Premier league previews for the 2012 club cricket season

Mal Loye will be joining Finedon Dolben in the Northamptonshire league as a player/coach

Mal Loye will be joining Finedon Dolben in the Northamptonshire league as a player/coach

It’s local, it’s good to watch … and it’s free. So this summer, turn up on a Saturday and support the top teams in your area. Here is our correspondents’ full set of previews for every ECB premier league or equivalent in the country. The leagues are arranged by region and official ECB premier leagues are marked with an asterisk.

Scottish National league
With the new league structure in place – an eight-team Eastern Premier and an eight-team Western Premier – the winners will play off for the overall title. Carlton look favourites to retain their crown, but watch out for a reinvigorated Grange. Gary Heatly

Cork County have been the dominant side over the last decade thanks to top players like Ross Durity and Bruce Koch. But the young Cork Harlequins have been showing glimpses of potential over the last two seasons and could cause an upset this year. David Gash

Railway Union, with Kenny Carroll, Trent Johnston and Kevin O’Brien knocked North County off their perch last season. However, Johnston will not be at Union this season (his new club is not yet known). Merrion and The Hills shouldn’t be written off as they too boast quality within their ranks. DG

Only four points separated North Down from second place Warringstown last term and they will no doubt be in the shake-up come September. Keep an eye on CIYMS though who have made a number of high profile signings, notably Irish international batsman Chris Dougherty, who joins from Brigade. DG

North West
In a notoriously close league, Limivady were just pipped at the post by Brigade last year and they will be looking to get one over on their near neighbours this season. Strabane were disappointed with their fourth position and will be out to prove a point. DG

North Wales Premier*
Llandudno hope to regain the title from Connah’s Quay after losing it in controversial circumstances last year (see November issue). Colwyn Bay have signed South Australia quick Jake Haberfield while fellow countryman Marcus Adams has joined Mochdre. The allrounder bowls both right arm seam and left arm spin. Luke Sellers

SWALEC Premier*
Simon Jones could cause a stir after being allocated to Newport. Last year’s runners-up Bridgend threatened legal action after losing the league title to Cardiff because of points docked for a poor pitch. The two face each other in the second game of the season. LS

North West
Cheshire County*
Champions Nantwich will be without last year’s prolific overseas man Glenn Batticciotto but are still in pole position to complete a hat-trick. Hyde, reinforced by ex-Lancashire second XI batsman Chris Tipper, could be the main threat. Andrew Collomosse

Liverpool Competition*
Not many leagues can boast the presence of two current County Champions among their ranks. But Lancashire left-arm spinners Simon Kerrigan and Stephen Parry will be twirling away for champions Ormskirk and 2011 runners-up Bootle respectively, subject to county commitments of course. AC

Northern Premier*
St Annes and Leyland, last year’s top two, are favourites but expect a challenge for a first crown since 2008 from Netherfield, reinforced by the arrival of South African Jacobus Pienaar. AC

Lancashire Cup winners Greenmount completed a league double last year but Farnworth and Egerton have a realistic chance along with Horwich, who last won the title in 1983. AC

Central Lancashire
How appropriate if Middleton, runners-up in 2011, were to go one better as a tribute to their former professional Basil D’Oliveira, who died last November. Champions Norden, seeking a hat-trick, will not go quietly, however. AC

Todmorden celebrate their 175th anniversary this year so what better time to improve on last year’s third place and win a first championship since 1957? Champions Lowerhouse, Accrington and Ramsbottom will have other ideas. AC

North Lancs & Cumbria
Despite losing skipper Stuart Horne because of work commitments, Furness start favourites for a fourth successive title. But Haverigg, who have recruited former West Indies batsman Brenton Parchment, could be dark horses. AC

North East
North East Premier*
Champions South Northumberland snatched back their title from Chester-le-Street in the final over last season and this duo will be the front runners again. Although South North’ will miss the runs of Chris Hewison who has moved on after ten years, they have secured batsman Joe Coyne who has spent two seasons with Durham Academy. Bob Crosby

Durham Senior
With a second division proposed for 2013, this year could be the last featuring the current member teams. Champions Kimblesworth will take some catching but they won’t have too much to spare over Boldon, whose young batsman James Coyne is one to watch. BC

Northumberland and Tyneside Senior
Four-times champions Swalwell have replaced Durham and Scotland’s Kyle Coetzer with Chris Hewison. With former Durham men Nicky Philips and Ian Pattinson, the team should withstand the customary challenge from Shotley Bridge and Neil Killeen’s Annfield Plain. BC

North Yorkshire & South Durham*
In the ECB’s latest premier league, Champions Marton, who clinched the 2011 title at the death in September, look favouriters. Runners-up Hartlepool hope to have PCA umpire of the year Michael Gough available when his duties permit. Sedgefield, once the base of Wayne Larkins, make their premier league debut. BC

Yorkshire County Premier*
It’s hard to see anyone denying York a sixth successive crown but after winning the League Cup last year, the Yorkshire Academy’s progress will be closely monitored by league and county supporters alike. AC

In 2011, Woodlands fought off surprise challengers Farsley to land a fifth title in seven years and will fancy their chances of a sixth. As ever, though, there will be no shortage of contenders, with East Bierley and Cleckheaton likely to be in the shake-up. AC

Central Yorkshire
Wrenthorpe are looking to complete a hat-trick of championships and will be the team to beat. But Methley won their last seven matches in 2011, as well as reaching the Yorkshire Council final, and will be a threat if they hit the ground running. AC

Honley have dominated with six titles in seven years and know what it takes to get over the line. But one of these days, Delph & Dobcross or Kirkburton will lose the nearly men tag. AC

South Yorkshire
Whitley Hall and Elsecar were top dogs in 2011, but Treeton are serial winners, too, and can be expected to mount a challenge along with Whiston. AC

Birmingham and District Premier*
Last year’s winners Barnt Green will take some beating under the shrewd captaincy of former Warwickshire all-rounder Dougie Brown. National cup winners Shrewsbury, who have recruited Nottinghamshire and England Lions batsman James Taylor, will be Barnt Green’s biggest threat. Paul Bolton

Derbyshire Premier*
The former Derbyshire seamer and Ockbrook & Borrowash captain Kevin Dean has been elected to the county’s committee but those commitments are unlikely to prevent him from tormenting club batsmen again. PB

Leicestershire Premier*
Loughborough pipped Market Harborough to the title last September and the pair are expected to slug it out again. Loughborough should see more of seamer Tom Wells, son of former England rugby forwards coach John, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. PB

North Staffordshire and South Cheshire*
Longton have set out their ambitions of taking the title by signing Audley trio Craig Barker, Dave Fairbanks and Richard Holloway plus batsman Richard Hassall from champions Wood Lane. Cheadle have recruited Derbyshire batsman Garry Park and former Worcestershire opener David Wheeldon. PB

Nottinghamshire Cricket Board Premier*
Former Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire batsman Bilal Shafayat has joined the West Indian Cavaliers but the team has lost former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq to increased coaching commitments. Defending champions Clifton Village have lost former Derbyshire batsman Dan Birch to Kimberley and former Surrey and Nottinghamshire batsman Darren Bicknell has joined Caythorpe from Belvoir. PB

East Anglian Premier*
Champions, and national cup finalists, Cambridge Granta, are not renewing their association with Jason Coleman, the allrounder who led them to back-to-back league titles. Swardeston, national T20 champions in 2010 have lost Kiwi allrouder Jaden Hatwell. If Vauxhall Mallards can keep a strong squad together, they could take advantage. Andrew Abbott

Lincolnshire Cricket Board Premier*
Current champions Bracebridge Heath will take some beating but with six clubs naming new captains and several useful overseas signings, the league is likely to be even more competitive than 2011. Ann Boulton

Finedon Dolben – bidding for an 11th title in 14 years – have recruited Mal Loye as coach and he is expected to play in roughly half their matches. However, Northampton Saints, runners-up by a single point in 2011, also look stronger with the signing of ex-Notts seamer, Andy Oram. Andrew Radd

Home Counties
Home Counties Premier*
A changing of the guard at Henley, champions in 2009 and 2010, means that High Wycombe, who sprang a surprise when they romped home last year, are the favourites – just – in a highly competitive league. Josh Burrows

Surrey Championship*
The Champions, Wimbledon, will be further strengthened by the young Australian leggie Tim Monteleone and Australian ODI specialist John Hastings. Reigate Priory, with the Murtagh brothers and Neil Saker, will probably be the closest challengers. On the advice of the police, league games will be suspended on the weekend of the Olympic road race. JB

Middlesex County*
Is it all about Ealing? Well, probably. David Holt’s team, spearheaded by Chris Peploe, will be chasing an eighth successive victory and have developed the knack of winning ugly. The team to watch will be Eastcote with four young Middlesex players in Tom Scollay, Gurjit Sandhu, Ravi Patel and Adam Rossington. JB

Essex Premier*
Half the 2012 season will be 100-over win/lose games with the other nine matches played on a 110-over win/lose/draw format. Brentwood’s youngsters are still the side to beat but newly promoted Buckhurst Hill are Essex indoor champions and also coming up from Division One are League Cup champions, Shenfield. JB

South East
Maurice Holmes, a 21-year-old offspinner dubbed, the ‘English Murali’, will return to Sevenoaks Vine after a stint in Warwickshire. However, he may not be allowed to bowl his doosra which was found to be illegal last season. Former champions Bromley are strengthened by the arrival of former Essex and Surrey left-hander Richard Clinton from Bickley Park, who have themselves recruited the Indian one-ODI wonder Abhijit Kale. Mike Vimpany

Southern Electric Premier*
Havant, champions three times in the past four seasons, expect to rely on an unchanged squad. Bournemouth, though boosted by Scott Barlow’s return from Budleigh Salterton as captain, have lost teenage batting prodigy Michael Porter to the Hampshire Academy and Oxford UCCE hopeful Simon Watkins. MV

Hastings & St Leonard’s Priory defend their crown without the influential Jason Finch, who ended a glittering club career after last season’s title triumph. Left-hander George Campbell replaces him as captain, boosted by Sri Lankan Sujith Perera, who has joined from Taplow. Preston Nomads expect Antiguan Carl Simon to return, alongside Sussex Academy prospect Matt Hobden. MV

West of England
Last year’s title race went down to the wire and it is set to be the same again in 2012 with St Just, Callington and Werrington set to challenge reigning champions Truro. Paul CC Captain and Cornwall allrounder Justin Stephens has joined Falmouth. LS

The Devon Premier League will be straight win/lose cricket for the first time in its history in 2012. Bovey Tracey are likely to be the main threat to champions North Devon after signing ex-Devon skipper Neil Hancock. LS

West of England*
Former Somerset batsmen Robin Lett will be looking to lead Bath to a third successive title after taking over from ex-Gloucestershire seamer Tom Stayt. The league has introduced powerplays and free-hits for a front foot no ball. LS

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