Prolonged winter rain has challenged the groundsmen but our local Premier League clubs have been sprucing up their grounds and are raring to go under a trio of new skippers. After over-wintering with Billingshurst FC, Stuart Barber tells the District Post: “We’ve been training hard at Hove ahead of our second season in the top flight. We gave a good account of ourselves last year, winning seven games, and are looking to prove and establish ourselves as genuine contenders. We’re a young side, get on really well together. Danny (Dhanushka Mitipolaarachchi) will be back and we’ve signed experienced league all-rounder Tom Haynes from East Grinstead – he’ll be a great asset. Can’t wait to get started!”
New Horsham Chairman Richard Marshall says: “Michael Thornely has returned – his county experience is a real boost. Joe Ludlow joins from Three Bridges and our overseas player is Jofra Archer – an attacking batsman and a more than useful bowler, having played in the Premier League for Middleton, trialled for Sussex and represented the West Indies at U19 level.” New Captain, James Johnson rates Jofra very highly, adding: “We’re expecting Sam Cushing to come back, too. With Michael Munday, winner of the League’s bowling award for the last four years, Sussex’s Will Beer and George Garton – when they’re available – and exciting emerging talent I’m confident of a good season!”
Matt Davies picks up the reins at Roffey, saying: “Liam Gibson, an all-rounder from Sydney, is our new overseas – and top spinner Luke Barnard returns while Mike Norris has moved on, giving opportunities to our impressive young players. I’m expecting George Fleming to lead our attack again – he’s looking to overtake his last year’s record 47 wicket haul. We’ve got a great team spirit and excellent support and everyone’s looking forward to defending our back to back championship titles!”
On Sunday (April 24), in Round 1 of the ECB National Club Championship Knock Out Cup Billingshurst go to Reigate Priory and Horsham to Sutton (Roffey having a bye). And on April 30 in Round 1 of the Gray-Nicolls T20 Sussex Cup Billingshurst play Brighton and Hove, while Horsham and Roffey visit Division 2 opposition (Horsham at Ifield and Roffey at Lindfield).
The Premier League starts on May 7, when Billingshurst host Bexhill, Horsham entertain Brighton & Hove and Roffey travel to Cuckfield. Intriguing local derbies include Horsham v Roffey on June 25 (when there will be a Music Festival at Cricketfield Road) – and the return match at Roffey on August 27, the week after Horsham visit Billingshurst seeking revenge for two defeats at the hands of last season’s newcomers.
There will also be the customary programme of Sussex 2nd XI fixtures at Horsham CC, plus representative matches – and a much coveted game against Lashings All Stars, on August 24.
Martin Read – Sports Reporter