played them at the start of season and it was clear then that they will be there or thereabouts. Chris Williams from Morecambe is a good signing for them.”

In a reversal of fortunes, Fleetwood are occupying St Annes’ accustomed place at the top end of the table and Mat Clark’s second-placed side will be full of confidence ahead of tomorrow’s home clash with Chorley. They will be hoping leaders Barrow slip up in their tough test against Leyland.

Blackpool, who have played only one league game all month, are without a fixture but will contest the twenty20 tournament at Lytham on Sunday (see top of page).