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Norfolk Cricket Alliance preview: Diss skipper expects high standards in tough division

04:56 20 April 2012

Diss are aiming to emulate last year’s fourth-placed finish in the Premier Division – but captain Simon Cooper believes the league will be stronger than ever.

The south Norfolk side have signed all-rounder Oli Howes from Brooke, while opening bowler James Shepherd has left to join Garboldisham. They are once again resisting the temptation to employ an overseas player, a policy which has not hampered them in recent years.

Cooper said: “I think the league this year is the strongest it’s ever been, certainly in the last few years. You’ve got two sides who were recently in the EAPL and some good Alliance teams, so it will be tough. We want to try and match last year’s achievement and maybe even improve on it.”

Fakenham hope the introduction of two young spinners and a new South African paceman will lead to a successful defence of their Norfolk Alliance Premier Division title.

The Highfield Lawn club, who are at home to North Runcton tomorrow, have signed promising young slow bowlers Ryan Findlay from Horsford and Ashley Jarvis from Hillington, while Kimeshin Chetty comes in as the overseas player.

Fakenham have lost the services of Norfolk wicketkeeper Stephen Gray, who has joined Swardeston – skipper Ben Harvey will take over the gloves – while Joe Pipkin and James Brown will both be unavailable due to work commitments.

Harvey’s team won the Premier Division at a canter last summer, but missed out on promotion back to the EAPL at the first attempt after a play-off defeat to Copdock and Old Ipswichians. This year promises to be a tougher proposition with Norwich having also dropped down from the EAPL, but Harvey said: “We are excited about the challenge Norwich will bring. It is difficult to pick yourselves up after relegation, we know how that feels, but they have some very good players.

“Sprowston had a fantastic season last year and Downham will be strong as well, and I’ve got a feeling Acle will do well. They have come up from Division One and they will take encouragement from how well Sprowston did last year after being promoted, so it will be a very competitive league.”

Simon Chipperfield has taken over from Phil Glozier as captain of last year’s runners-up, Sprowston.

After their promotion from Division One in 2010, Sprowston were the surprise package of last season – but Chipperfield has warned his players that they have now lost the “element of surprise”.

“I’ve said to the players this will be their hardest year ever because we finished second last season,” said Chipperfield. “We were playing teams who didn’t know anything about us, but now they know what we’re about and they can approach games against us differently. We have lost our element of surprise.”

Sprowston are another team to eschew the option of an overseas player and they have a largely similar squad to last season. Chipperfield added: “The club has a plan to win the league within three years and to do it without an overseas player. It is going to be hard, but it is possible – it would be quite an achievement.”

Opening batsman Paul Donovan has arrived to try and arrest Old Buckenham’s yo-yo status of recent years.

Bucks were relegated from the Premier Division in 2008, then promoted in 2009, but dropped straight back down in 2010. Last year they won promotion again from Division One - and this time skipper Terry Perry wants them to stay: “Our main aim for the season to to preserve our Premier Division status,” he said. “It will be a big help if we can get some good results in the first few weeks to get us rolling, then we can have a look at where we can go from there.

“We have a set of players who all work hard at their games and have made some good improvements over the last year. We have a good team spirit which will help us towards a successful season.”

New Vauxhall Mallards second team captain Matt Seager has set his side the challenge of finishing in the top three.

There has been an influx of players at the Brundall club and competition for places seems set to be fierce.

New Zealander Anton Devcich, a left arm spinner and top order batsman will start the season as the second team’s overseas player.

Cei Sanderson has returned to the club after playing in the Cambridgeshire leagues last season and seam bowler Lewis Rayner has joined from Felthorpe.

James Shipley has left to join Great Melton, but Pete Free has decided to drop down from the first team.

Steve Goldsmith will continue to play, although he has handed the captaincy reins over to Seager: “It’s something we’ve been planning for a few years,” said Seager. “I was keen to take it on and I’m looking forward to a fresh challenge.

“The challenge I’m going to set the guys is to finish in the top three. With the quality we’ve got in the side we should be up there.”

Josh Gilbert, an 18-year-old Bermuda international and off-spinner is the overseas player for newly-promoted Acle.

They have also picked up opening bowler Charlie Harkness from Bradfield.

Captain Shaun Roberts said: “Last year a lot of players stepped up to the plate and performed for us. We’ve got to make sure we do that again and we need to raise our game even further.

“Our aim is to stay in the league – with there being 12 teams, one of which is Norwich who have come down from the EAPL, it’s going to be very tough. With three teams being relegated it’s going to put even more onus on picking up points in the games you don’t win.

“We need to use Sprowston as a template. They came up last year with a similar side to us and beat the teams they expected to beat, while picking up points against the stronger teams.”

With a new overseas recruit, three other new signings and a new first team captain - there have been quite a few changes at Lowestoft Town in the close season.

Club captain Peter Sims takes over the first team captaincy once more, and he admits the Denes Oval outfit - who finished eighth last season - will be looking to blend a talented pool of youngsters and established senior players into “a team that will be competitive in what will be the toughest Premier Division yet.”

Lowestoft start away at Vauxhall Mallards on Saturday - and they could immediately come up against Tom Brice, who has moved to the Brundall side.

Sims said: “Tom will be a big miss for us as he was a very popular at the club as well as being a fantastic opening bowler and top order batsman. But we wish him well, except on Saturday, and his departure will then give others an opportunity.

“We are delighted to welcome wicket-keeper batsman, Ben Willgoss to the club from Kirkley and Lowestoft Railway. We also are pleased to have young all-rounder, Sam Clabburn, return to the club, also from Kirkley and Lowestoft Railway. Similarly, we have been given a boost that young all-rounder, Billy Brice will be coming home from University for the majority of weekends to enhance our side.

“We are looking forward to the arrival of Ruan Du Plessis, our overseas player/coach from Johannesburg.”

Du Plessis, a 22-year-old batting all-rounder, plays for Easterns in the South African provincial championship - the same club from which South African sensation Mpho Sekhoto had served Lowestoft so well for the past two seasons.

Sims said: “Ruan will be active in and around the club with the junior sides at U9, U11, U13, U15 and U17 as well as delivering Chance to Shine coaching in local schools. We also welcome Damian Abeyratna, who has moved to this country for work and is a very useful all-round cricketer.

“We are equally looking forward to seeing the progress of our promising youngsters and in particular, 16-year-olds Kieran Jones and Josh McAvoy who will be playing their second full seasons of first team cricket. Waiting in the wings to make an impact in the first XI are wicket-keeper Willy Cooke, bowler Michael Shea and all-rounder Romesh Tirimanna.”

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