Woolpit gearing up for first EAPL season

Woolpit's Italian international Andy Northcote pictured batting in last season's play-off final agai

Woolpit's Italian international Andy Northcote pictured batting in last season's play-off final against Norwich

WOOLPIT plan to “hit the ground running” in their first season in the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League.

The West Suffolk club’s rise from Division Three of the Mick McNeil League to the top level of club cricket in East Anglia will see Woolpit start with a home fixture against Sudbury on Saturday, April 20.

Woolpit secured their place in the EAPL by winning the last season’s Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship and then defeating Norwich by just five runs in a thrilling end-of-season play-off final.

“The whole club can’t wait for things to begin and much has been going on behind the scenes to ensure we hit the ground running,” said Tim Parker, who has been one of the driving forces throughout the entire period of the club’s development.

Woolpit’s family friendly club philosophy has meant the club have resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to their playing pool.

Joining Woolpit this season are two talented all-rounders - Mildenhall’s Ben Shepperson, who made his debut for Suffolk in the Minor Counties Championship last season, and former Bury St Edmunds and Exning player Craig Estlea, who last season was playing for Worlington.

Mike Jones is returning to Suffolk and will continue to captain the side. The South African-born all-rounder last year broke the record for the highest number of runs scored in a Division One season.

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Jones surpassed the record of 1,138 set by Clacton’s Alvin Greenidge in 1983 during and ended with 1,171 runs at an average of 90.08. He also took 39 wickets at an average of 22.44.

Recently-married Italian international Andy Northcote is continuing to work locally and, subject to international call-ups, will be available for the whole campaign.

A number of young Woolpit players have enjoyed a season Down Under and should come back better cricketers for that experience. The remainder of last year’s squad, both the experienced and the younger home-grown talent, will be pushing for places. Realistically the club has targeted survival in the EAPL as the initial goal.

Meanwhile, the club’s 2nd XI is targeting promotion to Division Three of the Two Counties Championship to close the gap between the playing levels of the 1st XI and 2nd XI.

Although a late application to field a 3rd XI in the Two Counties was rejected, a friendly side will be run in preparation for league entry next year.

Winter nets at Culford School have been well attended and Alice Parker, ladies captain, is confident her squad will build on last season’s improved results and Martin Eeles, coaching co-ordinator, has the daunting task of covering the huge numbers of youngsters from five to 16 who are desperate to learn and follow their predecessors into the adult teams.

Parker said that behind-the-scenes work has continued on developing the infrastructure of the club.

AJN Steel has agreed to fund a major refurbishment of the net area. This will result in a fully enclosed five-lane facility. The second pitch is being developed further and plans for more changing and toilet facilities are being drawn up.

The fund-raising for these and other improvements continues with increased vigour, added Parker.

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