As the curtain goes up on a new County Cricket League season this weekend, among the most keenly-anticipated clashes will be a long-awaited Melton derby.
Egerton Park and Thorpe Arnold will play in the same division for the first time in many seasons following Thorpe’s back-to-back relegations into Division Two.
They meet for the first time at Thorpe on Saturday, June 3, with the reverse fixture taking place on August 5.
There is a change in leadership in Park’s First XI with Charlie Madden taking over as First XI skipper from Nick Watchorn, while Tom Glover continues as vice-captain after spending his winter playing in Australia.
This season Park welcome 19-year-old Australian cricketer Mitchell Ellis into their ranks.
Ellis is the latest to make the switch between the Melton club and Melbourne suburban side Hoppers Crossing, and replaces Zaheer Hussain as the overseas player after two very successful summers here.
Other new signings include Henry Newton, who makes the short journey across town from Thorpe Arnold, and Harry Wells who has joined from Great Dalby.
Also returning to the fold is Park veteran and Leicestershire over 50s county player Nick Newman.
Captain Madden said: “I would be delighted to consolidate on last year’s mid-table position as we continue to blood younger, inexperienced players.”
Park’s second team remains under the control of Tom Mold, who this year has recruited the experienced Greg Tyler as his vice-captain.
Their aim will be a top-half finish in Division Seven before the league structure changes at the end of the season.
Thorpe are putting their trust in youth and their successful junior section to stop their recent slide.
Three Premier Division campaigns in the last six seasons are a testament to the levels which the club have reached in recent times.
The club has a base of younger players coming through this year as well as committed senior players to feed both into the first team and second team which dropped into Division Five East last term.
Richard Randall will once again lead the First XI, while Mark Starkey takes charge of the Seconds, with both setting sights on promotion.
Starkey said: “We have had a much more productive pre-season and with the strong team ethos at Thorpe, the targets for our Saturday teams will be promotion.
“We feel that, over the past two years, we have been unfortunately pegged back through certain injuries and players moving on.
“Now though, our pre-season has allowed us to build a strong group of good cricket players, without the need to look elsewhere for top talent.”