THIS weekend’s matches in the Nottinghamshire Premier Cricket League include some fascinating fixtures that will act as a guide to how they league table may develop throughout the remainder of the season.
At least the forecast is good and players will have to guard more against sunburn than frostbite for the first time this year.
Leaders Cuckney travel to Plumtree in what will be a stern test for the home side.
After competing well in their opening game at Kimberley and folding abjectly against Papplewick, they racked up an astonishing recovery to win last week at Caythorpe.
That game saw an unbeaten 50 for keeper Justin Stockdale, but with his unavailability this weekend, the other batters will have to make their mark.
It will be a tough ask as the Cuckney attack has been the engine room that has driven them to lead the league by 18 points after five games.
Kimberley last week managed the first innings total of more than 100 against them this year but still lost by 67 runs.
Luke Wood is the league’s leading wicket-taker with 14 at the remarkable average thus far of 3.71 runs per wicket.
He is not alone in having had a great start to the season with Richard Stroh and Will Butler also putting in excellent returns.
The Notts Academy are in second place behind Cuckney and this week they travel to Kimberley, a side looking to secure their first win of the season.
Other than a seven-wicket loss to Clifton two weeks ago, the county side have had an excellent start to the year, recording solid wins against Wollaton, Worksop and Welbeck with Hassan Azad scoring well with 161 runs at more than 80.
Kimberley have struggled to find consistency in drawing with Plumtree, Papplewick (in a unfinished game) and losing to Caythorpe and Cuckney.
Sam Ogrizovic scored his first 50 of the campaign last weekend in the loss at Cuckney and Matt Wright has had an good start to the season with 10 wickets at 16, but the Academy will prove to be a stern test of their ambitions.
West Indian Cavaliers finally got on to the field last week when they inflicted a 92 run defeat on Papplewick and they begin their home season this weekend by taking on league new boys Worksop.
The Cavs win last week was built on solid innings from the returning Bilal Shafayat (72) and Rawait Khan (73) and wickets for Alex Tudor, Saqlain Mushtaq and Farhan Shaukat.
Worksop have had a cautious start to the season with defeats to the Academy, a draw with Mansfield Hosiery Mills and a tie with Wollaton.
Last week’s draw with the Millers will have given them confidence that they can hold their own at this level with David Hancocks (3-69) in particular looking in good form.
The Mansfield side travel to the Clifton Oval on Saturday for a match between the third and fourth-placed sides.
Hosiery Mills have recovered well from their one-sided defeat in the opening fixture against Cuckney and Tom New is heading the league’s batting stats with 219 runs from three innings; brother Matt is also high in the bowling stats with 9 wickets including 6-43 in the win against Wollaton.
Clifton endured a difficult start to the campaign when leaders Cuckney dismissed them for 90 in their opening match; but they have responded as you would expect a three-time champion side should with solid wins at home to the Academy and away at Wollaton. Scott McNeill, Richard Harris and Liam Andrews have all scored 50s and they are likely to be without Luke Fletcher this weekend.
Welbeck’s start to the 2012 season could not be more different to their 2011 campaign; then they were well into an eight match winning streak that saw them top the table for much of the first half of the season.
They currently sit in bottom place and they welcome the side two places above them, Wollaton.
The Colliers have been beaten in their opening games by the top two sides and will see this fixture as a perfect opportunity to avoid a hat trick of losses.
Aussie bowler Kyle Francis has already made a positive impression in securing figures of 6-46 against Cuckney. Wollaton have also lost to three of their four games and tied the other; Tim Young (126 runs) and Alex Reed-Brewer (119) are both in good form with Dominic Reed taking 6-23 in the tied match with Worksop.
The final game sees Caythorpe travel to Papplewick Hall looking to bounce back from their loss to Plumtree; they will want to recall the confidence that they demonstrated in a good away at Kimberley the previous week.
Darren Bicknell scored 75 in that game but suffered a calf injury whilst batting against Plumtree so the visitors will be watching his fitness very closely.
Tim Haines has been the standout bowler in both games taking nine wickets at an average of less than seven runs each. Papplewick secured a solid win against Plumtree two weeks ago but suffered a heavy loss to the Cavs last week, being dismissed for 161 chasing 253.
Warren Nel has slotted in well to his new team and averages more than 75 with the bat and Brad Matthews has found early form with the ball with nine wickets in the opening three games.