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Barker relishing new challenge

Nick Barker, in action for Walsden Cricket Club
Nick Barker, in action for Walsden Cricket Club

WALSDEN and Todmorden are scheduled to set the ball rolling for Calderdale cricket in 2018 this weekend.

The opening Lancashire League programme is on Sunday and it will be a particularly special day for Walsden, who are one of seven league newcomers.

The Scott Street men will be playing in their third league in four years, having been Pennine League champions for the last two years following the finish of the Central Lancashire League.

The Lancashire League will have 24 teams this year and they are set to play each other once with competition sure to be fierce ahead of a split into upper and lower divisions in 2019.

Walsden start at Nelson and their captain Nick Barker said that his players would need to perform at a consistently high level to make an impact this season.

“It is going to be tough because there are a lot of decent teams. If we don’t play our best cricket we will lose.”

It will not quite be a journey into the unknown for Barker, who along with brother Stevie and the returning Martin Harlow have each had three year spells in the Lancashire League with Todmorden.

Walsden will go into season with a settled side, spearheaded by Sri Lankan Umesh Karunaratne. Only broken foot victim Josh Gale is unavailable for the opener.

Walsden’s friendly at Barkisland tomorrow is their third pre-season game to be called off. They were looking for alternative opponents.

Todmorden, an excellent third last season, were hoping to blow away the cobwebs at St Annes tomorrow ahead of the league opener against Colne at Centre Vale 24 hours later.

Skipper Andrew Sutcliffe said: “We have everyone available on Sunday and we are looking to get off to a positive start.”

Tod have recruited Bilal Abbas from Church and Syed Faiz Rasool and Ali Syed senior from Burnley plus Mo Bux from Rochdale.

Martin Harlow and Oliver Whitehead have returned to Walsden while opening batsman Simon Newbitt has gone to Bacup.

There is also a change of professional with the tried and tested ex-England Chris Schofield replacing South African Kelly Smuts.

Sutcliffe added: “This year will be a tough campaign, but it will be an exciting one with new clubs and a more competitive division.”