CHESTER Boughton Hall will call on two of the hottest properties in Cheshire cricket when the 2010 season swings into action on Saturday.
Jim Gillson’s side go to Neston for the Cheshire County League’s Premier Division curtain-raiser with Lancashire academy player Chris Connolly and Kent left-arm paceman Ashley Shaw in their squad.
The two players will be keen to make an impact on the first-class scene with their respective counties this year, but they will also continue to turn out for Boughton Hall.
Hall skipper Gillson said: “We don’t know how much we will be able to use Ash this season, but we will have him available for a number of games.
“With Chris, we expect him to play a key role. He has been training this winter with England under 19s and he is showing great improvement.”
Shaw, who celebrates his 19th birthday today, enjoyed an impressive debut campaign with Boughton Hall last year after signing from Nantwich. The club’s young player of the year for 2009, he was last week snapped up by Kent on a two-year contract after impressing on trial.
Connolly was sent out to Chester last summer by Lancashire but injuries limited his impact. Now fit, he has been bowling at around the 80mph mark in the nets.
Connolly will be hoping to fill the shoes of departed pro Darron Cruickshank. The big Trinidadian broke into the first-class ranks in his home country during the winter and won’t be returning to Filkins Lane this summer.
Blending youth and experience will be key to Hall’s success. The club has launched a development squad to get the best out of its most promising youngsters and has also lured former skipper Steve Ogilby back to the side after a season with Nantwich.
Hall have re-signed Trevor Fabien and Maroof Khan, as well as retaining the services of Cheshire star Warren Goodwin, last season’s Premier Division player of the season.
“In those four we have as good a top order as any team in this league,” said Gillson, who guided his team to eighth last season. “If they perform, we should do well.”
Neston have seen their preparations hit by news that star teenage batsman David Hurst will be out until August with an ankle injury sustained while training at Durham University.
But they have drafted in North Wales-based former Macclesfield and Cheshire pace-bowler James Hawley and teenage Upton batsman Luke Camden.
Rumours that Oulton Park skipper Nathan Dumelow was to leave the champions proved untrue as he leads them in their title defence.
Park batsmen Louis Bentley and Nick James have been playing Aussie grade cricket in Melbourne throughout the winter, with Bentley hitting several centuries.
Free-scoring batsman Iroshan de Silva has returned to Christleton and will be looking to spearhead their quest for a return to the County League’s top flight.
The 31-year-old Sri Lankan – Division One’s player of the season in 2009 after he scored a league record 1,162 runs – has pledged another season to the Chester club.
Skipper Paul Allen is also hoping to have an overseas player to bolster his squad as they look to return to the Premier Division after finishing joint second in Division One last year. Agonisingly, they missed on promotion due to Bramhall winning one more game than them.
Christleton stalwart Brian Wareing said: “I think this year we are ready to go one step further. We have not lost any players. Simon Ratcliffe and Dave Bates, both of whom scored 500 runs last season, have returned and of course we have Iroshan, who is a classy player.”
Tattenhall have raised their Division Two ambitions by signing Oulton Park spinner Craig Williamson.
Following the departure of captain Rob Mulvihill to Liverpool, wicket-keeper Roy Sandford has stepped into the breach and will field a two-pronged spin attack with Williamson partnering Mel Dobson.
Ewan Drake has been appointed to skipper the second team and groundsman Brian Jerrard succeeds the late Graham Davidson as league representative.