Bradenham CC set sights high

Bradenham open their Norfolk Alliance Division One programme at Topcroft on Saturday in a season which looks to be difficult to predict given the league ban on overseas players.

Clubs are having to rely on home-grown players, a move which is welcomed by Bradenham, with games no longer dominated by the overseas element and the opportunity to re-invest the capital outlay back into the game locally.

Last year Bradenham finished in a highly creditable fourth spot and there is no reason why such a position cannot be repeated in 2011.

Both Old Buckenham and Acle, relegated from the Premier Division, will pose a stern test, as will near-neighbours Mattishall who have been promoted from Division Two.

Kevin Blakey has stood down as captain and is replaced by Rob Thurley, although his university studies will keep him away until after the third match. Club stalwart Steve Matthews will take the helm until his return and expects to lead from the front.

The First XI will have a good blend of youth and experience with the batting bolstered by the arrival of opening batsman Kevin Stagles from neighbours Shipdham. Leading batsman in Division One of the Norfolk league last season, he has already demonstrated his potential with scores of 88 not out and 50 pre-season.

County Youth players Lewis Denmark and Brett Stolworthy are expected to play a leading role, with Denmark already having notched two pre-season hundreds. The batting received another boost this week with Mark Hunter confirming his availability for the season. Patrick Dewing, Kevin Blakey and Mike Taylor will provide the middle-order stability.

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Stolworthy will spearhead the bowling with support again from Brett Gates and Dave Hillier. County youth bowler Alex Bates will also be looking to make his mark. The return from university of Chad Balluza will be eagerly awaited in early June.

The A XI start their season at home to Mundford in Division Four which looks a stern test. Wins in each of their last two matches in 2011 meant relegation was avoided, however the division looks to be considerably stronger this year and with a heavy reliance on youth a difficult season could be in prospect.

Ian Moody will again be at the helm and will need the full support of his more senior players to help the youngsters.

The club have new sponsors this season and are grateful for the support of Trek Highway Services.

Bradenham First XI beat Fakenham Second XI by four wickets at Fakenham on Saturday.

Fakenham play in a division lower, but provided a stern test. The hosts batted first on a good wicket offering little to the bowlers.

Luke Findlay and Brian Whitwood batted steadily before Findlay skied the ball off Chad Balluza and Kevin Stagles held on to a good catch. Whitwood retired on 65, bringing Will Dunger to the wicket and after surviving an early life he made a good 49 before Patrick Dewing held another good catch in the covers.

The innings stuttered a little as Harry Blackiston struggled to get the ball away and it took some late hitting from Paul Dunger and James Moy to take the score to 206 for three after 46 overs.

Balluza was the pick of the bowlers with 2-39 from 12, although all the bowlers had a good workout.

Dewing and Stagles opened the reply and were in little trouble before the former went for a big hit and was out for a solid 35. Lewis Denmark (14) quickly followed as Stagles reached his second pre-season 50 although was out next ball.

Victory was very much in sight although the scoring rate dropped as Brett Stolworthy consolidated the innings. Some big hitting from Kevin Blakey (29) and Balluza (20) added the necessary impetus before Alex Bates hit the winning runs in the last over. Stolworthy finished an excellent and untroubled 34 not out.