Steer ready for the premier challenge
IT HAS been a long time coming, but weather permitting Canterbury will take their bow in the Premier Division of the Shepherd Neame Kent Cricket League this Saturday when they travel to face Bromley, last season's runners-up to Hartley Country Club.
"We'll go there full of confidence and very well prepared," said Canterbury captain Paul Steer, who last season led them to promotion from Division One.
"At this level it's possible to play with too much fear, but we're not afraid of anyone."
Facing a summer of top flight Kent League cricket for the first time in their history, the city club have strengthened their squad during the close season.
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Ben Kemp and opener James Lilley have both joined from neighbours St Lawrence and Highland Court while Scott Narraway arrives from Broadstairs.
Canterbury's overseas player this season will be Aussie Tim Bishop, who was with Sibton Park last summer.
"I'm happy with the players we've brought in," said Steer. "We didn't want to make wholesale changes because that wouldn't have been good for the club or loyal to the players who won us promotion last time out.
"The new players have all played in the Premier League and they can all score runs." In Division One both Whitstable and St Lawrence will be hoping to challenge for promotion.
Whitstable finished fourth last season, running out of steam late in the campaign, but there's a real buzz at the Belmont ahead of the new season, not least at the arrival of overseas player Rahul Tondulkar.
A product of the Mumbai Cricket Academy, the 22-year-old opener had a spell at Chestfield back in 2007.
"He's played at a good standard and he's a real nice lad," said Sam Denly, Whitstable's captain this season.
"He's fitted in really well and we're hoping he can do the business for us."
Tondulkar injured a finger in training but will hopefully start in Saturday's league opener away at Sandwich Town.
Another new arrival at the Belmont is 19-year-old all-rounder Ollie Robinson, released by Kent, while Whitstable youngster Piers Richardson also looks likely to feature in the first team this campaign.
"It's been a long time since we were in the top flight," said Denly. "We will aim to improve on last season and the top three is our aim.
"It's going to be a tough division this year but we'll give it a go."
Over at Highland Court, meanwhile, St Lawrence are determined to put the disappointment of the last two seasons behind them.
Lewis Jenkins is first team skipper once again and he will lead a team bolstered by overseas players Charlie Wakin, who has Sydney Grade League cricket experience, and leg spinner Craig Buckham, who has played minor counties cricket for Cambridgeshire.
Also arriving is seam bowler James Rand from Tenterden.
"Last season the club was in turmoil," admitted Jenkins. "We lost several players and also had injuries. But while it was never going to be a great season we definitely underachieved.
"This year it looks like we're going to have a settled side and we want to prove a point, namely that as a club we're not on a downward spiral.
"We have such a lot of history that we want to take Saints back into the top flight, this year or next."
Dropping down a few divisions, following last season's promotion to Division Three Chestfield are in no mood for mere consolidation this time around and will be aiming for more success.
With pretty much the same squad that won the Division Four title last term, they will be joined by overseas player Swapnil Hazare, a 32-year-old all-rounder from Mumbai.
Captain Duncan Brown said: "We'll look to go for it again. We think we'll be strong enough to compete in this league, although Addington will be strong."
One drawback for Chestfield is that many of their younger players, away at boarding school, will not be available until June.
That's always assuming, of course, that we have a rain-free weekend before then.
Chestfield are scheduled to get the season underway this Saturday at home to Harvel, pitch permitting.
For much of last season Macknade looked on target for promotion from Division Four, eventually finishing eight points behind second placed Downham and Bellingham.
This season the Mack lads will be among the title favourites.
Herne Bay will be hoping for good things this season in Kent Regional Cricket League 1B East and have been boosted by returning to the town after years of nomadic existence.
Club chairman Giles Govier said: "Returning after so many years away is a big plus and hopefully it will have a knock-on effect on the pitch."
Bay will be based at Burton Down this season, but on Saturday are away to Selsted.
Govier said: "A good start could be vital. Realistically promotion is probably beyond us, but mid-table would be good and then we can hopefully push on."