Cheshire 1st XI Pre Season News

Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)

CHESHIRE skipper Andy Hall is brimming with confidence his strengthened county side has the potential to win the Minor Counties Championship this season.

And with the 2005 winners also entered in the Minor Counties Knockout Cup, the former England schoolboy captain is not ruling out a title-assault on two fronts this term.

Cheshire's season starts with the Knockout Cup, with round-robin games against Northumberland, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Cumberland standing in their way of a potential trip to Lords for this year's showcase final in September, although they would also have to a win a semi-final if they were to progress from their group.

Having regularly fielded a team with an average age of under 26 last season, the county qualified for an ECB incentive payment but with experience still a part of their drive for success, Cheshire have recruited well during the winter with a string of new additions to their squad.

Left-arm medium-fast bowler Adam Sydall has joined from Cambridgeshire. The 26 year-old plays for Bowdon in the Cheshire County League ECB Premier Division and was voted the 2006 Minor Counties Player-of-the-Year as Cambridgeshire's top wicket-taker.

Cheshire have also signed former Yorkshire batsman/wicketkeeper Ismael Dawood. The 30 year-old has joined newly promoted Premier Division side Urmston, but last year had a successful season for Herefordshire at Minor Counties level.

A former Cheshire junior, James Cornford is back on the Cheshire scene playing for Middlewich in Division Two of the Cheshire County League.

An accomplished attacking batsman and medium pace bowler, 28 year-old Cornford could be a useful player in both disciplines of Minor Counties competition.

Former Derbyshire all-rounder Nathan Dumelow is to play a third season for the county having starred last term, while fellow former Derby players Ben Spendlove and Chris Bassano - who play alongside him at Oulton Park - may also feature this season depending on availability.

Dumelow amassed nearly 500 runs for Cheshire last season and finished the season as the county's leading wicket-taker with 23 victims.

Right-hand bat Spendlove played just one match in 2006 and hopes to feature more, while South African-born Bassano could make his debut for the county.

"We've strengthened our squad for the new season, which is something we needed to do if we are competing for titles again," said Hall.

"It was always going to be difficult last season because we lost a lot of experienced players from our 2005 winning side, but a lot of young players impressed last season and will have benefited from the experience of playing Minor Counties cricket.

"Many of those lads will be playing this year and, with the new signings as well, we are a much stronger side."

Following their four Knockout Cup group matches, Hall's charges being their three-day Championship Western Division campaign at home to last year's winners Devon at

Devon won all six of their group matches last season to win their group, before beating Eastern Division winners Buckinghamshire by 180 runs in the Minor Counties final in Exmouth.

They also shared the 2004 title with Bedfordshire, so Hall knows his side face a tough test first up.

"Devon are one of the best sides in our division, but if we can get beat them in our first match, that would be a big confidence-booster for the season," added Hall.

"Hopefully we can find some form in the Knockout Cup, do well in that and be in good shape for the start of the Championship. I'd like us to be successful on two fronts this season."

Cheshire's 1st XI 2007 fixtures:

MCCA Knockout Cup (Round-robin matches) - May 6 v Northumberland @ Grappenhall; May 13 v Hereforshire @ Colwall; May 20 v Shropshire @ Christleton; June 3 v Cumberland @ Barrow.

MCCA Three-day Championship - June 10-12 v Devon @ Chester Boughton Hall; June 24-26 v Berkshire @ Finchampstead; July 8-10 v Dorset @ Dean Park; July 22-24 v Wiltshire @ Alderley Edge; August 5-7 v Oxfordshire @ Banbury; August 19-21 v Shropshire @ Nantwich.

Resource Bank Inter-County 20/20 Knockout - July 12 v Lashings, Shropshire and Staffordshire @ Wellington, Shropshire.