Ashington Cricket Club, defending champions of the Go North East Northumberland & Tyneside Senior League, start the new season on Saturday with a trip to face Newcastle City at Gosforth.
The Langwell Crescent outfit had a record-breaking campaign in 2016, clinching the league title for the first time in 15 years as well as lifting the League Cup and Smithson Cup.
This year they will be led by Ben Harmison after he was appointed new skipper, taking over from Greg Williams who after a five-year stint, stepped down from the role due to work commitments.
Harmison said: “We have set the benchmark and opposing teams are going to come after us so we will have to raise our game.
“Last year was good, but this season will see what Ashington are really made of.”
Vice-captain Ben O’Brien echoed the words of Harmison as the 27-year-old said: “It is going to be hard to back up a season like last year where we went through the whole league campaign undefeated.
“However, we have got that winning mentality and that is something which doesn’t change.
“When you are not involved in another sport during the winter months, the new cricket season is always a long time coming – so we are looking forward to it.”
However, the club will have to reckon without the services of Ani Singh. The highly popular all rounder has been unable to get a visa and O’Brien gave a glowing tribute to the left handed batsman and right arm spin bowler.
“On behalf of all the players and everyone involved at the club, we would like to express our sincere thanks to Ani, who has been excellent as our overseas player for the last three seasons but who cannot get a visa to return.
“He is going to be a massive miss both on and off the field and leaves us with big boots to fill.”
Ashington’s first home match will be on Saturday, April 29, against Tynedale.