Lytham Cricket Club captain Ben Saunders hopes the return of Lancashire star Steven Croft this weekend will help the club to turn their season round after a disappointing start.
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Saunders’ men recorded their first win of the campaign last weekend, beating Rainford by 32 runs in the first round of the Liverpool Competition’s Ray Digman Trophy.
Lytham sit bottom of the ECB premier league, without a win in four games, and made first-hurdle exits from two cup competitions – the National Club Championship and Lancashire Federation Knockout.
It gets no easier this weekend as Lytham face back-to-back visits to leaders Formby, in the league tomorrow and in the second round of the Ray Digman on Sunday.
The Church Road club have been hit by injuries so far but welcome players back this weekend, not least former Lancashire captain Croft, who makes his first Lytham appearance of the season fresh from a fine Royal London One-Day Cup campaign with the Red Rose.
Croft’s Lancashire clubmate Toby Lester, from Poulton, is also available as is former captain Guy Roberts.
Saunders told The Gazette: “Hopefully we can build on that first win against Rainford (pace-setters in the Liverpool Comp’s second tier). It was very good to get back to winning ways.
“Crofty is available on Saturday and that will be a big boost.
“It is massive for us to have him and Toby Lester back.
“Guy has been overseas and he will strengthen our batting.
“But it will be tough against Formby.
“They have a lot of batting in their side.”
Saunders missed the start of the season after being injured in a warm-up game, and now he sits out this weekend due to suspension.
The captain has picked up a two-game ban after voicing his displeasure over the standard of the umpiring in last Saturday’s cup game.
It was the lbw dismissal of Josh Holder in particular which angered Saunders, not least because the ball in question went for four.
Saunders stressed it was the first time in his career he had reacted in such a way to the umpires’ ruling but that has not saved him from suspension.
He said: “I’m suspended for the next two games. It is the first time I have had anything on my record.
“The standard of umpiring was the worst I have ever seen.
“But it is a good chance to rest up, though I have felt good since I have been back playing.”
Saunders was well aware the standard of the competition was higher than ever, though he had been hopeful of a better opening.
Asked to explain the slow start, the all-rounder said: “Injuries and availability.
“I was injured for the first three games but we have players coming back now.”
Northern Premier Cricket League: Chorley v Blackpool, Fulwood and Broughton v Fleetood, Kendal v Barrow, Leyland v Garstang, Penrith v Netherfield, St Annes v Longridge.
Liverpool and District Competition ECB premier league: Formby v Lytham
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield premier division: Great Eccleston v New Longton, Lancaster v Eccleston, Preston v Morecambe, South Shore v Croston, Standish v Fylde, Vernon Carus v Penwortham
Division 1A: Grimsargh v Thornton Cleveleys, Mawdesley v Norcross, Rufford v Torrisholme, Tarleton v Whittle and Clayton-le-Woods, Withnell Fold v Kirkham and Wesham
NPL Readers T20: St Annes v Blackpool (noon), St Annes v Fleetwood (3.30pm)
Liverpool Comp Ray Digman Knockout round two: Formby v Lytham