HORSPATH give debuts to three new signings as they try to lay their Banbury bogey to rest when the Home Counties Premier League season finally gets under way tomorrow.

Indian batsman Dwadesh Sehgal, a member of the Oxford MCCU squad, comes into the side along with Zimbabwean batsman Pete Ades, a St Edward’s School pupil, and seamer Max Smith, who joins from Tiddington.

Horspath were expecting to play in the second tier this season after last year’s relegation, but the two divisions have been merged for an eight-week campaign due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Teams will play localised, 40-over pink ball cricket with no promotion or relegation and new Horspath captain Lloyd Belcher is urging his players to relax.

He said: “I want people to express themselves and play their natural game and enjoy it.

“I want us to work to plans, and if we have to change plans on the fly then we should be able to adapt and overcome situations.

“As soon as people express themselves they tend to perform better.”

Batsman Harrison Ward and left-arm seamer Graham Beer have returned to Horspath, the latter for his third spell after two seasons with tomorrow’s visitors.

Ward, now 20, became the youngest player to hit a Minor Counties Championship century for Oxfordshire with an unbeaten 109 on his debut against Herefordshire at Brockhampton in 2015, aged just 15 years and 269 days.

Belcher added: “Harrison has come back in which is perfect for me. He will be my right-hand man.

“We played age group cricket together for ten years and on the pitch we have always been talking to each other.

“I feel he will help me out quite a lot and help us move forward as a group.”

Beer swaps clubs with fellow left-arm seamer Liam Manley and all-rounder Tom Cosford has joined Oxford Downs, while overseas signing Anupam Sanklecha has stayed in India due to the pandemic.

Banbury, unbeaten in the sides’ eight top-flight meetings, winning seven, can call on Kiwi Michael Burton.

The New Zealander is their overseas player after moving to the county for work, but Richard West and Brad Taylor are unavailable.

The top four teams will contest an end-of-season play-off and Banbury chairman Martin Phillips says they have their eyes on the prize.

“It’s always an enjoyable fixture and a lot of the players know each other,” he said.

“We would hope to be there or thereabouts, we’re playing a fair smattering of Division 2 sides so we’ve got to feel confident.”

Tomorrow’s games will have various social distancing measures in place, with players using their own equipment where possible and ‘hygiene breaks’ every six overs.

Thame Town captain Michael Beard, whose team host new boys Wargrave, feels the changes are outweighed by the opportunity to play competitive cricket again.

Beard, who captained his side to the Division 2 title last term, said: “It’s the bits on the side that will take some time to get used to, like not celebrating when you take a wicket.

“But everyone’s grateful it’s back on and in a proper format.”

Thame won Division 2 last year after suffering relegation in their first top-tier season in 2018 and Beard believes his side must have more strength in depth to compete.

He said: “We found the step up quite challenging and had a more comfortable year in Division 2 last year.

“For the last three or four years we probably had eight players that can do a job at this level.

“That can be fine in Division 2, but when we make the step up we need everyone firing.

“If we can get that towards 14 or 15 next year at least we’ve got a chance most weeks of putting out a strong side.”

Aston Rowant have also strengthened ahead of the visit of 2019 Division 1 champions Henley.

Off-spinner Max Mannering has signed from Cumnor and wicket keeper Robin Pritchard moves across from fellow Home Counties side Chesham, while opener Rishi Pandya joins from Stanmore.

Elliot Matthews has left for Oxford, but captain Josh Smith is in positive mood.

He said: “Henley are a good side so it will be a good game of cricket.”We’ll be competing as hard as we can to get into the top four and then hopefully win the thing.

“Beyond that, it’s a great opportunity to build a team for the next couple of years.”

Contrastingly, Oxford visit Slough after seeing ten members of last year’s first team squad depart.

The club, who finished second in Division 2 in 2019, will have five players aged 18 or under on the field tomorrow, but captain Jamie Perkin has challenged the youngsters to seize their chance.

He said: “They’re going to be in that side for the whole season and are the future of the club.”

Oxford Downs visit Buckingham boosted by the arrivals of all-rounders Matt Warner and Cosford, but overseas player Richard Sillars has not returned for 2020.

Captain George Sandbach said: “We’ve always played the game as a bit of fun and it’ll be even more so this time.

“We’re going to have a look at every player, but there’s no pressure.”


(12.30 start)

Aston Rowant v Henley

Buckingham v Oxford Downs

Horspath v Banbury

Slough v Oxford

Thame Town v Wargrave



In: Rishi Pandya (Stanmore), Robin Pritchard (Chesham), Max Mannering (Cumnor).

Out: Elliot Matthews (Oxford)


In: Michael Burton, Liam Manley (Horspath).

Out: Richard West, Brad Taylor.


In: Harrison Ward (Preston Nomads), Graham Beer (Banbury), Max Smith (Tiddington), Pete Ades, Dwadesh Sehgal.

Out: Tom Cosford (Oxford Downs), Liam Manley (Banbury).


In: Elliot Matthews (Aston Rowant), George Tait (Banbury), Stewart Laudat (out of retirement).

Out: Owyn Tong Jones (Middlesex), Calvin Dickinson, Mohammed Ayub, Chris Humphries (Cookham Dean), Rob Craze, Samad Fallah, James Keeble (Cairns Fudge), Olly Price (Gloucestershire).


In: Tom Cosford (Horspath), Matt Warner (Chesham).

Out: Amin Rafiq, Waz Mehmood.


In: Shahbaz Meer (Upminster).

Out: Mike Higgs (retired).