Sawston & Babraham gear up for new East Anglian Premier League campaign after a ‘great taster’ last season
Sawston & Babraham will be seeking to learn from a “great taster” to the Read Brothers East Anglian Premier League last season.
Having been promoted to the top tier in East Anglia for the first time in 2019, they reached the play-off final in the truncated campaign, narrowly losing out to Swardeston.
It means that they have had a taste of what to expect this time, although captain Dan Heath is not taking anything for granted.
“It was the perfect introduction really,” he said.
“We’re not completely daft to realise it wasn’t completely like what it is going to be like this year.
“We had one format last year which suited us to the ground because the majority of us have only really been playing 50-over cricket for the last 10 years of our lives, so that really did suit us.
“We know playing two formats is going to make things more interesting and more challenging. Also, we only played half the league as well so we have that other half to play, and there are some really good teams in the other half.
“It was a great taster last year, but this is the real thing now.”
Sawston & Babraham have managed to retain all of the squad from last season, including Michael Cafferkey who it was thought may return to Ramsey.
The opener brought plenty of experience of the Premier League and Minor Counties cricket, after the Cambs and Hunts League was curtailed early last summer.
“I’m always pleased to retain the players which we had. I feel very blessed to have the kind of players that we’ve got in the club already so I’m always happy to keep them,” said Heath.
There are a couple of new additions to the squad. Matt Hague has gained an exemption to return after being stuck in Australia last year because of the pandemic.
“It’s not easy to do but he is someone that has been in the UK every year for the last eight years and has got family over here. His life is here rather than in Australia,” said Heath.
Youngster Noah Thain has joined the club. He is a talented batsman who is on the books of Essex.
“He has got a really fantastic future ahead of him,” said Heath. “We would like to think that we can add something to his game as well.”
Leicestershire batsman Rishi Patel has also arrived.
He knew a few of the Sawston & Babraham players through previous connections to the area, and will be available when not on first-class duties with Leicestershire.
“We don’t know how many games he is going to play,” said Heath. “We know he can’t play any in the first month because of Covid rules within the first-class game meaning they don’t want them leaving their secure bubbles going into club cricket.
“Having a look at his fixture list it looks mid- to end of May we may see him. Obviously, the better he is doing, the less chance there is he is going to play for us because he will be playing with Leicestershire.
“We hope to have him as often as we can because he is a really super player and complements the team really nicely.”
Most pleasing for Heath, though, is the overall strength of the club.
They have up to 120 youngsters playing at the club on a Friday night, and have grown considerably in the past four to five years.
The second team are now in the Whitings Cambs and Hunts Premier League, Division Three, having been elevated from the CCA divisions.
“There were a lot of lads playing cricket quite a long way below themselves,” said Heath.
“For us as a club, when you have your first team in the Premier League and the second team seven or eight leagues below, it’s not very sustainable.
“When you’re trying to attract certain players who might not be good enough for the Premier League at the minute, but will be in time, if you’re offering them sub-standard cricket they are not going to stay around.
“Having that double bump for our twos is absolutely crucial because it now gives us quite a nice pathway from juniors to fours, threes, twos and ones.”
Hopes for the season centre on being able to continue to build the club, across all their teams. And as for the first team? It would be to challenge at the top end of the table, within the top five.
“Obviously, every team wants to be at the top end challenging and we’re no different in that, but I’m not going to say we want to go and win the league because in our first full, proper season that is very unlikely,” said Heath.
“We want progress in some way. If we are challenging at the top that would count as progress for us, that’s the goal for the first team.”
He added: “I know everyone at the club is incredibly excited for the summer. We’ve got a lot of great supporters and volunteers whose life is built around the club, and for that six to eight months we’re at the ground means everything to be everybody.”