Mallards flex title muscles
KEITH PEEL Vauxhall Mallards captain Paul Bradshaw has thrown down the gauntlet to Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League champions Bury St Edmunds.Bury are setting the early pace after beating Clacton and then Mallards, who suffered an uncharacteristic batting collapse after earlier suffering a major bowling blow when key paceman Bradshaw was injured.
Vauxhall Mallards captain Paul Bradshaw has thrown down the gauntlet to Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League champions Bury St Edmunds.
Bury are setting the early pace after beating Clacton and then Mallards, who suffered an uncharacteristic batting collapse after earlier suffering a major bowling blow when key paceman Bradshaw was injured.
Mallards have been champions four times since the competition was launched seven years ago and Bradshaw said: “We want to be back up at the top and I'm quietly confident the title will be coming back to Brundall.
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“Bury have a lot of experience and some very good players, but so have we. We had some guys who have been around a lot of years and scored a lot of runs at this standard.
“The balance of our side is looking very good, so hopefully it will be a very good season for us, but we're under no illusions about the task we face.
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“Standards are improving all the time, a lot of sides will beat a lot of sides and I don't think anybody will run away with it.
“The difference between top and bottom is closing every year, because clubs know they have to go out and recruit players to stay in this standard.
“It's a big commitment for a club to commit to all-day cricket on a Saturday and the guys know that, if they drop out of the league, it's going to be very difficult to get back up.”
Bury captain Kevin Brooks has meanwhile cautioned his players that there are some tough battles ahead.
Bury suffered only two defeats in taking the coveted crown out of Norfolk for the first time last summer, and Brooks said: “It was a tremendous achievement and the culmination of a lot of hard work over two or three years to put together a team at the club that was capable of winning the league, while also concentrating on developing players.
“Obviously we would like that to think that we will be successful in defending the title. Of course, it won't be easy but we are looking forward to the season.
“Any team can beat another, so nothing can be taken for granted and we certainly won't be at Bury.”
Bury are without Tom Webley and Matt Friedlander as both players have moved out of the area.
Former Northamptonshire player Tom Huggins has been recruited to open the batting, while fast bowler Tony Palladino, who has played 18 first-class games for Essex, will be the club's contracted player this season.
Other key Bury players include wicketkeeper Chris Warn, Justin Bishop, Nick Lee, Andrew McGarry and Andrew Tweedie.
Paul Grayson, who has now retired from Essex, will play for Bury again this season, with other valuable players including Mark Geeves, Tim Catley and Toby Hembry.
Match of the day on Saturday is at the Victory Ground where Bury play Swardeston, the only other side also to have won their first two fixtures.
Mallards take on Cambridge Granta at Clare College.
Other fixtures, all also with 11am starts, are Fakenham v Mildenhall, Godmanchester v Clacton and Norwich v Horsford, at Postwick.