PRE-SEASON preparations begin at the Parks on Saturday when Bridgwater host Shapwick & Polden in the first warm-up game of the 2017 season. 

There is an air of optimism surrounding the Parks with the signing of former Somerset CCC professional and Big Bash and Indian Premier League specialist Alfonso Thomas to the playing squad as player coach creating a buzz. 

This is a massive coup given what Thomas has achieved in the game and to have one of the best T20 bowlers to have ever played the game at their disposal is a massive boost. 

Bridgwater have also been fortunate to benefit from Somerset CCC bringing across two Kiwi players in a relationship they have set up with Canterbury CC, the first class County Champions in New Zealand. 

Bridgwater were given first choice as they are the only Premier 1 club in Somerset in 2017, and have taken a pace bowler called Will Williams. 
Williams, who arrives on April 27, has a good pedigree, and comes with a strong reference from County assistant coach Jason Kerr. 

The third new signing is young spin bowling all-rounder Tom Bevan, from Glamorgan Academy and Millfield School, who will be available during the first half of the season. 

On paper, Bridgwater are set up with a strong seam attack led by 2016’s outstanding player Chris Skidmore, alongside Thomas, Williams, Roberts, Liam Redrup and left-armer Chris Singleton, with the spin options being provided by Bevan, Somerset’s George Bartlett, Andy Skidmore and Todd Barrett.

The batting remains strong, led by captain Merv Hallaran and the experienced Chris Gange, and Hallaran and Cricket Manager Scott Sealey will have a few selection headaches. 

Adam Hose returns as the County contracted professional, as well as George Bartlett and keeper/batsmen Tom Lace, who have both recently signed pro contracts with Somerset and Middlesex respectively. 

Stuart Butt returns from injury after missing the whole of 2016, while there will be opportunities for Andy Skidmore, Josh Vickery, Liam Kitch and Barrett in the order. 

The league campaign begins with a mouth-watering home fixture against WEPL Champions Bath but, before then, there is the National Knockout Cup 1st Round against Winterbourne on Sunday, April 23.

The 2nd XI look forward to a second season is the WEPL Somerset Division and should be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead having experienced new opposition and visited new venues for the first time in 2016. 

Their league campaign kicks off at promoted Temple Cloud on May 6 and they are again led by pacemen Ian Higgins who will lead the bowling attack.

He will be supported by Dan Rossiter, the Habberfield brothers, Matt and Ed, Harrison Buller and Scott Clapp, while Tim Hill will return from University in June.

The batting will be led by a number of players on the fringe of the 1st XI, with Ben Coombes looking to start the season as he ended 2016, Ally Witts and Jon Hill adding experience to the middle order and youngsters Will Moyse, Tom Bellinger and Dominic Court expected to push hard for places.

The 3rds again play in Somerset Division Two and have a new leader in all-rounder Mike Skidmore.

The Bridgwater Pointers have a new adventure in 2017 having been transferred into the Somerset League Division 6 from the West Somerset League and will again be led by Tom Denovan with support from the experienced Mike Luckes, Mark Rose and Matt Duckering. 

Off the field, Marc Crisp is the new pavilion and bar manager and the ground continues to be maintained by Club Secretary Andy Higgins.

Pre-Season Schedule (all games 1pm start):

Sat, April 15 - 1st v Shapwick & Polden (h); Sat, April 22 - 1st/2nd XI v Taunton Deane (A); 3rd XI v Minehead (H); Sun, April 23 - 1st v Winterbourne (National Knockout 1st Round); Sat, April 29 - 1st XI v Bovey Tracey (H); 2nd XI v Taunton Deane (A)

Opening League Fixtures (12.30pm start): Sat, May 6 - 1st XI v Bath (H); 2nd XI v Temple Cloud (A); 3rd XI v Shapwick & Polden 2nd XI (H); Pointers v Sparkford (A).