BARNTON have raised eyebrows and expectations by taking the League's top batsman Dave Ashley away from Davenham.
Ashley scored well over 1,000 runs last season but Davenham fell short of promotion.
The County League seemed the place for Ashley's talents, yet he has stepped down a division instead.
Barnton captain Steve Yarwood said: 'He is the best signing we have made in a long time.
'He has mates here and started coming to our place for a pint, enjoyed it and thought we had plenty of potential.
'We do have a fantastic set-up and a track prepared by Jimmy Davies which is the best in the league and the perfect stage for Ashley.
'We have a ground fit for the County League and that is our aim.
'We have a strong 2nd XI in support. Other clubs' forums are tip-ping us for the Second Division title and I am optimistic of promotion. We are aiming for the County League in the next two years.
'The key is a good start - it was only at the back end of last season we pulled our fingers out.'
Barnton have lost wicketkeeper Matthew Morthet, whose role is taken by Paul Coot.
Davenham believe they won't miss Ashley too much after replacing him their first overseas player, Aussie Aidan Baker, of Manly, who has done duty - batting and bowling - for Winnington Park in the last two years.
Baker's County League experience will be invaluable, but he misses the start of the season, however, being on duty with Sky TV at the Cricket World Cup.
Davenham's promotion challenge trailed away towards the end of last season, but the experience may give them staying power this time round.
Phil Sharples leads a side further boosted by the return of Mark Kueres after two summers in Greece. Ben Gough and Louis Bentley have been training with Cheshire squads through the winter.
Off the field, Davenham now have 11 qualified coaches and have invested in new two-bay nets, with other improvements all pointing the way to the County League.
Barry Crellin dropped a pre-season bombshell at WINSFORD when he gave up the captaincy. But he gave Martin Barrett, 24, a chance to live out his dream.
Barrett said: 'Barry has not been able to concentrate on cricket and it was right that he stepped down.
'Winsford is my only club and it's always been a dream to captain the first team, so I did not hesitate in taking over.
'Barry will play, though, we have got a youthful squad and with consistent availability of our players I think we will be in the top half.'
Barrett is a full-time cricket coach with the Cheshire development scheme at Moss Farm.
He will open the batting with Anthony Ollier, but Winsford have lost Welsh run-getter Jon Phillips, who has joined Hartford, and their former skipper Mark Nicholas, who is taking a season off and is standing as a candidate in the Vale Royal Borough Council elections in the Over ward next month.
Barrett added: 'Some of our juniors are now coming of age and I expect big things from the likes of Mike Clarke and James Dean.'
NORTHWICH begin their second season in the League that much wiser and seeking promotion.
They were mid-table last season but believe the experience will offset the loss of Nick Shaw (retired) while his brother Ant, paceman and big hitter, downgrades himself to lighter duties through injury.
Northwich are boosted by the arrival from Holmes Chapel of middle order bat Mark Rebbeck and bowler Jonathon Pryce, but football deprives them of key men Mike Brandon and Peter Gibbon early on.
Paul Alcock and Nigel Goolding, products of North-wich's admired junior system, expect to be regular first teamers.
John O'Sullivan skip-pers the side with Mark O'Neil taking over the 2nds from Steve Riley. He has Richard Mad-dock and Dean Kendrick back after a year sidelined with inj u r y.
Northwich have lost promising spinner Glinoj Cherian to Winnington Park but believe they have made an excellent signing in under 19 Toby Hopkinson, who has played for Shrewsbury School.
He and James Hodkinson may be the next to break into the senior teams.
OAKMERE welcomed back Ian Eaton after a season at Winnington Park and immediately installed him as captain.
He will bat at three and another returnee could boost Oakmere's chances further.
Jim Ackerley is back after a tour of duty with the Army in Afghanistan and has the potential for bags of runs, while veteran Chris Leech, 55, is expected to contribute expertise and big scores.
Spinner Nick Guest gives the attack a much-needed slow option.
There has been a feeling of underachievement at Overdale Lane in recent seasons and Eaton will be looking for a promotion challenge at least.
Steve Percival, the 2nd XI skipper, can call on Peter Jones, who has returned from Stretton, and can again rely on over-60 prolific wicket-taker Eddie Gibson.
WEAVERHAM suffered their second successive relegation last season.
But they bank mainly on the players who were in the County League two years ago to get them out of the second division.
Their first overseas player, Aussie Lucas Fraser, 19, who showed great promise with bat and ball last summer, is back at Wallerscote Road.
New skipper Rob McMillan says he does not want the team to hang around in Division Two.
Veteran bat Phil Harris leads the youthful seconds, as the club's juniors begin to break through.
Weaverham also have a new chairman in Rod Stitch, better known for filling the same role at Northwich Vics. Fundraising events are planned and the President's Day match is to be resurrected under Phil Johnson.
Saturday's games: One - Davenham v Stockport Georgians, Prestbury v Oakmere; Two - Mere v Weaverham, Trafford MV v Barnton, Winsford v Barrow; Three - Old Parkonians v Northwich.