Morecambe CC are ready to renew Northern League rivalries this year
Morecambe CC skipper Ryan Pearson is looking forward to a return to action when the 2021 Northern Premier Cricket League season starts on Saturday.
Morecambe host St Annes at Woodhill Lane in their first game at that level since 2018.
The end of that season saw them drop into the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield for 2019, winning promotion back at the first time of asking.
However, the pandemic has meant Pearson’s players have had to wait for their return to the NPCL, having instead taken part in last year’s one-off cup for teams in both competitions.
“We can’t wait to be back playing and getting close to some kind of normality,” Pearson said.
“We’re looking forward to playing St Annes. They are a good side and it will be a good test to see where we are at.
“We have played against a lot of their players over the years, so we know just how good they are.”
On paper, Morecambe should take hope from their performances in last year’s cup event.
Coming up against NPCL and Palace Shield teams, they made it through two group stages before losing to eventual winners Blackpool in the semi-finals.
However, Pearson warned against taking those results at face value when assessing his side’s chances this year.
He said: “It’s alright winning games but we felt we lost games we should have won as well.
“It was nice to knit together a new team last year but it’s going to be good to be back playing in the Northern League
“I’m more optimistic than I was the season we went down but it’s about consolidating this year and winning games of cricket.”
Morecambe can also take heart from the performances of the sides who have come across from the Palace Shield since that pathway was introduced at the end of the 2017 season.
Garstang, for example, finished sixth in their first Northern League season in 2018 before taking second place the following year.
Pearson believes they are the kind of club from which Morecambe can learn.
“The teams from the Palace Shield who have come up have strengthened the league,” he said.
“We can look at Garstang as a side who are really strong and we can hopefully emulate what they have done over the past two or three years, both as a team and as a club.
“They are just a good all-round club, they have pretty much the same 11 players each week but they also have a strong second XI as well.”
As well as affecting what cricket could be played, the pandemic has also caused problems in terms of hiring a new professional for the season.
Rongsen Jonathan will be their professional this year but is presently in India, awaiting his visa.
Should it be granted, it is hoped the 34-year-old will be available for the second game of the season after completing his isolation period.
When he does turn out for the club, he will have to abide by the various protocols in place for socially-distanced matches.
According to the latest ECB guidance, these include ‘hygiene breaks’ every six overs or 20 minutes – whichever is first – when the ball is cleaned and players use hand sanitiser.
Clubhouses must remain closed, though toilets and hand washing provision are allowed subject to cleaning, risk assessment, occupancy limits and suitable ventilation.
In effect, it means players must turn up in their kit and go home wearing the same clothes.
“It was weird playing under those rules last year,” Pearson said.
“We kind of got used to them by the second or third game but the break every six overs wasn’t great.
“That slowed the game down a bit but we have to do it again this year.
“Not having a shower was the worst bit about though but, if we have to do it again in order to play, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Also in action on Saturday are the reserves, who travel to St Annes for the reverse fixture.
Sunday sees the third XI start with a home against Silverdale’s second XI.
However, matches will be played without spectators until at least May 17 under the current guidance.
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