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Halstead Cricket Club boosted by additions of Central Stags’ Joey Field, Lewis Millions and Callum O’Connell ahead of bid for third straight Two Counties Championship title

Halstead captain Ed Clark believes his side are in good shape to make it third time lucky with promotion to the Thurlow Nunn East Anglian Premier League.

The Star Stile outfit have lifted the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Division One title in successive seasons to qualify for the play-offs. But after going one better last year to reach the final, they lost out away to Ashmanaugh & Barton Wanderers by 50 runs.

And despite going into the 2024 campaign without talismanic overseas player-coach Max Chu, following a two season spell, Clark has renewed hope this year can be the one that sees them reclaim their spot in the top tier of regional cricket after a 12-year exile.

Lewis Millions has switched Hadleigh for Halstead Picture: Mark Westley
Lewis Millions has switched Hadleigh for Halstead Picture: Mark Westley

Ahead of their season opener at Wivenhoe Town on Saturday (12pm) he said: “We've wintered well and we're looking forward to getting started.

"It's a case of trying to get the job done this time around, we've obviously come close and we're hoping this year will be the year we can get it over the line."

He added: "We've obviously had a couple of good years and we want to build on the success that we've had rather than accept where we are as we know we have a long season ahead and we've got to perform to our best to even get a chance to compete for promotion.”

Halstead captain Ed Clark Picture: Richard Marsham
Halstead captain Ed Clark Picture: Richard Marsham

Another Kiwi will help lead their charge for a third straight title in Central Stags all-rounder Joey Field with the 23-year-old having seven first-class and 12 List A matches behind him.

“He'll be joining us from May,” said Clark of the player who was part of New Zealand's squad for the 2020 Under-19 Cricket World Cup.

"It will obviously be difficult for him to match what Max did but we're confident and he looks a great player and a really good bloke.

"He's a really good coach which is the key thing we wanted to bring in, someone who loves working with the youngsters.

"Joey does that with his Premier League team in New Zealand and that's the foundation we want to build on as Max was really great with the young lads and making their transition from colts to senior cricket.”

While there have been no departures, the squad has also been boosted in both bowling and batting departments by two seasoned players in the division.

Leg spinner Lewis Millions has moved across from Hadleigh after 92 first XI wickets at an average of 19.99 while top-order batsman Callum O’Connell departs Mistley after 1,657 runs at an average of 27.62.

Clark said: “Both have good pedigree in the Two Counties and are good players so we're looking forward to having them to draw upon and help the squad on."

Halstead cancelled Saturday’s annual friendly at home to a Chelmsford XI in order to protect their pitch after the wet start to the year.

Clacton finished six points adrift of Halstead last season but Clark feels there is a group of strong-looking challengers this year.

He said: "Maldon are coming back into the league and I know they are going to be a good unit.

"Hadleigh are always strong, Clacton were fantastic last year so they're going to be competitive. Coggeshall are perennial competitors so it'll be a nicely competitive league and we’re looking forward to it.”

Hadleigh, who finished third last season, begin their campaign away to Worlington (12pm).