Sawston & Babraham relishing the start of the new Cambs & Hunts Premier League season
Newly-promoted side among those raring to get under way
Sawston & Babraham are aiming to become an established Whitings & Partners Cambs & Hunts Premier League, Division One side after earning promotion last season.
They finished first in Division Two to go up alongside Kimbolton, and have added strength to increase competition.
Alex Stafford, Dan Heath, Ben Cliverd and James Van de Peer have all made the switch from Great Shelford, while Berkshire all-rounder Waqas Hussain has also joined the club.
Leading them will be Marc Pearson, with the top order batsman taking over as captain from Liam Flynn.
“It’s a big challenge as the jump between divisions two and one is pretty big, but we have got five new players so hopefully we are in a strong position,” said the 27-year-old.
“We knew to even stand a chance of competing we had to sign four, if not five players which is what we’ve done.
“We’re looking forward to it. I’ve played in the league before but there are quite a few players that have not.
“From what I’ve heard, this year is going to be pretty strong, having seen what players have signed for what teams.”
The winter recruitment has been done to add depth throughout the club’s teams though, with the hope of closing the gap between the first team and the seconds, who are currently in CCA League, Division One.
“The main thing we wanted to do was strengthen the club, not just the first team,” said Pearson.
“By strengthening the first team, it’s a downward spiral as people filter down, and the main thing this year is to try to bridge the gap between the twos and ones.
“It’s not just about the first team as such, it’s about getting the second team promoted as well.
“We want to strengthen in general, and then hopefully push the first team forward at the same time. We’ve got to try to compete and hopefully we can be mid-table.”
Foxton have been strengthening across the club this winter.
Their aim has been to add depth to their resources, as well as the first team.
They have two young Australians joining the club in Hayden Brown, a batsman/bowler, and Aaron McElhinney, an opening bowler/batsman.
Also returning is Yannick Elliott, a Jamaican right-handed batsman and right-arm off-break bowler who has had previous spells at Foxton.
“He is a very good player and he has been with us on and off so we know all about him,” said Foxton team manager Matt Gray.
“They are all good additions, and we have also signed seven players which is mainly to strengthen our second team.”
Adie Westley and Matt Daniels have come in from Weston Colville, James Buss and Steve Smith have arrived from Longstanton and Steve Atherton from Saffron Walden.
“They will strengthen the whole set-up because all of them are playing first-team cricket or have played at that level or higher,” said Gray.
“It’s going to put us in a much stronger position as we have 17 guys who are capable of playing first-team cricket. They will be mainly seconds, but if at any stage someone is injured, all these lads could go up and do a job in the first team, no problem at all.”
Gray hopes to get both teams in the top two or three in their respective leagues this season, and also enjoy a good run in the National Village Cup.
“Last year at the halfway stage we had lost one game,” said Gray. “So we feel that we’re strong. It fell away because we lost twice to Ketton, the side that walked away with it again, and lost a bit of momentum.
“I think we’ll be as strong as we were last year and looking for a much higher position.”
It has been an off-season of change at Histon.
Joe Crane and Ed Hyde have departed for pastures new, while overseas player Kendrick Hatton has not returned this summer, so it has meant a busy winter.
“At the end of last season we had four players leave so the start of the year it was looking a bit bleak,” said Histon captain Ben Leach.
“But we have just got in five, maybe six players now of a similar standard to the players that have left.
“We’re looking competitive.”
Leach has been delighted with the new additions to the squad though.
They have strengthened by bringing in all-rounders James Park-Johnston and Shakir Mahmood, the latter from Ketton, and bowler Shaun Stevenson has also arrived, along with youngster Harry Peterson from St Giles.
“We looked to recruit hard at the start of the year, and it’s paid off because we’ve got some good cricketers through the door,” said Leach.
“There are a couple more in the pipeline, but we’re just trying to get them over.
“We’ve got some good players in.”
The key for this campaign will be getting off to a good start though, as the strugglers at the beginning of last season left them with a lot to do in order to eventually avoid relegation.
“We were chasing our tails really for the season because we had a bad period, but we made up for it at the end with some valuable wins that kept us in the league,” said Leach.
“Getting a couple of wins under our belts early doors would be satisfying.”
Histon start the new season with successive away matches.
They open at Waresley and then go to Sawston & Babraham.
Kane Munday will be leading a young Great Shelford side for the first time as they look to go at least one better than last season.
A run of nine games unbeaten and two washouts saw them finish third, behind Sawston & Babraham and Kimbolton.
It has been a winter of change though, with a group of players joining newly-promoted Sawston & Babraham, so it has meant a number of new arrivals at Great Shelford.
Opening bowler Chris Munday has returned after a season at Abington and a winter overseas.
“He’s re-joined and will play a lot stronger part,” said brother and captain Kane. “He went to New Zealand over the winter so he has definitely picked up a few yards of pace and a bit of confidence, which is good.”
Wicketkeeper Ben Richards has also come over from Abington, having had a few games at Cambridge Granta as a youngster, and strengthening the younger players is Luke Ennew, who will be looking to progress. His father Guy Ennew has also joined Great Shelford.
“It’s some good replacements,” said 22-year-old opening bat Munday. “It’s a shame for this year really, because if we’d kept the same team I believe we would have gone up.
“That’s not to say we won’t go up this year, it’s just seeing how we perform and what level we’re at. It’s quite a new team with four players leaving.
“It gives an opportunity for a couple of people to take a bit more responsibility as well. I have taken on the captaincy, Tom Barnard, who is a long-serving member of the club, has stepped up to be vice-captain.
“We’ve got a few experienced players in their mid-30s, but for the most part we’re a really young side. We’ve got a young, good core.”
Cambridge St Giles
Tariq Aziz will provide valuable experience to a young Cambridge St Giles side.
It was a difficult time in Division Two last season following their promotion from the CCA League, and it ended in the bottom three.
But their status was preserved after Ketton dropped out of the Cambs & Hunts Premier League.
It was fiercely contested in the middle of the table last season, and some poor performances early on followed by some bad luck with regards to the weather were all contributing factors, and new captain Will Phelps believes St Giles will be in a better position this time around.
That includes the addition as head coach of Aziz, who will be playing for the team as well as running junior training on Saturdays.
“He’s scored a lot of runs for Godmanchester in the league above, as well as having played for Portugal, so I’m sure he will make a big difference at the top of the order and give us another strong spin option,” said Phelps.
“We’ve also recruited a couple of uni lads who should make a difference early season.
With Tariq joining us and our core of young players being another year older and stronger, we should be at the other end of the table from last year.
“Plus, I might be finally able to drop Russ [Doel, the former captain] into the twos, as I think it’s something like his 89th season of cricket...!”
Phelps is also hoping they can carry forward lessons of last season.
“I think we learnt from teams around us about how to win close games, something we didn’t do enough last year,” he said. “I think we’ve also learnt about the importance of batting long and not giving our top order wickets away – something I’ve definitely been guilty of!”
Cambridge Granta II
Johnny Atkinson hopes that Cambridge Granta II can make a push for promotion from Division Two.
They had a mid-table finish last season, but with the first team in a stable position and some youngsters making the step up, it bodes well for improvement.
Granta have also added two Australian overseas players, including young leg spinner Harry Bond.
“We’re hoping the second team are going to be really strong this year,” said first-team captain Atkinson. “They are definitely going to make a push to move up to Whitings One.
“Hopefully, the first team is going to be a bit more stable in terms of selection. We know we’ve got nine or 10 players that are going to be available every week, so hopefully we shouldn’t disrupt the second team too much.
“They are lots of youngsters who have been netting with the club over the winter that are going to be really exciting and available all the time.”
“There is a really good feeling in the club, a clean slate and fresh start and I’m hoping that the adult teams can be successful.”
Granta start off at home to Ufford Park.