Sudbury, Frinton, Bury, Woolpit and Copdock gear up for the new cricket season
- Credit: Archant
Sudbury’s promotion last season means that five clubs from the Two Counties Championship will be plying their trade in the region’s top league, the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League, this summer.
It promises to be another intriguing season, with the opening games taking place tomorrow, in various corners of Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.
Frinton were the top club from the region last year, finishing just eight points behind champions Swardeston in second spot, in what was a highly-succesful first-ever season at this level, following promotion in 2014.
The Essex club begin a new era this summer, with the experienced Mark Jones standing down as captain, to be replaced by Australian all-rounder, Kyran Young.
Copdock & Old Ipswichian, who finished fifth last term after a strong start, also have a new skipper at the helm in Tom Rash, who has taken over from James East.
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Bury St Edmunds finished last season in red-hot form, pulling well clear of relegation after a summer of struggle thanks to a flurry of wins over the last couple of months. Michael Comber remains their captain.
Fellow West Suffolk side Woolpit pulled off a Houdini act to also retain their EAPL status, by winning their last game of the season to condemn Saffron Walden to the drop. Former captain Andy Northcote has moved on, to Copdock, with Craig Estlea taking on the captaincy duties.
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And newly-promoted Sudbury will again have Darren Batch leading out their team. The Friars Street club only lost three of their 22 games in the Two Counties last season, and they look set for another good summer at a higher level, especially with Suffolk captain Tom Huggins again spearheading their batting.
Huggins plundered 1,533 runs in 21 innings last season, to finish top of the Two Counties batting charts as well as setting a new League record for the highest aggregate number of runs scored in a season.
Here are what the five captains had to say ahead of the new season:
Darren Batch: “We’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be tough, but that’s why we’re playing in this league.
“We want to test ourselves against the best teams, having worked so hard to win promotion last season. That’s why we enjoy it so much.
“You couldn’t pick a tougher first three games for us. We are at Frinton this weekend, and then play champions Swardeston the following weekend, before taking on Cambridge Granta, who finished third last season.
“That’s a daunting first three games, and yet you have to play these teams at some stage of the season, so why not now? We certainly won’t be over-awed.
“We have set a first goal of establishing ourselves in the league, and securing our place, but we’d love to finish as the top Suffolk club. That’s our bench-mark for the season.
“We’ve brought in Dustin Melton as our overseas player. He’s a 20-year-old South African, a fast bowler who will open our attack.
“Even more importantly, we’ve managed to retain everyone from last season, so we have a lot of experienced players in the group, including Tom Huggins.”
Kyran Young: “We were only eight points off winners Swardeston last year, when I think we had the advantage of catching teams by surprise, being the new boys.
“Other teams took chances against us when perhaps they wouldn’t have done against more established clubs, like Cambridge Granta for instance.
“But we had depth in our side, and we were able to win a lot of games with the opposition taking risks. They played into our hands.
“Mark Jones’ shoes will be big ones to fill. The whole team will miss him this year.
“We were hoping that Sri Lankan Gihan Dilruk would be returning as our overseas player, but we found out only last week that he won’t be coming, because he couldn’t get the professional sports visa. He had to play five first-team games back in Sri Lanka, but he’s been playing his cricket in Australia.
“It’s caught us on the hop a little.”
Craig Estlea: “Hopefully, Andy Northcote does not prove to be a hard act to follow! He had a big influence on the club because he was here for six or seven years. So it’s a new era really.
“It was a strange end to the season for us. We were on top of the table at the half-way stage, but ended up only just avoiding relegation. We stayed up by the skin of our teeth.
“We missed Sean Dickson, who had got so many runs, and Michael Rippon, who was the leading wicket-taker at the time, for several games, and that made a difference.
“Even though we have lost Andy, we ended last season on a high and I’d like to think we could be the Leicester City of the EAPL this summer!”
Bury St Edmunds
Michael Comber: “Bury’s trademark has been a very slow start, and a good finish, in recent years, but we want to try and change that by getting off to a better start this time.
“We proved last season that we can beat the best, when defeating five of the top six clubs during the last seven weeks of last season, having got momentum from our success in the Twenty20 competition.
“Sean Park will be available for the second half of the season, once he has finished his school duties. He played about 11 games for us last season, and had a big effect.
“Instead of going for an overseas player, we have decided to go for Callum Taylor, from Essex. He’s a good all-rounder, a sharp bowler and top-order batsman, although he is likely to be around the Essex squad for some of the season. He’s unavailable this weekend.”
Copdock & Old Ipswichian
Tom Rash: “I’m looking forward to the challenge, as the new captain. I’m very excited about it, and we’ve recruited a few new players as well. James East has stepped down as skipper, due to family commitments, and he won’t be featuring too much.
“But we’ve brought in Andy Northcote from Woolpit, which will add a lot of experience to our batting. His signing is a coup for the club, although he will only be able to play sporadically for us until July, because of his duties as sports master at Culford School. Jed Cawkwell is in a similar position, due to his duties at Norwich School. He too will only be available regularly from July.”