By Maurice Ingham
Preparations for the coming season have been ongoing throughout the winter at Wirksworth & Middleton Cricket Club, both on and off the field.
There is a mood of optimism within the club after the triumphs of last season, which saw all three senior sides promoted as champions and promotion for its Sunday side too.
Club coach Dayle White, assisted by Mike Harwood, Neil Smedley and Michael Jefferiss, has been leading indoor training since January for both senior and junior cricketers.
They, along with the three senior captains, are all fully aware of the challenges ahead, playing in higher divisions and a situation surely to be relished.
Joining the first team squad is Najaf Shah from Pakistan, a left-arm opening bowler and a left-handed batsman who made his first-class debut in 2001.
Shah is currently a member of one of Pakistan’s leading first-class sides and has represented his country at various levels including a one-day international against Sri Lanka.
Playing for a Pakistan Patrons XI in a tour game against England, Najaf dismissed Andrew Strauss (twice), Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood.
This will not be his first experience of English conditions having played for Derbyshire 2nd XI in 2004 and then two seasons in a Staffordshire/ Cheshire league in 2008/9.
In addition Najaf is an ECB Level Two coach and will be leading sessions for both seniors and juniors during his stay with the club.
Also joining are Stuart Poplar and Anthony Woolley, two cricketers with vast experience at the highest level of the Derbyshire League.
Poplar joins from Denby CC while Woolley arrives from Alvaston & Boulton.