Dowley's Premier Division Verdict!

Premier League Preview 

The SCCL Premier Division has undergone a major revamp for 2019, with brand new playing regulations, electronic scoring , Duckworth Lewis and a new points system in place. In what looks a highly competitive top flight, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation from all involved . Virtually every team looks stronger on paper than they were in 2018, and with three sides down from the Birmingham League eager to bounce back through the new play off system, teams will want to hit the ground running on April 27th. 

League Committee member Jamie Dowley gives his verdict on the battle ahead 

Allscott Heath

Allscott Heath have reached the Premier Division once more and will be determined to give a good account of themselves after back to back promotions. Captain Jason Summers is confident they can surprise a few teams, and they have added young Australian quick Josh Norris to an otherwise unchanged unit. Carl Starling is proven at every level, and alongside Jason Allen, Andy Flann and Shaun Rigby they have runs in the side. The spin attack is also well catered for with Summers an outstanding practitioner and Chris Starling not someone to be underestimated.

2018 Season: Division One Champions

Verdict : They play it hard and know how to win, and if the Aussie hits his straps I’ve a feeling they will avoid any threat of relegation.

Bomere Heath

This could be a baptism of fire for new captain Rob Dean, who has his hands full if Bomere Heath are to avoid the lower reaches of the division.  That said in Chris Stevens and Tom Ellis they have one of the best new ball partnerships in the league, and with Sam Bloor’s availability much improved, Dean will be hoping he can get their batting order firing. Club spokesman Charlie Wigley has heralded the signing of overseas batsman Jon Clifton describing him as “ the best overseas player we have ever had” (no pressure then !), but the signs look good with Clifton already coming off a player of the year season in Grade cricket in Australia and arriving 3 weeks early to acclimatise. One thing in Bomere’s favour is they are one of the more fitter sides whose fielding is as good as any team in the division.

2018 Season : 7th

Verdict :  Bottom 3, but they will give it a real go and may take a few scalps along the way 

Ludlow

The Burway side will be over the moon after they persuaded Will Sparrow to return after a slightly disappointing year with Bridgnorth. Sparrow was the League player of the year in both 2016 and 2017, and he immediately strengthens both their batting and bowling. Ian Simmons also returns after a decent spell at Worfield, and a very busy close seasons business has been augmented by signing batsman James Kinder from Kidderminster and with the last minute acquisition of Okera Bascombe from Coventry they will be building a strong squad. Ruel Brathwaite once more returns to the fold as Captain and with his CV shining through (ex Durham, Barbados and Hants), Ruel will hope to lead this side to a top half finish.

2018 Season : 6th

Verdict: If they had managed to pull off the signing of another Birmingham League Player they could have had a real chance but will still be very competitive and mustn’t be taken lightly.

Madeley

Madeley had a  strong season in 2018 with an excellent 4th place finish , and are happy with their winters business making 2 key signings. They have snapped up Trevor Garwe a bowling allrounder as their overseas player. Garwe had 2 decent seasons with Wellington in 2014 and 2015, and captain Martin Boyle will hope he can reap plenty of rewards. Spinner Tahir Ahmed is another signing from Harborne and with no departures, Madeley will be hopeful they have a competitive outfit. Their batting looks good with 4 players getting over 500 league runs last time, Steve Pugh and Andy Lloyd are ultra consistent with the willow and Gavin Jones and Jon Prince have always been highly talented allrounders who perhaps have never done their true talents justice despite being prolific run scorers and wicket takers.

2018 Season: 4th

Verdict. Far too strong a side to be at the wrong end of the table, I think they will be in that congested mid table and if the breaks go their way they could go even higher

Newport 

Captain Jamie Prew is keen for Newport to be involved in the title shake up, and has unveiled a pretty much unchanged squad from that which finished mid table in Division 3 of the BL last year. Aussie Simon Douglas isn’t returning after an underwhelming 2018, and Prew is hopeful the likes of young wicket keeper batsman Sam Papps can push on and develop into a key performer for the Audley Road outfit. Maz Hasnain and Mark Downes will continue to be mainstays of the team, while Shabbir Khan is a quality bowler who probably has no equal in the division.

2018 Season: 7th in BL Division 3

Verdict:  A very experienced side who will fancy their chances . Their seam attack probably isn’t as good as other sides but don’t write them off.

Quatt

The signing of ex Shropshire captain James Ralph was a masterstroke in 2018 as Quatt pushed Wem all the way to the title. The south Shropshire side will be hoping to be in the mix again and have managed to see off several big clubs pursuing their exciting allrounder Ryan Wheldon, which is a big boost for captain Craig Jones. They have also managed to add an unnamed overseas player to their team for this year. “If we can finish top 5-6 this year it will be a good return for a club the size of Quatt”, commented Ralph, “but whereas we had 6 competitive games last year every game will be hard fought and any win celebrated “

2018 Season : Runners Up

Verdict: They have too much quality not to be very competitive and I expect a strong top half showing. 

Sentinel 

Ed Ashlin returns as captain but is unavailable, along with pace bowler Alex Johnson for the first few games. They have lost Dominic Bradburne to Shelton but have moved quickly to replace him with Beacon captain Matty Cliffe making the trip across town with big boots to fill. Matt Richards has also left for Oswestry but again Ashlin has snapped  up talented allrounder Ed Davies from Wroxeter and Uppington. They are also in the process of finalising the signing of a young South African seam bowler, which will boost a pace attack that does look a bit undercooked. Craig Heath is a class act and made 400 runs in only 8 games last year and they badly need him to be more available this time around if they are to mount a challenge.

2018 Season: 3rd

Verdict. They will rightly expect to be looking up the table rather than down it, but I do wonder if they are a team in a bit of a transition and this could be a rare off year.

St Georges 

The Church Road outfit welcome the return of Jamie Griffiths from Northop Hall, and captain Chris Miller will no doubt be looking to Griffiths to recapture the form that made him 2015 league player of the year, while likewise hoping he can himself have another stellar year as he did in 2017. They have lost Martin Delaney to Wellington which is a blow, but have high hopes that Aussie overseas Rory Livingstone will make a huge impression. Livingstone recently made 82 on his first grade debut in Brisbane. Veteran Gareth Hughes and the consistent Ben Byram will no doubt be key performers for the Dragons too.

2018 Season : 8th

Verdict: They have strengthened their batting but bowling teams out could be an issue, and  given the overall standard in the division has considerably improved , it could be a difficult season for St Georges.

Wellington

After over 20 years in the Birmingham League, 2019 represents a massive culture shock for the Orleton Park club, playing new teams and visiting new grounds every week. Despite having approaches from existing Birmingham League clubs, Wendell Wagner has committed his future to the club and remains as captain leading a very young but talented outfit. Charlie Mackelworth and Shropshire quick Jack Twigger have opted to stay in the Birmingham League and so Wagner will no doubt be absolutely vital to their chances. He welcomes back allrounder Martin Delaney after a spell at St Georges while Dan Lloyd remains, and  is a quality young batsman capable of 800 runs at this standard.  New signing Zimbabwean Josh Pistoriaus has played in Shropshire before, and Henry Davies joins from Shifnal and is a talented off-spinner but like Pistoriaus is  unproven at this level.

2018 Season 11th in BL Division 1

Verdict: They will be a lot of peoples' tip to go straight back to the Birmingham League but I think they may have to settle for a season or two of consolidation.

Wem

Wem welcome back Martyn Davies for another spell at his home club, and will be looking for him to use all his experience and ability to assist in another title push. Unfortunately they have been unable to secure the return of 1000 run man Rishav Das, and whilst his replacement will undoubtedly be of a good standard (Wem always have excellent overseas), their batting order will rely even more on the destructive Harry Chandler and the consistent Mathew Cohen. Sam Peate once again takes the reigns, and while the Astley brothers continue to improve, I imagine Peate will want more from paceman Danny Cohen who had a rare off year by his own high standards. If Cohen fires again Wem will once again be in the mix.

2018 Season: Champions

Verdict : Fully expect them to be battling for the title.

Whitchurch

Champions in 2017 , they endured a difficult season last year with relegation guaranteed before a ball was bowled due to the restructure. Iain Marsh, newly installed as chairman and director of cricket, thinks they can once again be challenging despite the big losses of Alex Huxley to Oswestry and Sam Ellis to Shrewsbury. This has been partially offset by the signing of Josh Kirk from Oswestry and Matthew Batkin returning from Shifnal.  Journeyman Aatif Ali is a good recruit from Penkridge and has claims to be the quickest bowler in the league, while captain Dan Bowen will no doubt be one of the leading wicket takers. Marsh is also keen to push some of the younger talents at Heath Road such as Eddie Lewis and Jack Batkin.

2018 Season: 12th in BL Division 3

Verdict.: Their bowling attack will win games but question marks over the depth of their batting order mean Whitchurch may find 3 or 4   teams above them come September.

Worfield

Worfield were a little off the pace last year finishing 100 points behind champions Wem but they looked to have regrouped strongly. Despite losing Bryn and Ian Simmons to Shifnal and Ludlow respectively, the addition of talented allrounder Will Cook and the veteran wicketkeeper Ian Walker (who was perhaps harshly jettisoned by Shifnal), captain Dale Quiney has also signed his talented brother Karl from Bridgnorth. Young seamer Ben Parker came on leaps and bounds in 2018, and spinners Ryan Quiney and Joe Arnold are quality operators at this level. In recent years they seem to have had a conveyor belt of good batsmen coming through their ranks and their top order looks especially strong.

2018 Season: 5th

Verdict:  They have a real solid look to their team, particularly the batting.  If they could add the overseas signing  they are still chasing late on (and preferably a seam bowler) then I think they will take all the beating.

 
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