NCL PREVIEW: Arblaster confident ONs can cover loss of Babar

EYES ON THE BALL - ONs' James Mellor square cuts during his innings against Geddington last Saturday (Picture: Dave Ikin)
EYES ON THE BALL - ONs' James Mellor square cuts during his innings against Geddington last Saturday (Picture: Dave Ikin)
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George Arblaster admits losing Afaq Babar has been a ‘big blow’ to Old Northamptonians.

But the skipper has full faith in the ability of his fledgling bowlers and has backed them to make a sizeable impression in the NCL Premier Division this season.

ONs started the new campaign with a comfortable 84-run win against newly-promoted Geddington last Saturday.

The bowling attack of Matt White, Daniel Waite and Aiden Fowkes impressed, along with the experienced Tom Webb and Rob White.

And Arblaster is confident they can continue to hold their own, with Babar now plying his trade at Rushton.

“Afaq wanted a fresh start and Rushton offered him that,” said the ONs captain.

“On his day, no one else in the league can bowl as quick as him, but injuries meant his days were few and far 
between.

“Him leaving gives other lads the chance to step up and we’ve got a lot of young players with a big season ahead.

“We’ve got guys around them who can help them out and it’s a massive opportunity for the youngsters.”

ONs’ victory against Geddington was built on impressive batting displays from middle-order men Daniel Harris (75) and James Mellor (67).

And Arblaster, who ended with 23 not out in his side’s 211 for six, admitted it was about adjusting to new opposition and a new ground.

“We played at NSB because our rugby team had a home game at Billing Road,” the skipper explained.

“The wicket was up and down and we were just happy to get a win against an unknown quantity.

“We weren’t sure what we’d be up against, but after a while we knew we were onto a good thing.”

And Arblaster will hope that is the case for the rest of the season.

However, he is refusing to set any targets this early on in the campaign.

“We lost a couple of players for various reasons and we may not be as strong as last year,” said Arblaster, who steered his side to a sixth-placed finish last season.

“We have got some very good young cricketers but we’re not putting any pressure on them.

“Our availability wasn’t great last season, but we did have David Willey and David Wigley to help us out.

“We’ve reassessed our aims this year and although we hope to be up there, we won’t say we definitely will be.”

ONs head to Wollaston this Saturday, looking to make it two wins from two.

And while last weekend’s game against Geddington was a trip into the unknown, Arblaster knows exactly what to expect at London Road.

“They’ve always been heavily reliant on two spinners,” said Arblaster.

“But we’ve always done pretty well over there and we won there last year so we’ll be confident of getting a good result.”

Elsewhere in the NCL Premier Division this weekend, Saints will look to continue their slick start to the season against a Stony Stratford side seeking solace.

Stony were dismissed for just 49 at Rushden Town last weekend, losing by a massive 238 runs.

And they will have their work cut out at home to Saints, who opened with a 112-run win against Brixworth.

Zak Harvey hit a fine century, while Corbyn Dolley 
provided extra class with 86 not out before taking four for 41.

Horton House head to Brixworth on Saturday hoping to bounce back from an opening day 92-run defeat against Oundle.

Meanwhile, Geddington host Finedon Dolben, Peterborough go to Oundle and Rushton host Rushden.

Skipper Quenby has confidence St Crispins Ryelands will prosper

St Crispins Ryelands skipper Martin Quenby expects his side to bounce back in style at Rushden IIs this weekend.

Quenby felt his team ‘let themselves down’ in the 110-run defeat to Brigstock, which saw the hosts bowled out for 129 in their reply.

But he knows they are capable of far more and is still setting his sights on a place among NCL Division Two’s top sides.

The quest for a first victory will continue this weekend - and Quenby is in bullish mood.

“We did let ourselves down with the bat last Saturday and maybe we were a bit rusty with it being the first game of the season,” said the all-rounder.

“But I don’t want us to be too down about it because it was just a bad day.

“We’re definitely better than that and we’re definitely looking to compete near the top of this league.”

Quenby’s confidence is founded on a steady squad, which didn’t see too much change during the off-season.

He feels they are well positioned to push on from last season, when the club finished one place and 41 points above the relegation zone.

“We’re not a team of individuals and that makes us better,” said Quenby.

“We haven’t changed much as a team, but we have got some players back who had left us and that has made us a lot stronger.”

And Quenby is now looking forward to his side showing their added strength on Saturday.

“We can’t wait to try to bounce back,” he said.

“We’re desperate to put things right after what happened last weekend.”