SPARKS are set to fly when Sudbury and Halstead lock horns for the first time on a cricket pitch in three years on Saturday.
It will be Sudbury’s long-awaited debut in the East Anglian Prmeier League (EAPL) after they stormed to the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship last season.
But star South African overseas player Jandre Coetzee is not returning for a third season and the Talbots have replaced him with Sri Lankan, Hassantha Fernando, who has an EPL winners medal, while fellow countryman Sujith Janaka, 34, will fill in for the first month.
Meanwhile, Halstead have made heads turns with their transfer coup, completing the ECB-approved paperwork for experienced Bangladesh one day international bowler Syed Rasel to join up with them in early May.
Both sides have survival on their lips for the forthcoming campaign but no-one will want to be on the losing side on the opening day at Friars Street (11am), where a bumper crowd is expected to line the outfield in perfect cricket weather.
Sudbury captain Darren Batch, said: “I have never played in a derby and from what I can gather they used to be fairly fiesty occasions.
“There will certainly be an edge to it with it being our first game in the premier league and being our local rivals.
“It will be a good test for us.”
Halstead captain Tom Philp, whose side pulled off a miraculous last day escape for the second year running last season hopes a slow start doesn’t hinder them again.
“It is an important game for both sides,” he said. “Hopefully we will start off well but obviously we did not start the last two like that and hopefully we can change that.”
For Sudbury, 17-year-old Suffolk junior fast bowler Matthew Hunn has signed and will be in line for his Talbots debut alongside Craig Smith a 23-year-old all rounder who has joined from Hornchurch in Essex and just moved to Castle Hedingham. He previously played alongside Batch at Wickford in Essex.
But the Friars Street club, Sudbury’s oldest sports club, dating back to 1787, have been dealt a blow on the eve of the season with the news influential batsman Jay Phillips is expected to be out for the whole campaign with a nasty back injury. Batch has said wise heads Pete Seigert (last season’s captain) and Al Younger will be his batting openers.
For Halstead, Ged Cawkwell has left the club to drop down a level with more local side Copdock, while Oliver Ekers, 19, who is in the Essex development squad, and is a middle-order batsman, has signed up from Shenfield. Jake Foley, a leg spinner from Colchester, has also transferred to Halstead and plays in the same Essex under-17s side as Ekers.
The signing of exciting overseas player Rasel, who has played six test matches and 52 ODIs for Bangldesh, including touring in England with his homeland last year, has been credited to club member Ian Pond, Bangladesh’s bowling coach at this year’s Cricket world Cup, whose contract ended after the tournament.
Batch added Sudbury’s main problem rising up a level will be the longer format of EAPL matches, which start two hours earlier to incorporate a maximum of 66 overs for the opening batters and 54 for the second batting side. He said the key will not be to focus on run-rate, as in 50 overs format, but to stay in for maximum overs.