Two Counties Championship preview: Halstead will not underestimate league

Halstead’s new skipper Charlie Douglas-Hughes has warned of underestimating the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship ahead of their Division One opener at Hadleigh.

Their opponents on Saturday’s opening day (all 1pm) were playing two leagues lower than them last season after Halstead came down from the East Anglian Premier League with a young team.

But Douglas-Hughes believes 19-year-old South African left-arm off-spinner Digby Harding, playing as their overseas professional, can light up the league.

“Last year he was the top wicket taker in all the South African schools across the country,” he said. “I have looked at him bowling and he looks to be an exceptional bowler.”

But with former captain Tom Philp (break), Josh Wells (Saffron Walden), Freddie and Bertie Blackwell (Colchester) having left, he believes it is now a season of ‘consolidating’.

Hadleigh skipper Josh Davey says survival at the higher level will be the aim.

“If you offer me anything above relegation I would take it,” he said, though confident they can spring some upsets with new signings Danny Rock, Jamie Rock, Matt Wareing and Luke Ibbs, the latter a 22-year-old batsman who was with Sydney over the winter months.

Following promotion from Division Three as runners-up last season, Long Melford begin their Division Two campaign at home to Easton on Saturday (1pm).

In Division Three, Sudbury II and Halstead II start with home games, against Frinton II and Kelvedon & Feering respectively.

Hadleigh II continue life in Division Four while Sudbury III join Long Melford II in Division Six following promotion, Earls Colne are in Division Seven and Halstead III in Division Eight West.