CHESHIRE chairman Gerry Hardstaff has been delighted with the way his county have reestablished themselves in the Minor Counties Championship Western Division.
Having experienced a tough season last year because of a lack of availability from key players, this term has seen a reversal in fortunes.
The county have lost only one game - a defeat against Herefordshire in the quarter-finals of the MCCA Knockout Cup. And that loss was largely down to David Ward, the former Surrey batsman, who has been smashing runs for fun this season. His quickfire hundred setting the platform for Herefordshire's win.
But apart from that Cheshire skipper Andy Hall has led his men to an impressive unbeaten run in the league, which has left them flying high near the top of the table. Not bad going for a captain only in his second year in charge of his county.
"Andy [Hall] is a lot more settled now and, all in all, we've had a very good year," said Hardstaff. "We have shown signs of promise with the way we have played this year.
"We have missed a few key players, but the lads that have come in have generally done a good job."
Indeed, this season has seen the emergence of talented batting aces Nafees Din, Danny Leech and Martyn Knight - all under 23. Din smashed a career-best 160 against Berkshire this season, as well as a debut century in the first game of the year against Dorset at Oxton.
And not to be outdone Leech and Knight have both revelled at the chance to shine for their county.
Leech has chipped in with some valuable half-centuries, while Knight has shown his flamboyant stroke play. Good news for their county, according to Hardstaff.
"The young lads that have come in have done very well," said Hardstaff. "Martyn Knight has done well in the games he played and is definitely one to keep an eye on - he's a great prospect for the future.
"Nafees has got some big scores and Danny has shown he can get runs opening the batting, so if we can keep the nucleus of the team together, we should really benefit over the next few years."
He added: "We have done the best we can this year with the players that have been available.That's just the way it goes sometimes and I think we have got to be pleased with our performances this season - there is plenty to build on."