BY STEVE McHUGH: We are confident that we’ll have our first-choice professional available for the start of the new Central Lancashire Cricket League season for the first time in four years.
Travis Townsend, the 26-year-old South African, has confirmed that he will arrive on April 12 – four days before the first league game at home to Milnrow on Sunday, April 15.
That would end the headaches of previous seasons, when we have had to find stand-ins for a variety of reasons.
Ruvin Peiris was the last regular Heywood professional to play in the first CLL game in 2008, when he inspired the club to our second championship in two years.
The Sri Lankan was contracted to return in 2009 but encountered Border Agency problems, leaving Heywood having to find a deputy for the opening weeks of the season.
It was a similar story in 2010, when Indian all-rounder Rajat Bhatia missed the first four games owing to his involvement in the Indian Premier League.
Like Peiris, Bhatia signed a contract to return in 2011 but that was terminated because of even further IPL involvement.
And even though we thought we they had secured a top-class replacement in Farhaan Behardien, the South African broke a finger and we were again left scratching around for another replacement.
So the news that Townsend, a right-hand bat who can bowl off-spin, has committed himself to making the start of the campaign is a major source of relief.
The first chance that supporters will get to see the new man is on Saturday, April 14, in a friendly against Lancashire League side Enfield at Crimble, the day before the real lift-off against Milnrow.
Two other pre-season dates confirmed are on April 7 and 8, when the first and second teams also have home games respectively against Bury.
Townsend is keen to make an early impression both on and off the field, and it is his pledge to help the development of the club’s youngsters on the coaching side that has left us believing we have signed a professional to fulfil our requirements.
The new man certainly won’t fail for lack of experience in English conditions, having played league cricket for Northern in the Liverpool Competition, Usk in the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire League and Ramsey in the Cambridgeshire League.
Townsend went to the University of Cape Town and made his first-class debut for Western Province in 2009, before focusing on carving out a career in the UK.
He said: “I joined Northern midway through the season. They were bottom of the league but, with a good work ethic, we fought our way into mid-table.”
The 2010 campaign saw Townsend score 1213 runs for Usk, and he had a similar record for Ramsey in 2011, where he was part of the side that won the league and 20/20 cup.
He also took the opportunity to play for Somerset’s second team and made 123 on debut against Middlesex.
His ability is underlined by Richard Clarke, the Ramsey vice-chairman, who said:
“I am sure that Heywood will benefit from Travis. We were not aware that he was returning to UK in 2012, or we would have made efforts to retain him.
“He was very popular with the younger players and did a lot of coaching at the club and in local schools.”
Now Townsend is keen for more success at Crimble, and said: “I hope to test myself at Heywood and hopefully assist in bringing league honours to the club.”
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