By Neil Goulding

CHESHIRE batsman Danny Leech is blossoming, having been given the mantle of opening batsman for his county.

The Oulton Park player is Cheshire's highest run scorer this season, having already shown his class with the willow.

And Leech, who is only now 23, believes he has a bright future in the game.

But first and foremost, the former Winnington Park and Cheshire junior ace is focussed on making sure Cheshire succeed ahead of his own personal performances.

"I am a team player and as long as Cheshire cricket is the winner, then I will be happy," said Leech.. "I am living the dream at the moment and relishing playing for my county.

"When I first came into the team it was such a culture shock that I found it a little bit difficult to start with.

"But since I have settled I found my place in the team and want to stay opening the batting as long as I can."

Leech has now scored more than 400 runs this season for Cheshire, which included a superb 118 and other useful knocks along the way.

And the promising youngster is hoping to continue that form as Cheshire take on Oxfordshire and then Shropshire in their remaining two fixtures in the Western Division.

And Oxfordshire brings back many memories for Leech, for that was the county he first made his debut against in 2001.

"I didn't get many runs against Oxfordshire, so hopefully this time I can change that," added Leech. "I struggled for confidence to start with when I came into the Cheshire team, but the more I played the more I developed as a player. I started to train a lot harder and realised I have an important role to play as an opener."

Leech currently opens the batting with Alexis Twigg, the Harrogate and former Cumberland batsman.

And Leech is confident the partnership the pair have already struck up will continue to blossom the more they play with each other.

"I like playing with Twiggy," said Leech. "We are a good combination. I am a slower player than Alexis and I try and be solid from one end.

"I am a good foil because he likes to come out and play his shots.

"The first hour of play is very important and I set myself the task of batting the whole session.

"I thrive on playing against the best bowlers especially because they will be doing something with the new ball. It's a good challenge and I do enjoy the ball coming on to the bat."

Leech and Twigg have rarely failed when they have batted together in the past two seasons.

And Leech is hoping his partner will benefit from his impressive 81 against Wiltshire last week. "Alexis has struggled a bit," added Leech, "but he plays his shots and he is an excellent player all around the wicket."

Leech says his century earlier this season was his 'best ever' Cheshire batting performance.

But even though he managed to eclipse the magic 100 mark, he was more happy his team did well. "I am pleased because although I did get 100 I helped the team," said Leech. "I see myself as an anchor man and as long as I can set a platform I have done my job.

"We are at the stage now where we have a nucleus of about nine or 10 players who command regular places.

"We are improving all the time and the side is getting stronger."

"We have now got the squad that can give it a go at winning honours next season."

Leech is relishing a return to Oxfordshire where he made his county debut and believes one more victory will guarantee Cheshire qualification for their C & G Trophy next season.