LECHLADE CC will be looking to go one better than last year's runner-up spot and earn promotion to the Premier Leagues for the first time in the club's 128-year history when the cricket season starts this weekend.
Lechlade chairman Paul Rowley was determined to build on last season’s league and cup successes, his first job being to find a high quality overseas replacement for the popular and successful Kiwi Arnie Yugaraja who has returned to New Zealand to complete his education.
Rowley initially signed West Indian ex-Test player Sylvester Joseph but the riverside club were dealt a nasty blow at the beginning of March when Joseph reported he was experiencing visa problems and was unlikely to make the start of the season.
Rowley was quick to replace the Antiguan with Juanre van Wyk. The South African is an explosive right-hand batsman who can keep wicket as well and new Lechlade captain Joe Breet said: “Juanre will be a great asset to the club. He has played here before and scored just short of 1,200 runs last year for Rushden Town in the Northamptonshire League.
"He will also be great cover for Sam (Burdock) with the gloves if we need him.”
Breet, who replaces Lechlade stalwart Paul Godding as captain for the 2014 campaign, continued: “We have a stronger all-round team this year with the addition of quality players such as Ryan Higgins and Michael Craigs.
"I think it’s a team that can bat to 11 and everyone can bowl as well. I don’t think I am going to be short of options no matter what is thrown at us this season.”
Zimbabwean Ryan Higgins, who has 11 ODI caps to his name, will add more explosive depth to the Lechlade middle order batting line-up along with Breet, Willy Nichols, Arran Dickinson and Tris Hawkes.
On paper it looks the strongest batting line-up in the West of England Glos/Wilts Division.
Northumberland Minor Counties left arm seamer Craigs also joins the club after relocating to the area. He and coach Luke Sellers will spearhead the Lechlade attack.
Craigs has already hit the ground running this season with an impressive Minor Counties performance last week when he took 6-27. Sellers said: “The bowling side of the team looks very strong this year and I hope that Michael and myself can lead the way and that Asanka (Vithanage), Paul (Godding), Willy (Nichols), Ryan (Higgins) and Joe (Breet) can capitalise on good starts with the ball.”
Lechlade have also secured the services of the young and up-and-coming batsman Oli Thornley from Cirencester CC and he has impressed captain and coach with his pre-season form.
He and young Freddie Martin will add considerably to Lechlade’s batting for the season and the club's future.
Lechlade kick the league season off with an away trip to Gloucester City Winget on Saturday and a rearranged National Village Cup game against Shrewton on Sunday at the Manor Ground. Lechlade expect to be at full strength for both games.