East Anglian Premier League champions Sudbury's side to be the envy of the league once again, says club captain Darren Batch
Darren Batch believes Sudbury’s team sheet will be ‘the envy of all their rivals’ as they get their bid for a hat-trick of straight East Anglian Premier League titles under way at Friars Street.
Cambridge, formerly known as Cambridge Granta, will be the first side to go up against what their club captain says is sure to be a stronger line-up than 12 months ago.
The sides meet at the home of the defending two-time champions on Saturday (11am) for the season opener with South African up-and-coming bowling all-rounder Henry Shipley in line for his first appearance for the Talbots. He has joined from last year’s overseas professional Tim Johnston’s ex-side Canterbury Kings, on his recommendation. Ryan Vickery (Elmstead) has come in to boost the batting line-up while former Scotland Under-19 international Paddy Sadler, 27, provides another seam bowling option, having relocated from Tunbridge Wells. He previously played with new captain Adam Mansfield at Cambridge MCCU.
Despite Dustin Melton having departed to pursue his professional dream with Derbyshire, and Tom Huggins’ game time set to be reduced to around half the campaign, Batch feels they are in great shape for another defence of their title.
“We are really confident the squad Adam has assembled is a really strong one,” he said.
“We are able to put out our strongest side on Saturday and I think that side will be the envy of any side in our league.
“We have four front line seamers, a couple of spinners and a batting line-up that goes down to nine or 10 on paper.
“We are even stronger than last year, but we have to make sure we put those performances on the field.”
Sudbury will be looking to become only the third side to ever win the EAPL three years on the trot, alongside Vauxhall Mallards (2002-04) and Swardeston (2012-16).
The latter ran them to within a point in the title race last year, but Batch expects it to be more than the two-horse race it has been for the previous two seasons.
“The way we defended the title last year will stand us in good stead again this year,” he said.
“I think there will be a couple of teams challenging for top spot this year. It was pretty much us and Swardeston last year.
“This year, you can definitely put Frinton in that bracket as they have strengthened well.
“I think it will be more competitive at the top and I can see three or four teams all there vying for it.”
Batch said preparations, including the first time they have played two warm-up matches, culminating in a 238 victory over Woolpit at Friars Street on Saturday, have gone well.
Of Saturday’s opponents Cambridge, who finished eighth last year, he said: “They have lost one of their main bowlers in Raj Singh to Haverhill, which is a blow for them, but I am sure they will prove a big test.”
The EAPL format remains the same with the first five games the shorter 50-over matches, which Sudbury tend to thrive in.
Last season’s captain and coach Huggins has taken on the role of Essex’s batting coaching, meaning when they play away from Chelmsford he will be unavailable for Sudbury duties.
Meanwhile, as it did on the eve of the season last year, Friars Street will host the Suffolk side for Sunday’s Twenty/20 double-header versus Cambridge MCCU, as part of their warm-up matches.
Sudbury captain Mansfield is still also captain of the county side and has made three changes to the side which lost to Essex II by 116 runs in a friendly at Frinton on Sunday (11am).
Opening batsman Jaik Mickleburgh and all-rounders Jake Foley and Jack Beaumont all come into the side in place of Kyran Young, Mike Comber and Fergus Atkins.
Sudbury’s Batch, Ben Reece and James Poulson are all in the squad again, along with former Talbot and Kent professional Matt Hunn.