Dukes North East Premier League by Chris West
A STAGGERED start to the Premier League season means that the ten new clubs now making up the First Division won’t make their long awaited bow until next week.
However, the established sides in the top flight, the action starts this coming Saturday with the first round of fixtures in the newly styled Premier Division.
There was an air of frustrated acceptance in skipper Dan Shurben’s pre-season assessment that this will be a year of transition for Sunderland after the club saw a procession of players leave for other clubs in the close-season.
Gone are Ashley Thorpe, Michael Turns, Chris Hooker, Chris Youldon and Jaspreet Singh – in effect half the first team – so there will be opportunities for the younger players to make their mark as the campaign unfolds.
The overseas player is just a youngster himself. Zimbabwean Brian Chari is a batting off-spinner, from Bulawayo, and he is coming over as part of an exchange scheme with Durham CCC.
Mitch Claydon has been registered as one of the county contracted players with the Wearsiders not expecting to see much of Chris Rushworth, while the only other new face is Arsalan Rahim, a signing from Gateshead Fell.
Perennial challengers Chester-le-Street, will be there or thereabouts again despite losing the services of Aussie Andrew Tye, who has not returned from Australia, Graeme Cessford, who has earned a contract with Worcestershire, and Gary Scott.
The gap in the pace bowling attack has been plugged by the arrival of Jon Kean from Norton, whilst left-arm spinner David Foster, a student from Northants, is expected to do well.
Chris Youldon and Usman Arshad make up the rest of the arrivals lounge.
Hetton Lyons are excited by the signing of Pakistani all-rounder Lal Kumar and the return of Gary Scott after just one season with the Cestrians.
With Ryan Pringle making it a trio of formidable players, Shaun Birbeck will expect the rest of his talented young Lyons cubs to be inspired to a top four placing.
New Zealand international Tom Latham is expected to join up with the South Shields’ squad once his country’s Test series with England finishes at the end of May.
The club also welcomes back left-arm paceman John Hutton after his return to the region, along with Bradley Skinner who spent a short time with Burnmoor.
Going the other way are Michael Dunn, Kris McShane and Rob Scorer, who have all moved to Whiteleas following their elevation to the new Durham Cricket League.
Durham Academy’s squad of 17 youngsters has several fresh young faces, with Jack Burnham and Ben Whitehead (Hetton Lyons), Reece Carr (Sacriston) and Jack Hardy (Darlington) all in the U16 or U17 age bracket. The rest of the squad is carried over from last season, although James Weighell will miss the first few weeks of the season following the recurrence of a back problem.
Tynemouth have returned to South Africa for their overseas player.
With Patrick Botha unable to commit to another season, the club moved quickly to secure the services of all-rounder Ruhan Pretorious, who has previous experience of English conditions when he enjoyed a successful season in the Derbyshire County League as a 19-year-old.
South Northumberland have stuck with the same squad, and who can blame them after they made it eight titles in ten years on the very last day of the 2012 season.
That was a bitter pill for Blaydon to swallow and they have reinforced their ranks with the signings of New Zealander Theo van Woerkrom, former Middlesex paceman Danny Evans, powerful batter Craig Burke (Kimblesworth), and the return of former players Joseph Reynolds, James Lloyd and Jamie Wightman. Elsewhere, the marquee signings at Newcastle are former Leicestershire batsman Jacques du Toit and ex Durham player Ben Raine.
Benwell Hill have picked up two Minor Counties players from Morpeth, Jonny Craigs and Dave Rutherford.
Gateshead Fell have young Aussie all-rounder Adam Whatley joining five other new faces, including Jaspreet Singh.
Stockton welcome back Peter Howells, although they don’t expect to see much of Keaton Jennings.