Ben Wallis is hoping his Hadleigh CC side can make Saturday’s opening of the Friars Road outfit’s revamped £250,000 pavilion extra special by marking the occasion with a home win.
The project to extend and modernise the 50-year-old pavilion will culminate after five months of hard work when Hadleigh host Mistley this weekend in the first game to be played with its facilities — including a new changing block — in use.
“It is great not just for the cricket club but the whole community,” said Wallis, who is looking to put Saturday’s three-wicket defeat at Frinton behind them to make it two home wins from two this season, having beaten Haverhill on the opening day of the 2017 campaign.
A change in policy with an overseas player, opting this year for a more experienced one in Brock Price — an opening batsman and medium-pace bowler from New Zealand — is part of the plan to steady the ship after a forgettable 2016.
Wallis’ side were only spared relegation from the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship’s top division last season after Coggeshall were deducted 77 points for games where they were found to have fielded an ineligible player.
It provided an 11th hour reprieve for Hadleigh but Wallis is hopeful they have enough in their ranks this season to not be fighting another relegation battle.
“We have got to re-establish ourselves as a first division club,” he said of their 2017 season target.
“This year we are just rebuilding a side for a mid-table finish. We have a couple of new lads and a different overseas player.”
Ash Clark, who bats six or seven and is a middle order off-spinner, with injuries preventing him from opening, has joined from last season’s champions Mildenhall along with St Joseph’s College 15-year-old opening batsman Matthew Kent.
And although the latter teen will not be available for around half the campaign due to school cricket commitments, Wallis has said he will not be afraid to put any youngster into the cut-and-thrust of Division One, if they are up to it.
“He (Matthew Kent) played the first weekend of the season and looked really good over the winter.
“I am a big believer of giving people a chance if they deserve it”, he said.
n Hadleigh were weakened by unavailable players, including captain Wallis, for Saturday’s trip to Frinton-on-Sea II — with their total of 226-8 surpassed by the hosts with three wickets to spare (230-7).
Despite narrowly losing, Hadleigh could take plenty of positives out of the game.
Tom Piddington was the weekend star player as Hadleigh’s stand-in captain, digging his side out of deep trouble with a run-a-ball 100 and three vital wickets.
When he came to the crease, Hadleigh’s innings was in tatters at 17-4.
It was left to Piddington and Josh Davey to repair the damage.
Their partnership reached 150 before Davey was out for 49, while Piddington went on to complete his century from only 99 balls.
It looked a competitive score, and with four overs left the home side still required 36. But some big shots from Lewis Catlow saw Frinton home with one ball to spare.
Meanwhile, Hadleigh’s Sunday side continued their unbeaten start to the season with a seven-wicket win at Woolpit.