Harrogate CC will go into their new campaign focused only on winning the Yorkshire League, despite the exit of three key players, insists captain Ryan Bradshaw.
Harrogate kick off their season with Sheffield Collegiate’s visit to St George’s Road this Saturday (12pm).
However, Gate are without the services of stalwart Vic Craven who has chosen to ply his trade at Aire-Wharfe outfit Bilton this summer.
New-ball partnership Graeme Whiles and Hugo Peterson have also left, but Bradshaw remained confident his side could challenge this season.
The skipper said: “There’s no point going into the season saying that you want to finish second or third. We want to win the league, and win every game we play in.”
Whiles has signed a county contract with Worcestershire, while Peterson has moved to London.
But Bradshaw admitted the exit of all-rounder Craven has left a gaping hole in the side.
The former Yorkshire player scored 897 runs in 30 matches last season and took 32 wickets at an average of 21.97.
Bradshaw said: “He’s probably the best league cricketer I have played with in all my life.
“He will take 50 wickets and score 1,000 runs every season. To replace that is very tough.”
Bradshaw will step up the order to five to quell the loss of Craven’s experience, while young Yorkshire star Jonny Tattersall will open the batting alongside Alexis Twigg.
Gate vice-captain George Ross has helped secure the signature of fast bowling all-rounder Tom Greeson-Brown in the last week.
Greeson-Brown is a student at Leeds University and is around for the summer despite usually playing his cricket for Oxford CC in the Home Counties Premier League.
The bowling all-rounder is a vital addition to Bradshaw’s squad, which the skipper admitted lacked experience.
York will again be favourites to retain their title despite the departure of influential batsman Duncan Snell.
The holders have reportedly played down their chances of retaining the title for an eighth straight year, but Bradshaw insisted their rivals will be the team to beat.
However, Bradshaw believes Yorkshire Academy, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster will create a close championship.
The captain added: “If you finish above York, you will win the league. They are a very good outfit and they have a great infrastructure.
“We have to aspire to what they have achieved.”
Saturday’s opponents Sheffield Collegiate have a history of bringing through world class players, with both Michael Vaughan and Joe Root sprouting from their academy.
The Sheffield squad are coached by former Yorkshire wicket-keeper Simon Guy and finished four places below Gate in seventh last season.
“Simon has them very well organised and they beat us in Sheffield last year,” added Bradshaw.
“They won’t be winning it this year but they will be in the top six. It’s a tough game to have first up.”
Harrogate 2nds meanwhile host Ripon on Sunday, in Division Two North of the York Senior League.