THE new local cricket season opens this weekend with no fewer than five teams from the Staffordshire Moorlands now gathered in the North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division.
Cheadle have joined Ashcombe Park, Blythe, Checkley and Leek in the top flight as last season’s Division One champions.
Cricket followers across the district can therefore look forward to a series of extra enthralling local derbies, commencing with two on the second week of the season (May 4), when Blythe entertain Leek at their Cresswell ground and Cheadle make the short trip to Checkley.
Leek only narrowly escaped relegation last year, after struggling in the early part of the season, and they will be desperate to make a much better start to their 2019 campaign.
The club will be looking to their new overseas signing, Pakistan all-rounder Saad Nasim, a top-order batsman and leg spinner, to bring the good times back to Highfield.
Leek face a tough opener against Blythe, who marked their first season in the top flight with an excellent third-place finish last year, but the visitors have since lost the services of their Staffordshire county seamer Matt Goodwin.
Goodwin has switched to Cheadle where he joins one of the league’s most exciting batsman, Pakistan big-hitter Ali Khan, scorer of over 2,300 runs in his two seasons with the Tean Road-based club.
Cheadle return to the top flight after being relegated in 2012 and then dropped down a further division.
Their rise back to the top division has been helped by home-bred all-rounder Jimmy Sellers, a formidable opening bowler with a habit of also hitting big scores when needed.
Checkley, who finished fourth last season, are without the useful Andrew Coxon (Cheadle) and Jack Hammond (Meakins) for their return to action , but veteran campaigner Andy Carr, who did well on his surprise call-up to the Staffordshire county team in 2019, remains in situ to give them an experienced helping hand.
Finally, Ashcombe Park, who signed off last September in a creditable mid-table position, have strengthened their side with the arrival of county wicketkeeper Tom Ball from neighbours Leek, while Pakistan left-arm seamer Saifur-Rehman is filling the overseas role
DANTI TYRES NORTH STAFFS AND SOUTH CHESHIRE CRICKET LEAGUE FIXTURES
Saturday, April 27
Premier Division (12.30pm): Ashcombe Park v Whitmore; Cheadle v Meakins; Hem Heath v Blythe; Leek v Moddershall & Oulton; Longton v Stone SP; Porthill Park v Checkley.
Division One (12.30pm): Audley v Knyperslry; Bursem v Weston; Caverswall v Eccleshall; Elworth v Sandyford; Little Stoke v Wood Lane; Newcastle & Hartshill v Bagnall Norton.
Division Two (12.30pm): Barlaston v Meir Heath; Endon v Bignall End; Kidsgrove v Leycett; Norton in Hales v Alsager; Silverdale v Stafford; Woore v Porthill Park 2s.
Division Three (1pm): Checkley 2s v Oakamoor; Eccleshall 2s v Sandbach; Meakins 2s v Cheadle 2s; Moddershall & Oulton 2s v Hem Heath 2s; Rode Park & Lawton v Crewe; Stone SP 2s v Hanford.
Division Four (1pm): Bignall End 2s v Audley 2s; Hem Heath 3s v Newcastle & Hartshill 2s; Meir Heath 2s v Silverdale 2s; Moddershall & Oulton 3s v Barlaston 2s; Stone SP 3s v Elworth 2s; Wedgwood v Longton 2s.
Division Five (1 pm): Alsager 2s v Little Stoke 2s; Bagnall Norton 2s v Porthill Park 3s; Blythe 2s v Leek 2s; Knypersley 2s v Meakins 3s; Weston 2s v Sandon; Whitmore 2s v Onneley.
Division Six (1pm): Hanford 2s v Moddershall & Oulton 5s; Leycett 2s v Burslem 2s; Oakamoor 2s V Woore 2s; Sandyford 2s v Ashcombe Park 2s; Stafford 2s v Moddershall & Oulton 4s; Wood Lane 2s v Caverswall 2s.
Division Seven (1pm): Betley v Hem Heath 4s; Church Eaton v Endon 2s; Moddershall & Oulton 6s v Kidsgrove 2s; Newcastle & Hartshill 3s v Audley 3s; Sandbach 2s v Rode Park & Lawton 2s; Stafford 3s v Norton in Hales 2s.
Division Eight (1pm): Checkley 3s v Wedgwood 2s; Crewe 2s v Sandbach 3s; Meakins 4s v Church Eaton 2s; Oakamoor 3s v Newcastle & Hartshill 4s; Onneley 2s v Stafford 4s; Porthill Park 5s v Porthill Park 4s.
Sunday, April 28
J S SPORTS TALBOT CUP
First round (1.30pm): Leek v Bagnall Norton; Burslem v Meakins; Wood Lane v Woore; Audley v Kidsgrove; Porthill Park v Weston; Leycett v Whitmore; Sandyford v Checkley 2s.