NEWLY promoted Basingstoke and North Hants CC face a tough start to their first-ever campaign in Southern League Division One when they travel to Sarisbury Athletic on Saturday.
Their Hampshire rivals finished second last season after winning Division One in 2012 and are expected to be one of the favourites for the title this time around.
The Bountymen won the Division Two crown in their inaugural season in the Southern League and have a new captain this season in opening batsman Chris Froud.
He has taken over from Dan Coombs, who was expected to still be in Australia during the summer, but has returned to further bolster the May’s Bounty team.
This means everyone from last season’s championship winning side will be available for the season opener.
After missing last year due to injury, opening bowler Jon Bradley is back for 2014, which will add even more bite to their attack.
Another excellent addition to the line-up is the club’s first overseas player in a number of years, South African all-rounder Andrew Niblett.
He has just turned 37 and played first class cricket in New Zealand for Central Districts.
Last season, he helped Yateley to the Thames Valley League Division 2A title and Guy Jewell Cup at May’s Bounty.
So this will leave the selection committee with a nice headache and Froud admits this season is a journey into the unknown.
Froud said: “Everyone is looking forward to the season and on paper we look a stronger team, but at this stage have set ourselves no targets. We know very little about most of the teams we are going to face.”
He added: “There is certainly going to be competition for places, which is going to be a good thing for both the first and second team.”
Basingstoke’s second XI start their Southern League Division Three campaign with a home game against St Cross Syms II at May’s Bounty on Saturday.