Borrett back as Norwich's driving force

Phil BanyardNorwich skipper Chris Borrett has returned safely from a travel nightmare to lead his side in tomorrow's opening East Anglian Premier League fixture against Swardeston.Phil Banyard

Norwich skipper Chris Borrett has returned safely from a travel nightmare to lead his side in tomorrow's opening East Anglian Premier League fixture against Swardeston.

Borrett and his young family were due to fly home from a holiday in Malaga, Spain, when the Icelandic volcano erupted last Thursday and like thousands of others they were left without an easy route home. When their next scheduled flight was cancelled, Borrett took the decision to hire a car and drive to Calais - a two-day journey of 1,400 miles.

Now safely back in Norfolk, Borrett said he was looking forward to the challenge of emulating Norwich's feats last season, when they finished as runners-up in the league, won the NACO Invitation Cup and Norfolk Twenty20 Cup and were runners-up in the Carter Cup: "We had got into a losing habit in the last couple of years, but last year we hit a bit of a winning streak," he said. "We finished last year on such a good run and we want to take that into the start of this season."

Norwich's hopes - and Norfolk's - have been hit by the season-long absence of hard-hitting opener Ben Patston, who has opted to spend the summer playing rugby for Otago in New Zealand. Patston will however be available for tomorrow's match. Another of Norwich's Norfolk contingent, Ashley Watson, is posted in Afghanistan with the RAF and will not be back until June.

Batsman Ben Baldwin has joined from Swardeston, while Ben Wright will step up from the second team. New Zealand Under-19s all-rounder Sam Noster is the overseas player.

Borrett is keen for Norwich to shake off their habit of starting the season sluggishly: "We want to start well, and then when we get Ashley back it will help our bowling enormously," he said. "If we can be up there halfway through the season and have a good finish, anything can happen."

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Vauxhall Mallards were experts at defending their EAPL title earlier in the decade, but skipper Paul Bradshaw is not taking a similar period of dominance for granted.

Mallards won three consecutive titles between 2002 and 2004 and Bradshaw said: "If we could do that again it would be nice, but you can't predict that. When we won it three times we were winning the cups as well, but that wasn't the case last year. We were only consistent in the league, so I'm not sure if dominance is the right word.

"I think we can continue to improve all round - if you stand still others catch you up. I think we can be a bit livelier in the field, post bigger totals with more batsman scoring centuries and more bowlers keeping it tight."

New Zealand Test player James Marshall will be Mallards' overseas player, although like many others his arrival has been delayed by cancelled flights. His influence will be key, according to Bradshaw: "The way he brings on the rest of the guys is just as important as the way he performs on the field," said the captain. "When Pierre de Bruyn was here a few years ago he raised the performance of everybody.

"We all became better cricketers and that is something we have perhaps not had as much in recent years. He's also got some experience of captaincy in first class games so I'll be hoping to learn from him as well."