NEW captain Lloyd Belcher is excited by the challenge of leading Horspath as club cricket returns after being suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The left-arm spinner succeeds Will Eason, who has stepped down after six seasons at the helm and now takes on the role of the club’s director of cricket.

Belcher, at 21, will be one of the youngest – if not the youngest – captains in Horspath’s history and also in the Home Counties Premier League since it began in 2000.

But, being a regular fixture in the side since he was just 14, he feels he has gained plenty of experience and is keen to take charge of what is set to be a youthful line-up.

He said: “It is a great opportunity, and I feel I can do it.

“I have captained age group and county stuff and have always been quite loud on the pitch, but I feel I have come into myself now.

“I feel like it’s the right time to take on some sort of leadership role. I am one of the more experienced players in the team, believe it or not.

“I am 21 now and have been in the team every year for six years.

“The team has changed a lot in those six years, more so over the last couple of years with younger faces and a lot of new people that have come in.

“With the team I am taking on I feel we are going in a younger and more athletic direction with younger players coming in, new people coming in and the average age coming down.

“I am excited to take it on at this time.”

Belcher was Division 1’s leading wicket-taker last season with 41 victims, but his heroics were not enough to save Horspath from relegation.

He had been hoping to see his side bounce straight back, but those dreams have been dashed by the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK in March.

Now, with no promotion and relegation this season and with the league getting under way next weekend, he is focusing on building a team that can challenge for Division 2 honours in 2021.

He will lead the side for the first time in an inter-club match at the Recreation Ground tomorrow against a team captained by Robbie Eason, who is to skipper the 2nd XI this term.

Belcher, who at 15 years and 10 days became the youngest player to play for Oxfordshire in a Minor Counties Championship match against Shropshire at Bridgnorth in 2014, added: “In my eyes I thought my main goal would be to win this league to get straight back up and was hoping to be playing Division 1 cricket again next year, but with everything that has happened that’s not the case.

“I feel like this is going to be a great year to establish where people are with their levels of cricket and skill sets and the balance of the team.”

Eason skippered Horspath to the Home Counties Division 2 title in 2016 as well as promotion from the same section two years earlier plus three Bernard Tollett Oxfordshire Cup triumphs.

He said of his successor: “He has been very vocal in his own ideas and what we should do with fielding positions. He certainly knows how to look at the game, so it just seemed like the right time for him to take over.

“He has the freedom to do what he likes with the side. There is no pressure on him or the players coming in. We are looking at the way we will be going into 2021. With an eye on that we will look at a lot of players and maybe some of the younger ones and see whether they will be ready for it.”