HOOK & Newnham Basics are preparing to play in the highest standard of league cricket in the club’s history – twelve months later than was originally planned

It was late August 2019 when the Hook Army celebrated a magnificent double, with Josh Buckingham’s side capturing the Southern Premier League Division 1 title and Kevin Light leading his second team to the runners-up spot in Hampshire League County Division 1.

A double promotion secured a coveted spot in the ECB accredited Premier Division – ironically at the expense of arch rivals Basingstoke & North Hants – and SPL Division 3 cricket for the seconds. Then along came the coronavirus pandemic and everything had to put on hold.

Hook’s decision to play intra-club cricket last July as opposed to participating in the hastily arranged 40-over Southern League Cup left them without any competitive cricket, but Buckingham reckons that will have little or no impact come the start of the Premier League season on May 1.

“Our own intra-club matches were competitive and gave us the opportunity to evaluate our squad. If anything, it has made us more hungry,” he said.

The Southern Premier League fixture list hasn’t been kind to Hook, with away days in May at Havant and South Wilts listed either side of the visit of 2018 champions St Cross Symondians to the KGV.

But Buckingham isn’t overly concerned about facing three of the Premier Division’s heavyweights in the opening weeks.

He said: “We are a young squad and feel that we have yet to reach our potential as a group. We feel that our best chance of success is to play our own game and respect the opposition but never fear reputations.”

Hook will have all of their triumphant 2019 squad available, but have beefed up their playing strength with the return of fit-again Ben Thane and Jordan Hobday after spending the 2019 season at May’s Bounty, while former captain Matt Love is back at the KGV after a spell playing Championship cricket.

Sam Lockwood, who joined Hook last summer having previously helped Sidcup gain promotion in the Kent League, will be a newcomer to Southern League cricket.

With no all-day ‘time’ cricket, Hook will be playing familiar 50-over games all summer, with the season split between traditional red and white ball matches, the latter in coloured kit.

“Playing all-day cricket would have been a new experience for us, so only playing 50 overs certainly reduces the unknown in playing premier league cricket for the first time,” Buckingham continued.

Kevin Light’s promoted second team will only play 40-over matches in Division 3.

When Hook lifted the Division1 championship in 2019, a lot of emphasis was on pre-season fitness training and general cricket preparation.

But with everyone in lockdown until recently, how have Hook managed to overcome the numerous hurdles to achieve that this time ?

Buckingham explained: “We have organised four training opportunities per week since 28 March, when we got the go-ahead to go outdoors and train.

“There have also been on-line physical training groups on fitness. We have done as much as we could in tricky circumstances.”

Hook’s season gets underway with a KGV visit from Basingstoke & North Hants on April 17, with the seconds travelling to Fareham & Crofton.