Preston-born England spinner Simon Kerrigan reckons the timed cricket played in the Liverpool Competition’s Premier League helps explain its attraction to young Lancashire players trying to establish themselves in the professional game.
Kerrigan has played for top division powerhouse Ormskirk since 2008, having moved from Palace Shield club Fulwood and Broughton where he started out as a medium pacer. He has since won the County Championship with Lancashire and played Test cricket in last summer’s Ashes match at the Oval.
But he is one of a “team” of Red Rose players who have represented Liverpool Competition clubs in recent years, with the likes of Stephen Parry (Bootle), Karl Brown (Leigh), Paul Horton (Sefton Park and Northern), Luke Procter (New Brighton) and Oliver Newby and Alex Davies (both Lytham) all able to play when county commitments allow.
“Once a few of the lads started playing there, it got a reputation as a good league,” said the 24-year-old left-arm spinner. “That obviously helped bring more young Academy players there. The grounds are good, the pitches are really good and the format of it, being timed cricket, helps you if you want to progress your first-class game.
“I know that kind of cricket isn’t for everybody, with many preferring 50-over matches, but timed cricket, where you can bat for as long as you want, certainly links to the Championship game.
“In my opinion, it is the best league in the North West. I’ve not played in the Northern League or the Cheshire League or the Lancashire League, but the depth of the Liverpool Comp at the moment is fantastic. Anyone can beat anyone.
“There was a phase when Bootle won it all the time or Ormskirk won it regularly. But there’s been a lot of different winners over the last six or seven years.”
Kerrigan only played four league matches last summer, and tomorrow he will be preparing for Lancashire’s four-day match at Northampton when the Liverpool Competition programme gets under way.
Fleetwood Hesketh are the first club to take on Ormskirk when they visit Brook Lane while Southport and Birkdale have a similarly tough challenge at home to Leigh.
Also in the Premier League, Lytham will not be taking promoted Rainhill lightly, while First Division Ainsdale host Formby, who are now captained by the former Lancashire batsman Ian Cockbain.
In the Second Division Burscough visit Old Xaverians, whose fifth-placed finish in 2013 made them one of the season’s surprise packages.
l Leyland are likely to be without Lancashire star Luis Reece for tomorrow’s trip to Blackppol in the Northern League.
The opening batsman hit 89 for the Fox Lane outfit as they narrowly failed to beat Barrow last Saturday.
Reece is expected to be in the Lancashire squad for Sunday’s County Championship match at Northampton. David Makinson’s men will be hoping to register their first win of the season tomorrow after being denied victory by a stubborn last-wicket stand by Barrow.
Elsewhere, Chorley, who face Barrow away, will be looking to make it two wins out of two after beating Preston. The West Cliff men are at Kendal.
Freckleton will be looking to maintain their fine start to the new Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division season when they take on Fulwood and Broughton tomorrow.
James Fiddler’s men served notice of their intentions last weekend when they defeated last season’s runners-up Penwortham at home.
James White head and Joshua Holden led the way with the bat as Freckleton posted a decent total of 189-8. In reply, Penwortham were for 122 with Andrew Hogarth taking four wickets.
F&B will be hoping to kick-start their campaign as they were beaten by Longride, who travel to Whittingham and Goosnargh this weekend.
Champions Vernon Carus will be looking to make it two wins out of two when visit Fylde.
NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE: Barrow v Chorley, Blackpool v Leyland, Darwen v St Annes, Fleetwood v Netherfield, Kendal v Preston, Penrith v Morecambe. Sunday – Barrow v Lancashire Colts
PALACE SHIELD PREMIER DIVISION: Fulwood and Broughton v Freckleton, Fylde v Vernon Carus, Garstang v Withnell Fold, Great Eccleston v Thornton Cleveleys, Penwortham v BAC/EE Preston, Whittingham and Goosnargh v Longridge.