The 2007 cricket season starts on Saturday. Oulton Park are defending their title as the best team in Cheshire, while the other nine Mid Cheshire clubs are all aiming to climb the county ladder. Here, we preview their chances and hopes of success.
WINNINGTON Park and Middlewich are squaring up for a promotion showdown.
Both sides have made major signings and are among the favourites to climb out of the Second Division.
Winnington are still smarting from last season's relegation, while Middlewich have now established themselves as County League quality and are ready to move up.
Stewart Kane is an intriguing newcomer at Winnington.
He is a 25-year-old Kenya A teamer and would have been in their World Cup squad had he given up his South African passport.
But he has British parents and is marrying a girl from Wirral.
New captain Jeremy Casey said: 'He is a leg spinner and a top-order bat and obviously a top quality player who has played against England touring teams.'
Casey advertised for an overseas player on the internet and Kane was among the scores who responded.
Kevin Waterhouse played in the Winnington Park Under 15s side that won the National Championship in 1979 and makes a belated return to the Rec.
Since those heady days he has played for Congleton, Toft and Bollington and is a regular Cheshire player.
He is a left arm opening bowler and hard-hitting bat and is emigrating to Australia at the end of the season.
Paceman Nick Talbot-Butler has also returned to the club.
Middlewich have made a big-name signing in James Cornford, the former Cheshire bat and more than useful bowler.
He is one of two major recruits at Haddon Field, the other being David Bates.
Cornford, 27, played for Northants 2nd XI before becoming a Cheshire regular while with Alderley Edge and Nantwich.
He has since played for Oswestry and as a professional at Whitchurch.
Bates, another batsman, was a success at Middlewich previously before joining Bollington three years ago.
Middlewich chairman Richard Goolding said: 'Our amateur status is important to us and although we have players who were paid to play last season they will not cost our club any money.
'We are optimistic of being a real force this season.
'Having James is quite a coup for us. Middlewich also expect Steve Parry to be available for their County League Second Division campaign after missing last season through illness.
OULTON PARK completed a double-double last year - consecutive County League and Cheshire Cup triumphs - but can they be counted on a third year r unning?
After all they have set a standard which others are keen to match and they have lost established bowlers Stewart Eaton and Chris Jones and leading bat Paul Ber ry.
In comes Cheshire cap Guy Emmett, captured from Bowdon, and two teenagers from the Little Budworth club's youth section - Jonny Kettle and Jimmy Guest.
But, says spokesman Steve Yates, other clubs would be mistaken if they see the moves as a sign of weakness.
'It is not a shift in policy. They are in the first team on merit and Oulton Park will still be the team to beat.
'We have got a very good side and players a cut above everybody else in the league. Some sides may fancy their chances but they would be wrong to see the promotions (of Kettle and Guest) as a chink. We'll be up there.'
Oulton Park officially open their new nursery ground in June, but if Cheshire's leading club do have a problem it also one that afflicts many others.
'We have a brilliant youth policy, but we have a shortage of mature players in their 30s and 40s,' added Yates.
Saturday's games: ECB Premiership - Oulton Park v Urmston; Two - Irby v Middlewich, Winnington Park v Cheadle Hulme.