WHITCHURCH cricket captain Alex Huxley has his sights firmly set on an immediate return to the Birmingham League as his side set out on their first Shropshire League campaign in more than 12 years.

The Heath Road club had been a permanent fixture in the Midlands’ top competition since winning the county league in 2004 – but were relegated last season after a series of hugely-disappointing displays.

“It’s often easier in a situation like this to get back up at the first attempt,” said Huxley. “And though I don’t want to push it too far, we see ourselves as realistic challengers for the title.”

Huxley was delighted with his side’s performance when they beat Oswestry in a pre-season friendly at Heath Road on Saturday.

The home side bowled Oswestry out for 183, a target they reached with five wickets and plenty of time to spare.

And a stand-out display by 17-year-old Sam Ellis really put a smile on Huxley’s face.

Ellis, captain of the First XI at Ellesmere College this year, clean bowled key Oswestry batsmen Warrick Fynn and skipper Robbie Clarke in the second over of the match and followed up with a stylish 43 as Whitchurch chased down the runs.

“Sam is a real talent, and we’ve been under quite a lot of pressure to hold on to him,” said Huxley. “He’ll miss a few games for us through his college commitments – including this Saturday – but hopefully not as many as last year.”

Jack Batkin weighed in with 3-30 to return the best figures for Whitchurch on Saturday, while Ejaz Yoyusaf (52), Kris Ali (26no) and Will Doerr (22no) all showed good form with the bat later on.

“It was a good workout and a very pleasing performance,” said Huxley. “A lot of us – including myself – hadn’t played at all outdoors before the game.”

Huxley is confident the departure of talismanic all- rounder Maz Hasnain to Newport has been offset by the arrival back at Heath Road of ex-Shropshire paceman Dan Bowen – and the fact  Dan’s brother Elliott will be available much more this year.

*For a full cricket preview, see this week's Whitchurch Herald.