Phazey is targeting another push for glory once things settle down

Milford Hall enter the new South Staffs County League season as defending champions, but captain Stuart Phazey feels all clubs are stepping into the unknown following the extended break.

Milford have lost batsman Ibbadat Thaman after he opted to join Smethwick in the Birmingham League.

But in Dan Wasiuk and Sam Beales they have seen a couple of former players return to the club.

“Our aim every year is to win the title,” Phazey said. “The recruitment over the last few months has been good – we’ve had a lot of people knock on the door and that has strengthened us from the firsts through to the fourths. but I think all teams are going into the unknown really after such a long break.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the bowlers take a few weeks to really find their rhythm and the batters probably won’t be striking the ball as cleanly as they usually do.

“It might just take two or three weeks for things to settle down and find that normality.”

“I’ve spoken to a few friends at clubs up and down the country and they are also not quite sure what to expect.

“It’s a strange situation but I’m confident that, as a team, we will click relatively quickly.”

Brewood skipper Richard Bradford thinks a reduction in the overall number of overseas players has added another layer of unpredictability to the league.

The difficulty of bringing in players from abroad during the pandemic has led to a busier than normal domestic market.

And Bradford explained: “It has been a bit mad. There is a lot less chat than normal about who has signed where.

“We think we have a good team and I would say we are quietly confident of having a good season. But it is difficult to know how the other teams are shaping up at the moment.”

Brewood do have an overseas player, Dean Lones, with the South African seamer set for a second season at the club after spending the winter with relatives in Clitheroe.

Staffordshire’s Tim Maxfield is again signed up while former Himley captain Stuart Wedge will also have a big part to play, along with left-arm spinner Tom Holley returns to Four Ashes after a stint in the Warwickshire League.

Skipper Chris Guest believes a quick start is key to the hopes of a young Fordhouses team this season.

The Wobaston Road outfit, who open their season at home to Penkridge, have seen a number of prominent campaigners depart over the winter, including Warwickshire wicketkeeper Vikai Kelley, who has joined Kidderminster, and Alex McChristie to Silverdale.

But seamer Adam Peat has returned along with experienced all-rounder Steve Sandhu.

But while there is no shortage of talent, the first XI remains among the league’s youngest.

Guest said: “If we can get off to a good start and build some early momentum we could do well. If we don’t then it might become a challenging year.

“We’ve got some really good young players and I’m confident we have the quality to compete. But on paper there are stronger teams than us.”

South African overseas star Josh Pistorius is the headline arrival at Beacon ahead of their South Staffs Clubs League campaign.

The 21-year-old all-rounder has previously played for Wellington in the Shropshire League and should provide middle order firepower supplemented with useful off-spin bowling.

Beacon have also seen another all-rounder Mike Brookes, return from a spell at Wombourne though promising youngster Ollie Walker has departed to Himley in the Birmingham League.

Skipper Dan Green expects his team, who finished second in last year’s shortened campaign, to again be competitive in what he expects to be a wide open Premier Division.

They open the season at home to 2020 winners Milford Hall on Saturday.

Green said: “There are probably eight or nine teams in the league who think they have a chance. It’s going to be a strong division this year. “We always believe if we play to our best we can beat anyone but I expect there are a lot of other captains who feel the same.”

Tomorrow’s Premier Division fixtures: Beacon v Milford Hall; Fordhouses v Penkridge; Lichfield v Brewood; Old Wulfs v Hammerwich; Tamworth v Wolverhampton; Wombourne v Rugeley.

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