Blackpool Cricket Club and St Annes CC couldn’t complete the paperwork in time for their new professionals to take the field on the opening day of the Northern Premier League season, though their deputies did just fine.
Substitute pros Ockert Erasmus and Michael Erlank came to the fore as both clubs made winning starts in the first division, though Fleetwood began their campaign with a defeat at Chorley.
Blackpool hope to have New Zealander Anurag Verma in place for their first home game against Barrow on Saturday, when St Annes aim to select Indian Saurabh Bandekar at Kendal. And both will walk into winning sides thanks in no small part to their day-one deputies.
All-rounder Erasmus took five wickets with his off-spin to help Blackpool to a two-wicket win at Netherfield.
The hosts chose to bat but were all out for 145 in 45.4 overs as South African Erasmus claimed 5-27 from 14.4 overs and another special guest, Northamptonshire’s Richard Gleeson, returned to his former club with 3-19 from 11.
These two destroyed a home innings which had looked promising at 82-1, top-scorer Bradley Earl hitting 10 fours in his 56 and sharing in an opening stand of 60. In reply, Blackpool also collapsed after a bright start but captain Paul Danson and wicketkeeper Ben Howarth steadied the ship to seal victory with 2.3 overs remaining at 146-8.
Opener Ciaran Johnson top-scored with 47 from 90 balls and shared in a third-wicket stand of 65 with Erasmus, who played briefly for St Annes last season. However, from 89-2, Blackpool slumped to 110-8 before skipper Danson joined Howarth to eased the nerves, Seth Rance taking 5-20 from 10 overs.
At Vernon Road, Erkland smashed an unbeaten 87 as St Annes eased past Lancaster’s target of 152 with nine wickets to spare.
Coming in after the only wicket fell, the South African faced only 72 balls and smashed 70 runs in boundaries from 16 fours and a six.
Erkland and opener Gurman Bains, who hit seven fours in his unbeaten 45, saw the home side to victory at 155-1 in just 33.2 overs.
St Annes had earlier put Lancaster in and skittled them out in 43.2 overs.
The Fylde coast’s only NPL side with their new pro in place were beaten, Neels Bergh unable to prevent Fleetwood’s four-wicket defeat at Chorley.
Chris Harty became the first player to dismiss the South African all-rounder on his way to 4-27 from 10 overs as the visitors were put in at Windsor Park and were dismissed for 133 in 42.2 overs.
Opener James Wilson batted throughout for a run-a-ball 40 but found little solid support, except from number seven Declan Clerkin (33) as seven Fleetwood players were out for 10 or fewer.
Chorley reached their target with 7.2 overs to spare as captain Andrew Holdsworth came in at six to complete the job with an unbeaten 57 from 85 balls. Sam Bell took 4-46 from 10 overs but couldn’t deny the hosts victory at 137-6.
Lytham suffered a heavy 91-run home defeat to Northern on the opening day of the Liverpool Competition season.
Successive half-centuries from Chris Laker at number three and Liam Grey at four enabled the Crosby club to declare at 220-7 after being put in at Church Road.
Laker scored 52 from 62 balls (six fours) and Grey 56 from 89 (seven fours) as they shared a third-wicket stand of 78 to help Northern towards a declaration after 50.2 overs. Josh Holden did his best to slow them down with 3-41 from 12.2 overs.
But Lytham were never in the hunt after being reduced to 6-3 in reply, debutant New Zealand pro Michael Guptill-Bunce falling without scoring.
From 35-5, Lytham did well to reach 129 before the end came after 41.1 overs. Taylor Cornall was the pick of their batsmen with 35, while Thomas Bailey took 3-18 from eight overs.