Denton set sights on silverware in the Greater Manchester Cricket League
Wednesday 28th March 2018 @ 11:09 by Mark Phillip

Although the weather might not allow it, the new cricket season is set to launch in just over three weeks’ time.

The majority of clubs in Tameside are preparing for a new campaign in the Greater Manchester Cricket League, with opening day fixtures scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 21.

Entering its third successive year, the GMCL has undergone a major restructuring process over winter, and the pyramid will now boast a host of new clubs that have opted to join following the demise of the Pennine Cricket League after just two seasons.

One of the GMCL’s founding members, Denton, have enjoyed success over the past two years, with the first XI claiming promotion to Division One during the inaugural season, while the 2nd XI claimed the Division 5 S&E title in 2017.

Having led the 2nd XI to glory last season, Tom Stenson has decided to stay put and will captain the side for the forthcoming campaign in Division Four East.

The 30-year-old is confident of taking momentum from last season into the opening day home clash against Ashton 2nd XI. Speaking to Reporter Sport, Stenson, who has finished in the leagues top three wicket takers each year, said: “We are looking to follow on from last years league win and achieve back-to-back promotions. We’ve got the same strong nucleus from last year, plus the 1st team have recruited well, so that is always a positive for the 2nd team. We are looking forward to visiting seven new grounds and meeting new challenges.”

While Stenson is very much focused on delivering success to the second team this season, he will also have a keen interest in first team matters.

The former Audenshaw School pupil believes the first team laid the groundwork in 2017 to push on for promotion this season – especially with a host of old, trustworthy faces returning to Egerton Street. “The first team have recruited well over winter” said Stenson.

“They lost Adam Hayes who has gone on to play Premier League cricket with Woodhouses, but they have brought back Karl Taylor from Stretford, as well as Adrian and Brad Holmes who bring quality and experience to both batting and bowling.

“They had a mixed year last year but on their day can beat anyone and with Cloete Buitendag as captain, they certainly have the ambition to push on this year and challenge for promotion.”

Buitendag, a hard-hitting South African batsman, has developed a glittering reputation during the past two years.

The 24-year-old, who scored nearly 900 runs and took 49 league wickets in 2017, will link up with Keegan Taylor, a fellow South African, who amassed 504 league runs in 2017.

Buitendag, who has six first class games to his name, will captain the side at Streford for the first time on the opening day of the season.

Stenson said the club was delighted to have recruited the services of Buitendag and Taylor for another season. “They are two great lads and are loved by everyone in the club. You are always taking a gamble with overseas players when on a tight budget, so to be able to bring two established and exciting performers back like these two, and have them confirmed early in the winter, has helped the club a lot.

“They both had some great days last season and are determined to improve their consistency to repay the faith put in them. It is vital for a club like Denton that these players fit in quickly. We have a very social bunch and having these lads come straight into the group and get the respect of the team has been a pleasure to see. The fact Cloete is stepping up to captain the team this year is testament to that.”

Like many clubs across the borough -and the region for that matter – Denton had doubts about the the GMCL when it was first suggested.

However, Stenson has been highly impressed with the way the league functions, and believes it gives lesser clubs a chance to challenge for silverware. He said: “Our senior teams were going a bit stale in the old structure, with so much money flying around we couldn’t push too far up the leagues.

“When the structure was announced, both teams did feel we had been placed a league below where we should be, but we respected the decision and it was probably the best thing that could have happened to us.

“Both teams went on winning runs and it revitalized the atmosphere around the club. The 1st team won promotion into Division 1 and the 2nd team just missed out on promotion, which was awful at the time. However the atmosphere attracted old players back to the club and last season the 2nds were a much stronger, consistent unit and won the league, and are now much better equipped to challenge in division 4.

“The 1st team held their own in Division 1 and feels the right level now for them, with the aim of pushing on this year.”

A master with the ball last year, Stenson is aiming to produce the same success with the bat this season.

And without the added stress of work commitments, he feels revitalised and ready for the forthcoming challenges in the newly structured system. “There has been another restructure this year with many new clubs coming in” said Stenson.

“We feel this has been done well by the committee and appreciate the preference given to founder clubs, with the new clubs then fitting around us.

“We feel it has been done very fairly, and look forward to all of our teams visiting new grounds and welcoming new teams to Egerton Street, and hope they enjoy their day despite losing.”

Picture: Denton’s 2nd XI title winning side