Ash cloud brings gloom for frustrated Witchingham
Great Witchingham were left looking anxiously at the skies this week as they awaited the arrival of two new players from foreign shores. New Zealander Sebastian Logan and South African Bardo Fransman have been signed to spearhead the Witches' bowling attack this summer, but the arrival of both has been delayed by the disruption to flights caused by the volcanic ash cloud.
Great Witchingham were left looking anxiously at the skies this week as they awaited the arrival of two new players from foreign shores.
New Zealander Sebastian Logan and South African Bardo Fransman have been signed to spearhead the Witches' bowling attack this summer, but the arrival of both has been delayed by the disruption to flights caused by the volcanic ash cloud.
Logan has an EU passport, while 31-year-old Fransman, who has 83 first class wickets to his name, will be the overseas player after a deal for the club's original target, Basheeru-Deen Walters, fell through.
Skipper James Spelman said: "Some of the bowling last year was very inconsistent and we did struggle with the new ball, bowling both sides of the wicket and we also struggled to bowl sides out. If we can improve on that we should pick up a few better results."
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Greater consistency is the key to success for Witchingham after a patchy 2009 and Spelman said: "We started well, but in the middle of the season we were so up and down. We went from looking at a place in the top six to nearly being dragged into a relegation battle. Then, when we needed to, we picked up a couple of vital wins and we finished the season strongly.
"It was a really tight league and I can't see it being hugely different this year."
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Wicketkeeper Ben Harvey, pictured, has left the club to return to Fakenham, meaning youngster Sam Groves will step up from the second team to take the gloves.
Fakenham were another side who had to resort to Plan B when their deal to sign Indika de Saram collapsed.
Instead, they have recruited another Sri Lankan Test player, Gayan Wijekoon, as their overseas star and skipper Sean Cooper has high hopes for the new arrival: "We'd like him to consolidate our side with the experience he has as a bowler and a batsman," said Cooper. "He's an all-rounder who can coach both aspects of the game and help the youngsters develop and that is crucial for us."
Fakenham showed a marked improvement last year upon the two previous campaigns, when they had finished rock bottom and their second team also celebrated winning Norfolk Alliance Division Three. Cooper added: "We are really looking forward to this season after the success the club had as a whole last year. All four senior sides had good seasons."
Cooper will have to make do with a depleted side for the early part of the summer, with a string of his young players away at university and others suffering injuries.
New signing Ben Harvey will miss the early games, along with Joe Pipkin and Daniel Hubbard, while James Brown will not return from a new job in Amsterdam until later in the summer. Norfolk wicketkeeper Stephen Gray should be available despite his studies and Fakenham are also looking forward to seeing more wickets from Angus Stuart, whose debut season at the club last year was hampered by injury. New signing from Horsford Luke Findlay could be out long term with a knee injury.
Horsford have replaced one Australian with another - and hope Chris Sabburg can have an equally positive impact as James Wild did in his two years at Manor Park.
Skipper Chris Brown admitted Wild's influence would be missed, but is confident Sabburg will prove a capable substitute. The Australian is a left handed batsman who bowls right arm off-spin and Brown said: "He has aspirations of being a state cricketer for Queensland and he's chosen to develop his game over here. He wants to work as hard as he can with us so that when he goes back he can really stake a claim for a contract."
Horsford have also recruited batsman Jonny Atkinson from Cambridge Granta, while Jaik Mickleburgh has indicated a desire to play when his duties with Essex allow - although after his century for the county last week he seems sure to be regularly involved at Chelmsford this year.