The 2014 Herts Cricket League begins this weekend and it is a step into the unknown for several sides as they enter the newly formed Premier Division and Championship.
Following the decision by Hertfordshire clubs to break away from the Home Counties Cricket League, the Herts League has undergone a restructure.
The newly formed top tier – called the Premier Division – consists of ten teams who finished in Division One of the Home Counties Premier League (HCPL) last year in addition to the top seven Herts teams from HCPL Division Two East.
The remaining HCPL sides go into the ten-team Championship along with the top First XIs from last season’s Herts Division One.
The restructured Division One is made up of the ten sides next in line while the below divisions consists of 20 teams.
Two clubs can be relegated from the top tier subject to play-off matches while there are two promotion spots in the Championship.
There are also two relegation places in the second tier, with those who go down entering Division One.
Two sides will be promoted and relegated between Division One and Two while four teams will be promoted and relegated from Division Two downwards.
Division 11 and 12 have been split into East and West regional leagues.
Ins: Shane Burger, Randeep Sanghera, Sian Ruck
Outs: Matt Corran
It will be difficult for Radlett to improve on the start they made to last season. Sixteen consecutive victories in all competitions helped the club enjoy a successful campaign but they face a new challenge in the Premier Division.
Several people at the club believe this could be the best side Radlett have fielded since World War Two but they will have to prove it on the pitch.
Former Middlesex player Kabir Toor and Fraser Crawford (742 league runs in 2013) remain as the First XI’s opening pair while talented 16-year-old Joe Cooke is likely to be in at number three.
Shane Burger, now captain of Kwa-Zulu Natal Inland, returns for his 11th season at Radlett but he will be unable to seam bowl due to a back injury.
Randeep Sanghera, 20, from Surrey Academy and Uxbridge has also joined the squad. The fast bowler should be the ideal partner for Chad Barrett which would give Radlett one of the quickest opening attacks in the league.
Sian Ruck, 30, is a New Zealand women’s international left-arm seamer. She will coach and play, however, she’s not eligible for the first team.
Hemel Hempstead Town
Ins: Adam Winchester (Wheathampstead), Jay O’Nien (Loughborough University)
Hemel’s young team is led once again by Hemish Ilangaratne, in his third year as captain, and he is supported by the experience of Brett Penny and Nick Hodgins.
Hemel are looking forward to competing with the teams who have joined from the Home Counties Premier League. Their batting line-up is strengthened with Adam Winchester joining from Wheathampstead while Jay O’Nien returns from Loughborough University after a successful year competing in the Leicestershire league.
The bowling attack is led by Gareth James, who is back to full fitness, and he will be backed up by Penny as well as the spin of Hodgins and Path Mehta.
Ins: Mo Manzoor (St Albans), Luke Samarasinghe (Wheathampstead), Stuart Knox (Watford Town), Kevin Affleck (Watford Town), Jim Carson (Chipperfield Clarendon), Martin Henderson (Chorleywood), Ian Woodward (unattached)
Outs: James Ilott (Potters Bar)
First-team skipper Richard Oxley says Langleybury head into the season full of optimism following a strong winter.
The new additions have added strength in depth to the side which ended the previous campaign strongly, winning four of their final six games.
Bury will compete in the newly-formed Championship and will want to make a strong start after struggling in May and June last year.
The side are hoping to challenge at the top of the table as well as advancing into the latter stages of the Davidstow Village Cup.
Langleybury’s Seconds, Thirds and Fourths are anticipated to challenge for promotion in their respective divisions.
Outs: Ryan Fleming
There will be minimal changes at Chorleywood compared to 2013 – with only New Zealander Ryan Fleming, who was last year’s leading run scorer, departing.
Wood have made the decision not to employ the services of a full-time overseas professional and will instead give youth a chance thanks to the ever-growing number of graduates for their Colts set-up.
Tom Smithson – himself a former Colt who has played his way through the teams – will once again captain the side as they look to make their mark in the second tier of the new structure.
Smithson said: “We have got what we think is a strong team and obviously a lot of us will benefit from having played with each other for so long as we’ve come up through the ranks at the club.
“We know how tough the Championship will be and our first priority is to hit the ground running in our first few games and then assess exactly what we should be aiming for from there.”
Ins: Aalok Jain, Avinash Mane.
Outs: Nick Trapani.
West Herts will rely on their pool of long-standing senior players to mount their promotion challenge.
They welcome back Aalok Jain while newcomer Avinash Mane is an effective off spinning all rounder. Nick Trapani has returned to Australia but it’s hoped several of the youngsters in the Second XI will get a chance to prove their worth in the senior side during the campaign.
They will also defend the Watford Observer Shield which they clinched last season.
The club is running a Fourth XI for the first time in several years. Players wishing to join should contact Dennis Lock on email@example.com.
Ins: Matt Wells Kings will be led by the established pair of Christian James and Mark Brazier while 20-year-old Matt Wells has joined as the club’s overseas player.
Head of Cricket Kevin Rolfe said: “We are really excited about the coming season and grasping the opportunity the league changes have given us.
“Our first team are up for the challenges they will face in Division One and our other three sides are looking to go well. We also want to nurture the strong junior talent we have at the club.”
On Wells’ signing, he added: “We are delighted to welcome Matt to the club. We look forward to him taking lots of wickets for us along with our other spearhead bowler Mark, who topped the league averages last year.
“I am sure Matt will have a successful time on the pitch as well as a highly enjoyable social life with us.”
Kings’ Seconds have Tom Clark at the helm, assisted by the ever-reliable Tony Morton. The Thirds are again skippered by Tim Gould with Andrew Colquhoun as vice. Tony Thompson leads the Fours in the new regionalised division.
Ins: Marc Simonds (Latrobe, Tasmania), Kyle Claxton (Cockfosters)
Outs: Alex King (Sheffield, Tasmania)
After a near £200,000 refurbishment of its clubhouse, Leverstock Green’s players are looking to match off-field developments with a successful season – having been reprieved from Division Two relegation thanks to the Herts League restructure.
With more than 14,000 runs and 1,300 wickets to his name, club legend Dave Tyson will lead the First XI while Dayle Littlejohn skippers the Seconds in Division Five.
Tasmanian leg-spinning all-rounder Marc Simonds is Green’s overseas player for 2014 while there’s a welcome return after three years away for top-order batsman Kyle Claxton.
Green will look for an improved year on the pitch to mark their refurbished clubhouse which will be officially opened during their July Cricket Week.
Met Police Bushey
Ins: Richard Black (Stanmore)
Met Police Bushey were promoted from Division Three of the Herts League last season and the squad are hoping to make an impact in Division Two.
They haven’t lost any of the players who helped the club secure the runners-up spot last season and have added Richard Black from Stanmore.
The Police have managed to keep the services of overseas player Karan Joshi. He’s a reliable top-order batsman – who averaged 85 last season – and is handy with the ball with best figures of five for 26 in the last campaign.
While the squad will have to adapt to a new division, they’re confident they can push for another top-half spot.
Met’s Seconds will compete in Division Eight while the Thirds are in Division Eleven West.
Ins: Mike Foley, Bobby Chaudry, Obaid Nawaz Bushey celebrate their 150th anniversary this season and will be hoping to build on the previous campaign which saw the first XI promoted from Division Four.
Mike Foley returns to the Firsts after a year away and he will hope to add to his previous success as a top-order batsman.
Bobby Chaudry and Obaid Nawaz have also joined the club which has invested in a new pitch and a refurbished clubhouse.
There are new captains in place for the Second and Third XIs with Sagheer Ahmed and Khurram Nawaz taking charge of the respective sides.
Rickmansworth go into the new season with the same team who finished the previous campaign in eighth place.
Popular Australian Chris Morris returns as the club’s overseas player and Ray Collins remains captain.
Collins believes promotion is possible if Ricky can keep up the same form which saw the First XI win eight of the final ten matches last season.
Young bowler Callum Cusack has impressed in the warm-up matches and has taken nine wickets in two games. Fraser Patterson, who is in his fourth year at the club, will again be key with the bat – he averaged 55.5 last year.
Benn Glazier is captain of the Second XI, who will compete in Division Six, while Matt Scales (Thirds), Richard Harwood (Fourths) and Ken Brown (Fifths) are in charge of the club’s other sides.