Cricket preview: Fleetwood flying with new arrivals
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The Broadwater club turned to the one-time Pakistan Test player and renowned St Annes opener Atiq Uz-Zaman in their bid to bounce back from a bitterly disappointing 2021, which saw Fleetwood relegated from the Northern Premier League for the first team.
Under Atiq's stewardship, Fleetwood have won all seven premier division games and sit 22 points clear at the top ahead of tomorrow's home clash with second-placed Morecambe, last season's other relegated club.
Fleetwood director of cricket Andy Singleton told The Gazette: “We had a committee meeting at the end of last season and thrashed out how we would move forward and turn things around, and we decided to employ a coach, which we've only done once before.
“We struck gold when we managed to get Atiq on board because he's full of experience and everyone is buying into the his methods, so it's a gamble that has paid off.
“Atiq has a reputation as a fielding coach and a lot of hard work has gone into the fielding drills. Our fielding has been much commented on this season and is paying dividends.
The first XI are bouncing back strongly but Singleton admits the club and game as a whole are yet to recover fully from the impact of the pandemic over the past two years.
He added: “We are still having some problems with the transition of players from juniors to seniors and that's been a struggle throughout the country.
“Our junior section is buoyant up to around under-14, then we're finding a bit of a gap.
“The transition from T20 to 40 or 50-over cricket in the seniors is never easy and when young players have lost a year or two's cricket it can be a struggle.”
But besides Atiq, the club have also hit the jackpot with the recruitment of Australian Zac Corcoran as overseas amateur.
Singleton said of the league's top wicket-taker (with 34): “Zac had never been overseas before and just wanted to come over to play some cricket and expand his horizons.
“We've had a few professionals from his club (Ringwood in Melbourne) before and they told Zac that Fleetwood is a good place to come to.
“It's still early days, though we we couldn't have had a better start and it's a big game for both clubs tomorrow.”
Morecambe have been beaten twice and captain Alex Briggs isn't entirely satisfied with their start, though he is hopeful of upsetting Fleetwood.
Briggs told our sister title Morecambe Visitor: : “If we can’t get up for this game, then I don’t know when we can.
They have had a really good start but I don’t think they are world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination.
“They haven’t really been put under pressure but I think they have got a really good bowling unit.”
Northern Premier League (12.30): St Annes v Lancaster, Longridge v Blackpool.
Liverpool Competition First Division (12.0): Lytham v Northop Hall (Birkenhead Park 2 v Lytham 2, 12.45).
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division (1.0): Fleetwood v Morecambe, Great Eccleston v Penwortham, Euxton v Kirkham and Wesham, Preston v Thornton Cleveleys.
Division 1A (1.0): Fylde v BAC/EE Preston
Division 1B (1.0): Blackpool 2 v Netherfield 2, Thornton Cleveleys 2 v Longridge 2, Garstang 2 v Fleetwood 2, Morecambe 2 v Great Eccleston 2
Division 2 (1.0): Wrea Green v St Annes 2, Norcross v Whittingham & Goosnargh.