Durham Cricket League: Three new signings bolster Philadelphia for title challenge

Hetton Lyons bowler Eddie Watson celebrates getting South Shields batsman Luke Elliott lbw last Saturday.

Hetton Lyons bowler Eddie Watson celebrates getting South Shields batsman Luke Elliott lbw last Saturday.

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Philadelphia are in confident mood ahead of the start of their Division One season, looking to improve on last year’s third-place finish.

Phili, who begin with a trip to Whiteleas and Harton on Saturday (1.30pm start), have boosted their squad with a hat-trick of signings.

The Bunker Hill side overcame a major close-season blow by signing Pakistani Zohaib Shera to replace Indian Amer Singh, who was ineligible to play in this country this season.

Captain Shaun Smith explained: “It was a huge loss when we got the news that Singh would be unable to join us for a second season, but I am confident we have signed an excellent replacement.

“Zohaib has played 31 first-class games and taken 124 wickets. He is a left-arm seamer and should do very well.”

In addition, Phili have lined-up David Lowther from Dawdon. He is an all-rounder who began with Eppleton before moving to Burnmoor where he had a very successful time.

Another signing is young Jack McBeth, who is highly rated as a pace bowler and hard-hitting batsman. Last summer, he was with Eppleton and previously figured at Hetton Lyons.

Smith added: “It will be a very competitive league, but I am hopeful that again we will make an impact and challenge for top spot.”

Off the field, they have another major signing in former Durham coach Geoff Cook.

“A lot of people consider Geoff to be Durham’s best-ever signing,” said chairman Malcolm Pratt. “He comes in as performance director with responsibility for improving the skills of every player from under-11s right through to the senior squad.

“He has been working with the players for a few weeks now and they are over the moon to have such an outstanding coach at the club.”

Whiteleas and Harton begin life in the top flight, following last year’s memorable promotion campaign.

They have three new signings on board, with all-rounder Rameez Nawaz and batsmen Conor Elliot and Dev Sudhir making their debuts against Phili. Ryan Dowens has returned to the club following a short spell at Marsden.

Wicketkeeper Scott Oliver will assist skipper Owen Peterson this season, however, the latter misses his side’s curtain-raiser as he concludes his season’s management duties at Northern League soide Hebburn Town.

Peterson is delighted that the club have secured the services of overseas professional Abdul Ameer for another season, following a remarkable 2016 campaign.

He said: “We have been working since December to ensure the club gets the right accreditation to get Abdul back.

“That’s been our number one priority, therefore it is great that he has returned as he is exemplary on and off the pitch.

“We have also done well to get the others in that we have, as we know, it is going to be a very competitive division with some excellent sides.”

Dawdon begin with a home clash against Bill Quay, while newly-promoted Littletown host Seaham Park in what should be an intriguing clash.

Elsewhere, Horden face a derby date at Castle Eden, Durham City entertain Easington and Esh Winning entertain Tudhoe.

In Division Two, Silksworth, who managed just a solitary league win last summer in finishing in bottom spot, have a bye week following the sad demise of Houghton.

Ryhope face a tough start at home to Peterlee, who managed a fourth-place finish in 2016, while Hylton, relegated from the top flight following a difficult campaign, begin with a visit to Murton.

Boldon CA head to Ushaw Moor and Langley Park entertain Evenwood, while Marsden, who just missed promotion last season by the small margin of eight points, finishing in third place, have a testing away opener at relegated Crook Town, who will look to bounce back to the top divison at the first attempt.