The return of the Crystal Ball !
- Last Updated: Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:04
- Published: Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:04
- Written by Kevin Hewes
With the new season already three weeks old, and virtually no cricket last weekend (Wivenhoe were 6 for 0 after three overs at Clacton when the weather intervened), it is time to look into that crystal ball as the Division Two and Three season’s commence this weekend.
Another turburlent close season sees the forty over competition reduced to just 19 teams, with the withdrawal of Abberton, Chappel & Wakes Colne and Copdock before the AGM, and Braintree subsequently. Sudbury have rejoined the competition having last played in 1990 where they were crowned Division Four champions. That means there will be three divisions, Division One and Two will have six sides and Division Three will have seven.
The T20 sees an increase in membership, with twelve teams taking part this year. Abberton, Elmstead, Frinton, Witham and Halstead are all joining the competition, while Ipswich, 7 Para RHA and Braintree have withdrawn. Two groups of six will play each other once, with the top two in each group proceeding to Finals Day, this year at Halstead CC, on Monday 26th August.
Colchester & E.E are already installed as favourites for the Division One title having completed an early season double over reigning champions Wivenhoe. A lot will depend on who takes to the field for Colchester, when they resume their campaign at the beginning of June. Wivenhoe should have the better of the rest, so I expect them to once again be in the mix.
The other four teams are much the same, so I expect it to be very tight in the rest of the division. Halstead are newcomers to the division this year, having secured the Division Two title last year, and I would expect them to hold their own this year. Clacton and Galleywood were tipped for the drop last year, but proved competitive and were comfortably in mid table at the end of the season. Mistley were runners up in 2018, but I think they may find life a little more difficult this year.
So my Div 1 prediction is;
Colchester & E.E., Wivenhoe, Halstead, Clacton, Mistley, Galleywood
As far as I can see Division Two looks to be a two tier division, as I see Springfield, Witham and Kelvedon as stronger teams than the other three. I fancy Kelvedon will make it back to back championships, following on from their Division Three title last year. Springfield would be my favourites for the runner up position, with Witham taking third. Stebbing and Cavaliers were predicted by the 2018 crystal ball to be battling out the wooden spoon in the basement division, but confounded the soothsayers by gaining promotion, much to their satisfaction, the hashtag #theworseteamintheleague being used plenty last season as win after win was accumulated !
Real Oddies make up the Division, but unfortunately I see their season being a difficult one, against the stronger outfits.
So Div 2 looks like this ;
Kelvedon, Springfield, Witham, Stebbing, Cavaliers, Real Oddies
Division Three looks to be the most interesting, with any one of the seven sides capable of winning as far as I can see. Sudbury are the unknown, but obviously success at higher level for their more senior teams is likely to filter downwards. Great Totham and Eight Ash Green made the drop from Division Two last year, and I would expect them to be in contention at the top end this year. A lot will depend on availability for those two teams. The other four teams in Division Three last year had similar records, so could end up in any order again this year. Coggeshall claimed the wooden spoon last year, but I expect them to fare better in 2019.
Div 3 prediction is
Great Totham, Sudbury, Eight Ash Green, Coggeshall, West Bergholt, Great Horkesley & Lexden, Boxted
The T20 sees two Divisions of six looking, with the top two in each division looking to qualify for Finals Day. Colchester & E.E are the defending champions and are looking to be the first champions in three years of the competition to return to Finals Day, the previous two champions failing to get past the group stage.
The East division sees Colchester & E.E. paired up with Wivenhoe, Frinton, Mistley, Abberton and Elmstead. I see the curse of the defending champion occurring again and Colchester failing to pass the group stage, with Wivenhoe and Frinton prevailing. A young Elmstead side to push them close, with Colchester, Mistley and Abberton bringing up the tail end.
In the West, Halstead and Witham have joined Little Bardfield Village, Kelvedon, Coggeshall and Galleywood. Little Bardfield Village have defeated the odds to become perennial Finals Day visitors, so I would expect them again to fill one of the qualifying slots. Kelvedon were runners up in 2018, but benefitted from some guest players last season, so I expect that their participation this year will be limited to the group stages. Coggeshall and Galleywood both have capable players to put them into the qualifying places, but I have a feeling that newcomers Witham or Halstead will be the surprise sides in the division, so I will go with Witham and Little Bardfield Village to progress.
I expect the strength in the East to prevail on Finals day, with Wivenhoe and Frinton progressing to the Final, and my choice for T20 champions in 2019 would be Frinton.
This bank holiday weekend fixtures sees last year Division One runners up Mistley open their campaign at New Road with the visit of Clacton. In Division Two, there is short trip down the A12 for Kelvedon & Feering at they visit Witham. In Division Three, Coggeshall welcome West Bergholt to Harefield, while Sudbury open their first NECL campaign in almost thirty years with a trip to Great Totham. In the West Division of the T20, Galleywood play two games over the weekend, as they welcome Halstead on Sunday for a 2pm start, and then Witham on Monday for a 1pm start.