By Neil Goulding

CHESHIRE have signed former Derbyshire all-rounder Ben Spendlove.

Having lost former England all-rounder Chris Schofield to Suffolk, as well as former Red Rose man Mark Currie through retirement, the county have moved quickly to plug the gaps.

Spendlove is good friends with current Cheshire all-rounder Nathan Dumelow, also a former Derbyshire employee, with who he played with at the County Ground.

And having agreed to play under Dumelow's captaincy for defending champions Oulton Park in the CD Bramhall Trucks Cheshire County League ECB Premier Division this season, Spendlove is hoping to shine in his debut Minor Counties season for Cheshire.

"It's another good challenge for me. I'm looking forward to playing for Cheshire," said Spendlove.

"I spoke to Nathan and he told me how much he enjoyed playing for Cheshire last season, which helped me make my decision.

"I'm going to playing for Oulton Park, so it makes sense that I play for Cheshire because it's going to be my patch.

"Hopefully I can have a good season and be just as successful as Nathan and Chris were last year."

In the first class game Spendlove tasted some success, scoring 656 runs for his county, which included two half-centuries.

He also took two catches as a 12th man for England against South Africa at Edgbaston in 1998.

But having signed for Derbyshire in 1997, the right-hand bat was released in 2000 and made to work for another first-class contract.

That offer eventually came in 2004 when he was rewarded with a two-year contract, but he was released last year by mutual consent. Last year he was playing his cricket in the Derbyshire Premier League.

The signature of Spendlove has been welcomed by Cheshire skipper Andy Hall whom, having guided his charges to the Minor Counties title last season, is hoping to have another successful campaign.

"Ben comes to us highly recommended," said Hall, whose J W Lees-sponsored side open their MCCA Knockout Cup challenge on Sunday, at home to Cumberland at Grappenhall CC (11am start, 50 overs per side).

"It was sad this year to lose Chris Schofield to Suffolk because he had such a great season for us, and then of course Mark Currie decided to retire.

"But we've signed Ben and he's a proven batsman and is also a useful bowler.

"I'm sure his experience of the first-class game will be a big help to us this season

"Having players of Ben's quality in the side can only be good. Hopefully his experience will rub off on some of the young er players this season."

Hall's men have three more MCCA cup matches to follow the Cumberland clash as they make an unusually early start this season.

Next Sunday last season's Western Division winners play Shropshire at Shrewsbury, followed by clashes with Herefordshire (@ New Brighton) and finally Northumberland (@Tynemouth).

Assuming Cheshire win those matches they will qualify for the knockout semi-finals, with September 2nd July scheduled as a provisional home tie for that match.

"It would be nice if we could have a good run in the cup this year," added Hall.

"If you get to the final you play at Lords, so there's no bigger incentive for the players."

Cheshire team v Cumberland (Sun 30): Andy Hall (capt), Matt Dawson (wkt kpr), Nick Cantello (Bramhall); Danny Leech, Nathan Dumelow, Ben Spendlove, Danny Jones (Oulton Park); James Duffy, Tom Young (Hyde; Jason Whittaker (Walshaw); Dave Pennett (Harrogate). Scorer: Roger Strong (Hale Barns).

Cumberland team: M Sharp (capt), J Wisniewski (Lytham); D Barnes (Reading); D Clark, D Rooney, R Mason (Cleator); M Burns (wkt kpr), J Fielding (County Club); S Parry (Bootle); R Brown (Millom); P Lawson (Netherfield).