Norfolk Cricket Alliance preview: North Runcton put their faith in youthful attack
Andrew Barrett enters his first campaign as a captain insisting that North Runcton's youthful bowling attack is as exciting as any in the league.
Young pair Will Templeman and Kieran Bunting, who has played for Norfolk, are just two of the bowlers that Barrett believes can excel this season.
The 30-year-old has replaced Sean Hemeter, who has gone to live and work in Australia, as Runcton's skipper after stepping up from vice-captain.
Overseas batsman, Aussie Simon McInerney, has returned home and has been replaced by South African star Christo van Schalkwyk. The 23-year-old right-handed batsman, who can also bowl medium/fast-paced deliveries, has played a few first-class games for Southern Western Districts and Runcton hope he will arrive in time for tomorrow's season opener.
Batsman Jonathan Forder has returned from Downham, while Templeman and former Hillington pair Nick Freeman and Anthony Dobing join Runcton's ranks.
Tim Coote, George Rawlings (both university) will miss the start of the season but seam bowler Mark Bunting may be absent for longer after suffering an Achilles injury playing football. Alistair Price will also be unavailable as he chases a professional rugby deal with Bedford Blues.
Runcton, who finished sixth last season, face a daunting start at champions Fakenham.
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Barrett said: 'I'm delighted to have been made captain, I see it as a challenge to skipper an Alliance Premier Division side. I think I'll bring a calming presence on the pitch as I'm not a captain who will shout and bawl. I like to take everything in and analyse and I'm not afraid or trying something a bit out of the ordinary. I don't like to be too predictable. We're excited about Christo arriving – we think he'll add some flair with the bat. It's a tough start at Fakenham but on our day we can give anybody a very good game, especially with what I believe is one of the most exciting and promising young bowling attacks in the league.
Downham Town's veteran captain Duncan Lanchester believes his players have a point to prove after finishing third last season.
After a record-breaking four titles in a row Downham got off to a slow start last campaign and never fully recovered and Lanchester is hoping to fare better at newly-promoted Old Buckenham tomorrow.
Kiwi PJ Cairns, who disappointed with the bat last campaign, has returned home with 22-year-old Australian Harry Evans taking his place.
Swaffham's Michael Crisp, Indian spinner Jignesh Chaunan and Peter Barnard have joined during the close season but Jonathan Forder has left to play for North Runcton.
Lanchester, 47, who has played for Downham for some 25 years, said: 'Harry's played at a good standard in Australia and comes with a good reputation. He's looked good in nets and of course he's got to acclimatise but we're hopeful he can score the runs that PJ really didn't last season. We need to kick-on from last season as we've got a point to prove. We didn't bat to any degree and we need to up our game because I believe the league is the strongest it's been for five to six years. We started slowly and never recovered so we need to hit the ground running.
We were always playing catch-up so we need to ensure we're in the frame at the half-way point to stand any chance of challenging.'
Stow are hoping their youthful approach can pay dividends as they look to improve their standing in the league's three-way West Norfolk rivalry.
Keith Thomson, 23, will captain a side that finished behind North Runcton and Downham in ninth last season, and replaces Ed Landymore as his team's skipper. However, after gaining promotion, Stow were delighted to achieve their aim of avoiding relegation in their first season in the Premier Division and hope to progress up the table this campaign.
Ross Fitz-John, Stow's New Zealand overseas player from last season, has been replaced by South African 21-year-old Luandre Van Wyk as Thomson ignored the agencies to broker a private deal to bring him to Stow.
The pair have played for the same club in Australia, Clifton Hill, and formed a friendship along with other Stow team-mates who competed in a six-a-side cricket competition in Thailand last winter.
Downham second-team regular Warren Bowman has arrived for a Stow side that have only lost Joshua Ring – for the start of the season at least – while he continues volunteering work abroad.
Thomson said: 'We've got a young side and we want to improve year-on-year. We were pleased with last season but now we're looking to finish around mid-table. Us, Runcton and Downham have a small pool of players to tap into so we want to break into the three-way division, overtake one of the teams, and probably challenge North Runcton.
We're a young side that has played together for 10 years and we're all good mates. We have a great social side to the team as well so we wanted an overseas player who could be good on the field but also be one of the lads. Laundre's impressive and typically aggressive and competitive. We've got an incredibly tough start against Norwich tomorrow (dropped down from the East Anglian Premier League) but we've got derbies against Runcton and Downham in the next two games so we're hoping to make a mark on the points board. Having a year in the league will help as we now have a better idea of what teams are going to do.'