Jason Wade believes the feel-good factor has returned to Long Melford CC ahead of their season opener away at Mistley II on Saturday (1pm).
Melford have dropped down to Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Division Three this year, following their relegation from Division Two in 2016.
But captain Wade, who has taken over as skipper for this season, is buoyant about his side’s prospects this term, especially with the signing of the club’s first-ever overseas player in 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Joshua Arendse from South Africa.
“We’ve had a very productive close season and there have been lots of goings on behind the scenes,” Wade said.
“Joshua is the club’s first overseas player and he flew over a couple of weeks back and has settled in well.
“He’s got certain qualities behind the stumps, he’s very sharp and has got quick hands.
“He stands up to most of our bowlers and I expect him to make a few stumpings this season. His batting is good too and he comes with a lot of good praise from South Africa.”
Arendse, who turns 21 next week, has been playing in the Western Province Cricket Association First Division this year, after breaking into the first team at Avendale, and is one of several new signings at Melford this season.
Sam Blackman has joined from Essex club Aythorpe Roding and will open the batting as well as being the club’s lead coach, while Jon Matthews (Needham Market) and former Melford bowler James French (Hadleigh) strengthen the bowling attack.
And while skipper Wade, who is going into his third year with the club, following an eight-year spell at Needham Market, is hopeful of better fortunes at the Meetingfield this season, the all-rounder’s main aim for the new campaign is to try to restore some stability to the team.
“Every game we’re going in wanting to get the most out of it, but ideally I want stability,” he said.
“I would like a regular core of players available, which I think we’ve got this year.
“Rather than using 36 players, which we did last season, not one Saturday all season did we have the same team twice, and in the long run it catches up with you.
“Things are looking up and there’s a good feeling around the club. It’s been much different to how it was last year.
“We’re looking for a good finish this year. We’ve got a good mix of experience and youth coming through.”
n Long Melford held an inter-club friendly on Saturday, which saw their first and second team players mixed up to form two XIs. Cameron Stace (65) and Matt Hoadley (53) top scored with the bat, while Harrison Bonner (2-18), Phillip King (2-25), Lawrence Hall (2-28), Mike Griffiths (2-30) and James French (2-48) took wickets each.