AN ex-professional cricketer in Bolton and Bury - convicted of rape - has been granted permission to appeal his conviction and sentence.

Father-of-three Dion Taljard, who had stints with Tonge Moor and Unsworth, is currently serving an 18-year prison term,

The former South Africa Border player, now aged 50, was found guilty of 19 charges of rape, one indecent assault and one offence of witness intimidation following a trial at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court in 2017.

But now officials at the Court of Appeal Criminal Division have confirmed that Taljard's lawyers will make submission looking to overturn his conviction and sentence during a hearing in London on December 4.

Before now a number of online appeals have been launched, in a bid to raise funders for the cricketing all-rounder's appeals, with the amounts sought starting at £10,000 and more recently rising to £30,000.

Friends from his hometown, East London, on the Eastern Cape, have continued to protest his innocence and pledged that fresh evidence will set their man free.

His trial counsel, Stella Massey, produced nine testimonials on behalf of Taljard, who lived in Shaw Road, Royton, at the time and also played for the town's cricket club.

She told the court he was ‘highly thought of’ by many through his cricketing associations and was well known.

But prosecutor Nicholas Clarke QC described Taljard as a 'serial rapist' and told the court how his victim had been left living in fear of him.

She had taken time off work due to stress and the case had seriously affected her health.

Jailing him, Judge Maurice Greene said: "These are serious offences and a large number of offences, and only a lengthy custodial sentence is justified."

Taljard was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life.

The Court of Appeal case is only listed for a day but judgements may be reserved.