East Anglian Premier League: the big preview
- Credit: Archant
Sports writer Chris Wise previews the start of the East Anglian Premier League this weekend
Norfolk captain Ashley Watson will be playing his club cricket outside the county this summer following Norwich's relegation from the East Anglian Premier League.
The 35-year-old allrounder has joined Frinton-on-Sea and will make his competitive debut against Great Witchingham on Saturday in a match that will see him go head to head with his county vice-captain Sam Arthurton.
Watson admits it was a wrench to leave Norwich but is looking forward to the twin challenge of playing for a new club and captaining Norfolk for the first time in all three formats of the game.
'I had been with Norwich for 18 years so it wasn't a decision I took lightly but I need to be playing at the highest level possible and was really pleased to join Frinton,' he said. 'It's a good club, I know their captain Michael Coomber well, and I can't wait to get started.'
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Watson's switch is one of a number of interesting moves during the winter break, with the EAPL losing a number of familiar faces as well as sponsors Gibbs Denley, who stepped down after 14 years of financial backing.
Norfolk and Vauxhall Mallards all-rounder Ben France is now captain and director of cricket at Hethersett and Tas Valley while Great Witchingham's Mike Jones has taken up a similar role at another Norfolk Alliance Division Two side Bradfield.
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Also trying his luck at a lower level is James Spelman, Arthurton's long-term opening partner at Walcis Park, who will be playing in the Alliance top flight for Garboldisham.
As always there are some new exciting names to look out for however. The Witches have brought in highly rated South African all-rounder Daryn Dupavillon as their overseas professional while Horsford have snapped New Zealander Jack Boyle, who has a recent first class century to his name for Canterbury against Northern Districts.
Swardeston will line-up with a familiar squad, minus Jason Reynolds who has moved to Horsford, as they target a return to the top after finishing runners-up to Sudbury in each of the last two seasons.
They open their campaign with a home game against Copdock and Old Ipswichian on Saturday while Horsford host Bury St Edmunds and Mallards travel to Burwell and Exning. In the other games Sudbury host Cambridge Granta and newly promoted Saffron Walden entertain Mildenhall.
Captain: Sam Arthurton
Players in: Jack Boyle, Peter Trewick and Charlie Rogers.
Players out: James Spelman, Tom Collishaw and Mike Jones.
Reflections on 2018: After a slow start we got some momentum building throughout the middle part to give ourselves hopes of a higher league position. Unfortunately we could not sustain this and fell away over the last seven weeks, finishing in seventh place.
Hopes for new season: First and foremost it's to ensure we learn from last year and to take this into our cricket. There is a lot of quality in the side, with players capable of winning games for us. If we can become consistent then I believe we can make a real push. The benchmark has been set by others and we want to be part of that and don't feel this is unachievable with this group.
Opinion of the current mixed format: I quite like the fact we play the two different formats. It challenges your side in the different ways to find a method that works. You have to learn quickly especially when going from 50 over to the longer format as they both test your game in a variety of ways.
Captain: Ryan Findlay
Players in: Matt Plater, Jason Reynolds, Daryn Dupavillon.
Players out: Chad Bowes.
Reflections on 2018: Finishing fifth was a great improvement on the previous season and is hopefully a sign of more positive times ahead. Chad Bowes and Will Rogers had excellent debut seasons for the club, as well as a number of our younger home grown players. We also finished runners-up in the Norfolk T20 competition to Swardeston. Overall a solid season, with strong foundations to build on.
Hopes for new season: In overseas professional Daryn, Jason and Matt, we have recruited young but experienced and quality players at Minor Counties level and higher. With a mix of experienced and young players we have a well balanced squad with high hopes. We hope to build on the progress we made last season and we can't wait to get our league campaign up and running.
Opinion on the current mixed format: Personally, I love the win/lose 50 over cricket format. I think it creates more positive and exciting cricket, which can only be a good thing for the interest and participation within the local game. In the longer, more traditional win/lose/draw format, I have been involved in some excellent matches in recent years, however, the modern game is continually evolving and local leagues need to be mindful of this.
Captain: Joe Gatting
Players in: None
Players out: Jason Reynolds (to Horsford).
Reflections on 2018: It was a season of near misses for us. Once again we came second in the East Anglian Premier League behind Sudbury, this time by a single point, while we were runners-up in the National T20 Finals Day at Derby, losing to Hanging Heaton after beating Nantwich in the semi-finals. We were below-par in the first half of the season, however in the second part we played outstanding cricket and came close to achieving our targets.
Hopes for new season: What we need to do is continue the form we showed in the second part of last season. If we do that we will have a highly successful summer.
Opinion of current mixed format: I enjoy the mixed format as to win the league you have to play both forms very well. However, the current points and bonus system needs looking at.
Captain: Adam Todd
Players out: Ben France, Matt Plater.
Players in: James Vann, James Bridges, Sam Palmer, Benedict Lucas.
Reflections on 2018: It was a tough season for the whole team - we only just avoided relegation and finished third from bottom. We only won four limited over games and five timed games in the season. On the positive side some promising youngsters had a chance to experience EAPL cricket for the first time and it was a pleasure to watch Paul Bradshaw charge in and take 66 wickets and our overseas Nick Smit score over 1,000 runs.
Hopes for the new season: This will be my first season as captain and I am quite optimistic. We have a lot of really good young talented cricketers that we are hoping to give chances to and a good squad. As long as we improve on last year's performance then I will class it as a success if we can start to rebuild for the future and hopefully take Mallards back to the top where they used to be.
Opinion on the current mixed format: I really enjoy the split between 50 over cricket and all day cricket and think it has made the league more exciting. As captain this year I will need to make sure I am fully aware of all the rule changes.