HOOK and Newnham Basics are set to be playing top level ECB Southern Premier League cricket next summer.

The pitch, outfield and off-field facilities at their tree lined King George V Ground have been given the nod of approval by the Premier League’s accreditation gurus.

Now all their promotion to the Premier Division now requires is formal ratification by the other 34 clubs at next month’s league annual meeting, writes Mike Vimpany.

Ironically, Hook will be replacing arch local rivals Basingstoke & North Hants, who have suffered a multiple relegation with both their SPL teams and their third side, which plays in the Hampshire League, all demoted.

Hook lifted the Division 1 championship by winning 14 of their 16 league matches this season to finish a thumping 46 points ahead of Sparsholt, who finished runners-up.

It means a promotion double for HNB, with Kevin Light’s second team finishing runners-up behind Parley in Hampshire League County Division 1 and clinching a place in Premier Division 3 in the bargain.

News of Hook’s promotion could hardly have come at a better time, with chairman Keith Lovelock making the announcement at the club’s awards dinner.

“It’s a proud moment for everyone associated with the club. To be able to celebrate two promotions like this is simply marvellous and speaks volumes for all the effort a lot of people have put in, both on and off the field,” he beamed.

“From a Chairman’s perspective, I’m obviously very proud of the way Josh Buckingham, in his first season as captain, matured into a leader. This was something I didn’t expect to happen so quickly if I’m honest, but he certainly showed little weakness and installed confidence in the younger team members.”

Hook & Newnham Basics’ recent investment in their playing facilities has certainly paid dividends.

“I’m told our actual pitch marks were very good and the outfield is improving quickly following a £70,000 project two winters ago to relay and drain the entire area,” Lovelock continued.

“We’ve also bought new custom-made sight screens, but on the playing side I’m sure we’ll need to recruit a few names faces if we want to compete in the Premier Division and, more importantly, stay strong as a club.”

He added that, much of Hook’s success in the summer months had been down to Vince Gardner's appointment as Director of Cricket and to pre-season training and proper preparation led by Ian Simpson and Buckingham himself.

Gardner explained: “Pre-season training was split between fitness on a Monday night and nets on Thursdays and Saturdays.

“Once the season started our Tuesday night sessions were as professional as I can recall. The squad trained hard and the pre-match warm-ups were excellent.

“Our strategy at the start of the season was to maintain all four sides in their respective divisions but it soon became clear that the first and second teams should be challenging for honours. However, we literally went week by week and selection meetings we’re meticulous”

“We held a 1st team squad players meeting at the start of the season and Josh made it clear he wanted all of the lads to play without fear, especially the young players that had been drafted in following the loss of 2 of our top order batters.”

“Josh built a new culture of train hard and enjoyment as a group. Young players were welcomed in and treated like senior players.”

Skipper Buckingham, who made a big statement on the Premier League scene with that blistering 84 off 40 balls in the previous season’s Twenty20 Cup final victory over South Wilts under the Ageas Bowl floodlights, paid tribute to his playing squad and back-up staff.

He said: “I’m so proud how hard the boys worked both on and off the field. We trained hard from January and that showed with our good start to the season.

“The most exciting thing is how young our squad is, and how we managed to encourage them to play positively, and without fear throughout the season.

“We are extremely excited about the challenge of next year, and will train even harder to make sure we are ready to go next summer.”