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Haverhill Cricket Club captain Ben Wilkins looking to use fresh start in Division Two to restore the fun factor



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After the trials and tribulations of last year, captain Ben Wilkins is looking to make the senior set-up at Haverhill Cricket Club an enjoyable team to play for again in 2022.

Twelve months ago sweeping alterations were made to the squad, with the likes of franchise cricketer Mohammad Chowdhury being drafted in for a campaign in Division One of the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship.

Before a ball had been bowled there was much intrigue and excitement as to how things would unfold at Manor Road – yet it quickly went south.

Haverhill celebrate a wicket during their pre-season friendly against Newmarket at Manor Road Picture: Mark Westley
Haverhill celebrate a wicket during their pre-season friendly against Newmarket at Manor Road Picture: Mark Westley

The team won just one game across the entire campaign, which unsurprisingly left them propping up the other 11 teams in the league and dropping into Division Two.

And Wilkins, who took over as skipper from Liam Botten towards the back-end of 2021, is keen to banish those memories.

He said: “We just want to get players back enjoying their cricket again. That’s why we play it.

Haverhill Cricket Club captain Ben Wilkins, who took over from Liam Botten towards the end of last season Picture: Mark Westley
Haverhill Cricket Club captain Ben Wilkins, who took over from Liam Botten towards the end of last season Picture: Mark Westley

“Everyone wants to win, but first of all you want to enjoy what you’re doing.

“Last year was tough, very tough at times and we’ve made a few changes to the set-up and introduced new things that we hope will make it more enjoyable.

“There is such a good social side at the club but the cricket hasn’t been backing that up recently.”

In terms of a target, Wilkins does not anticipate Haverhill battling it out for an immediate return to Division One.

Haverhill Cricket Club ahead of their pre-season friendly with Newmarket: (Back row, from left) Jake Manning, Daniel Wallage, Ben Wilkins, Ricardo James, Khalid Saeed, Simon Walters (front row, from left): Russell Davis, Declan Shanks, Sam Hartshorn, Carl Bradford, Craig Williams, Sam Chatburn -Jones Picture: Mark Westley
Haverhill Cricket Club ahead of their pre-season friendly with Newmarket: (Back row, from left) Jake Manning, Daniel Wallage, Ben Wilkins, Ricardo James, Khalid Saeed, Simon Walters (front row, from left): Russell Davis, Declan Shanks, Sam Hartshorn, Carl Bradford, Craig Williams, Sam Chatburn -Jones Picture: Mark Westley

Instead, he sees the upcoming season as one where the reset button can be hit.

“I’d like to think we can be in and around the top half but I don’t think it’s realistic to be thinking about promotion straight away,” he added.

“You never know, if we can get a good run of wins going then anything can happen, but it’s not something we are making a target.

“This is a season of rebuilding and as long as we finish in the top half we’d be happy with that.”

Recruitment-wise the club has signed up wicket-keeper Ricardo James, who recently moved to the area, while they will be operating without an overseas player this year.

And Wilkins is also keen to give some of the club’s younger players the opportunity to prove their worth.

“We’ve got some good youngsters,” said Wilkins. “The likes of Dan Wallage got a chance last year and he’ll get more this year as well.

“We’re keen to create a pathway for those younger players that are playing well in the seconds or thirds.

“Maybe that hasn’t always been the case but a lot of established players have moved on in recent years so there will be chances now.”

Haverhill begin life in Division Two on Saturday by hosting newly-promoted Sudbury II (12.30pm) off the back of a 73-run friendly loss at Newmarket. Sam Chatburn-Jones scored 51 in their 186 all out total.