THE Bassetlaw Cricket League season begins on Saturday - and for the first time in a long while it is virtually impossible to pick which team will stay the distance and gain promotion to the Nottinghamshire Premier League in 2013.
Last season, although they had only gained promotion from Division One in 2010, it was fairly obvious that with the financial clout that Worksop had at the back of them that they would take a lot of stopping - and they did, even though Farnsfield put up a valiant fight and would have been crowned champions in virtually every other season.
However, this season looks totally different and, looking through the teams, nobody seems to stand out as being so far ahead of the others.
How do you replace a player who scored 1,366 runs at an average of 195.14? It’s simple really, you don’t.
That is the task facing Farnsfield this season with the loss of Aussie Mark Hanson.
Paul Delaney will captain the side for most of the season, unless Paul Franks, is playing and apart from the signing of Matt Thompson from Kirkby Portland there is little or no change from the side who did so well last term.
They do have probably the best youth set-up in the league and a whole host of good players are at their disposal.
Callum McKenzie has played in Australia this winter and should be even better for that while Dave Loveridge, who topped the league bowling averages last season, shows no sign of his powers waning with his well-flighted slow bowling.
The opening bowling team of Neil Sharpe and Jamie Wagstaff will once again prove a problem to all opposition but the absence of Hanson will be a key factor.
There are overseas players and overseas players and this one was exceptional.
Glapwell have probably been the busiest side of all in the close season, recruiting several new players and losing a couple into the bargain.
Australian Matthew Goodwright will skipper the side this time and they have brought in a wicket-keeper batsman, Andy Stewart from Cambridgeshire, Liam Douglas from Staveley Welfare, Liam Dudley from Kirkby Portland, Richard Garfoot from Holmewood and Ricky Csomer has returned from Shipley Hall.
In addition another proposed deal had not been quite finalised as we went to print.
Along with a solid bedrock from last season, another good season seems likely, however, Matt Hall has left to join Kiveton Park while Shaun Johnson has joined Staveley Welfare.
A side relying on virtually the same combination as last season is Thoresby Colliery.
Martin Cheshire is captain once again and they have recruited an opening bowler from New Zealand in Ben Blackman whom they believe will make people sit up and take notice.
In addition they have blooded several young players over the last few seasons and once again they expect their progress to continue.
Lee Willis, Danny Tyson and wicket-keeper/batsman Ben Marson are all bright hopes for the future and, along with Farook Aziz, Nyeem Ahmed and the rest of the side which finished last season so well, they are expecting good things.
Kiveton Park, relegated from the Nottinghamshire Premier League, have in Lee Brooks, one of the most enterprising leaders anywhere.
And they have added two very good signings in Matthew Hall from Glapwell, and Adam Whiteley from Mansfield Hosiery Mills.
That mercurial Sri Lankan Amila Perera has returned for another season at Anston, who on their day are capable of beating anyone.
Under the excellent leadership of Mark Parkinson, Anston have become a highly respected side in the Championship and will be again this season.
Promoted Harthill are a complete mystery in their first season at this level.
They have lost the services of Jamar Griffith, who is plying his trade in the Lancashire League this summer, but feel they have a very adequate replacement in South African all-rounder Jeffrey Myburgh.
Another side who have had a busy close season is Marshalls of Gainsborough.
They have a new captain in Gary Andrews, but the good news is that Paul Van den Heuval is still there as well.
In addition a good Australian all-rounder Samuel Carlon has been registered and middle order batsman/leg spinner Matthew Snee has joined them from Messingham in the Lincolnshire League.
A player who scored 1087 runs at an average of 57.21 last season, Jonathan Loates will be a big loss to North Wheatley with Leverton as he has opted to join Nottinghamshire Premier League side Welbeck this season.
In the light of this, North Wheatley have appointed Richard Robinson as captain and Cameron Parker, who is primarily a batsman, has come over from Australia and is known as a player who builds an innings rather than flamboyantly smashing the ball.
It’s very much the same at Notts & Arnold Amateur as they continue their youth development policy, which is now seeing some good players emerging.
Dave Wood is once again in charge and they are hoping that Sri Lankan Dilhan Cooray will be back once again. They still possess the league’s No. 1 all-rounder Ian Flood and are hopeful that this season will see some of the young talent actually making its mark in the first XI.
A side who flattered to deceive last season was Ordsall Bridon, but they are hoping for better things this season. One thing they must get rid of is the amazing amount of extras that they conceded as they regularly gave every side they played about 30 to 40 runs start.
After one of the worst season’s in their history, Retford will be hoping for better things this season.
They have signed an Australian opening batsman,David Mitchell from Sydney, and another opening batsman, the consistent Mark Bull has joined them from Killamarsh.
The second promoted side, West Indian Cavaliers seconds, rely very heavily on the side which got them up last season.