CRICKET PREVIEW: It's going to be even tougher at the top of the Cambs League
Ketton skipper Rob Vitas reckons the standard of Cambs Division One will be the toughest it's ever been this summer.
Traditional Eastern powerhouse Saffron Walden were relegated from the East Anglian Premier Division last summer, while newly-promoted Eaton Socon have splashed the cash in an attempt to establish themselves in the top flight.
Socon have signed last year’s title-winning skipper Matt Pateman from Godmanchester to spearhead their campaign.
With regular title-chasers Ramsey and Wisbech looking as strong as ever, it’s not ideal that Ketton have been weakened by the loss of free-scoring professional Rob Wooley.
“I’d take staying up right now,” Vitas admitted. “Rob has been the top run scorer in each of the last two seasons and we will miss his consistency. We have just been able to bat around him.
“Without him I can see us being 70 all out one week and 300 all out the following week.
“This must be one of the strongest divisions outside the ECB Premier Divisions, but we are still looking forward to the challenge.”
Vitas is a fan of the new Cambs League rules which mimic one-day international rules. It’s a straight win/lose 50-overs-a-side match with fielding and bowling restrictions.
Teams must use five bowlers as it’s a maximum of 10 overs apiece. Fielding restrictions will also be in place.
“Anyone with a professional bowler has now been short-changed,” said Vitas, “But I like the rules. They are perfect for club cricket.
Vitas has persuaded South African slow bowler Ulrich Van Duyker back to his club after a successful first season at Pit Lane. Explosive batsman and ace fielder Ashley Rodgers is also expected to return to full-time cricket after a spell on the sidelines for personal reasons.
Wisbech and Ramsey have new skippers in Sam Albutt and Michael Cafferkey respectively, although it’s a second spell in charge for the latter.
Ramsey look to have recruited well in the winter and they feel the new rules will suit a team stacked with quality all-rounders.
Wisbech finished second last season, but have added a talented Aussie from Brisbane, Jack Hargreaves, to their squad as they attempt to go one better.
Nassington were third and they expect to go well again. “We have a team of hard-hitting all-rounders,” skipper Alex Laud said. “That is important in the Cambs League this season.”
Ufford Park will play at Cambs Division Two standard for the first time after winning Hunts Division One last summer.
They are excited about taking a step into the unknown.
Skipper Andy Larkin said: “We face more travelling than we are used to, but the reason we wanted to win the Hunts League was to experience new grounds, new opposition and a better standard of cricket.”
March, relegated to Division Two for the first time since 2001 last summer, are also under new management as young fast bowler Tyler Phillips takes charge on the field.
March will expect to compete at the top end of the table, but Newborough might struggle after losing all-rounder Ashley Fisher and big-hitting Ross Harris to Market Deeping.
The Bulls are hoping to complete the signing of Aussie leg-spinner Kyeran Ellery in time for the start of the season on Saturday, April 23. His arrival could be crucial for the villagers as this season three teams will be relegated from the division for the first time.