Exciting times for Dereham Cricket Club as they prepare for new challenge

Dereham captain Duncan Hewitt is looking forward to a new campaign in the top flight of Norfolk Alli

Dereham captain Duncan Hewitt is looking forward to a new campaign in the top flight of Norfolk Alliance cricket Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Dereham return to the top table of Norfolk cricket on Saturday as their Norfolk Alliance Premier Division campaign gets under way.

For the first time in almost three decades the first XI will compete in the top division after Duncan's Hewitt side were crowned Division One champions in 2018.

'The players are looking forward to the step up and can't wait to get started,' said Hewitt. 'We have worked incredibly hard over the past three years to reach this point and we're keen to show what we're capable of at a higher level.

'The aim will be to stay in the division first and foremost, but we believe we can achieve more than that if we maintain the standards we have set in recent seasons'.

Meanwhile the second XI, led by Neil Irons, will be aiming to go one better than last season when they finished runners-up in Alliance Division Six.

Irons said: 'Promotion is key to the success of not just the seconds but the club as a whole, and that will be our aim in 2019. We've had a few players come in and strengthen our side over the winter and we believe we have a side capable of achieving that target'.

The club has new shirt sponsors for 2019 in JP Trett Recruitment, and chairman Neal Widdows wants the whole town to get behind the club as they prepare for the new season.

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Widdows said: 'In an era where so many clubs are chucking tens of thousands at players to join their club, I feel an immense sense of pride in knowing that our success has been achieved with a dedicated, hardworking group of local players, many of whom have progressed through the youth ranks. In my 15 years at Dereham, I cannot remember there being such a buzz and positive atmosphere around the club.

'We want to bring the local community with us and make them aware that as well as having a football club they can be proud of, they have a cricket club to be proud of as well.'

The first XI host North Runcton in their season opener this Saturday at their Norwich Road ground, where entry is free to all.

The second XI travel to Ashmanhaugh and Barton Wanderers A.

Mattishall start their Division Two campaign at Vauxhall Mallards A while Bradenham host Old Buckenham A in Division Three.