Haverhill open their Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship campaign on Saturday buoyed by an impressive pre-season victory.
Following their relegation after four seasons in Division One, Haverhill play their first game back in the second tier against Easton at Manor Road (1pm start).
It will be testing start against a side that finished fifth in division two last year but Haverhill go into the game one week after a five wicket victory over division one outfit Hadleigh, in what was their only pre-season fixture.
Hadleigh were dismissed for 184 before Haverhill reached their target with five wickets to spare, thanks largely to opener Sam Hartshorn’s 35 and knocks of 49 from Adam Dellar and 42 by Dan Poole.
Haverhill skipper Joe Woodley, who shared six wickets in the victory with fellow opening bowler Poole, knows the value of the win in boosting the confidence of a largely young team that only enjoyed four wins out of 20 completed matches last season.
He said: “It’s nice to put these teams away and give the boys some confidence at the start of the season.
“I told the boys in the dressing room before the game that it’s about everyone taking responsibility this year.
“It’s not about hiding behind Adam’s (Dellar) name or DP (Poole) or Powelly’s (Sam Powell) name any more.
“Last year, we were thinking who is going to stop the rot. This year we are thinking we have got 14 or 15 people who are desperate to play and could do a fantastic job in the lower league.”
From the team that was relegated, Haverhill have lost last season’s top run scorer Luke Youngs, who has joined Mildenhall, batsman/wicketkeeper Kyle Blanchard, who has returned to New Zealand and batsman Steve Fox, who has joined the Army.
Redressing the balance is the return from Sawston of powerful opening batsman Sam Powell, which has provided a timely boost to Haverhill’s prospects of achieving their ultimate goal, automatic promotion back to the top division.
Hartshorn is set to open alongside Powell, with Ruthven batting at number three, Dellar at four and Poole at five.
Middle order batsman Rob Dovaston and spin bowling all-rounder Nigel Brunning have also been drafted into the first team set up to provide more experience to an XI that would otherwise have nobody in it aged over 27.
Skipper Joe Woodley will again lead the seam attack against Easton, alongside all-rounder Dan Poole, with all-rounders Josh Ruthven and Dan Pass backing them up in the pace department, complemented by slow bowlers Ben Wilkins and Callum Brunning.
With Youngs and Blanchard having departed Haverhill will now play Anthony Phillips as wicketkeeper. In his absence Jake Manning will take the gloves.
The importance of getting off to a winning start on Saturday is all too clear for Woodley.
He said: “We have got to just try and win the game on Saturday and that will really just turn the confidence round the corner and show us we can compete in this league because we do still have some scars from last season
Haverhill: Powell, Hartshorn, Ruthven, Dellar, Poole, Phillips, Dovaston, Pass, Wilkins, Woodley (c), C Brunning, N Brunning.