Bexhill Cricket Club has signed a multiple County Championship winner ahead of the new season.
Andrew Hodd, who won the domestic four-day competition with Sussex and Yorkshire, will play for Bexhill in their 2019 1st Central Sussex Cricket League Division Three East campaign.
And the wicketkeeper/batsman is in the side for the opening day trip to Crawley Eagles this coming Saturday.
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Club spokesman Hamish Russell said: “It’s a great signing, but we’re just incredibly lucky. It makes the world of difference to our club for a number of reasons.
“We think very selfishly about how good it is for us, but hats off to him. He started off at the club, left when he was 16 or 17, toured the world, played for his country, had a fantastic first class career, and now he wants to come back and have a go where it all started.
“Not many people who have had a career like he has would go back into the recreational game.”
Hodd grew up in the town, and was a pupil at the old Bexhill High School (now Academy) and Bexhill College before embarking on a highly successful cricketing career.
A one-time England under-19 international, the now 35-year-old played for Sussex, Surrey and latterly Yorkshire before retiring from the first class game at the end of last summer.
“His family and his wife’s family are from down this way, and we knew he was going to be moving back,” Russell added. “He’s probably had phone calls from at least a dozen local clubs, I’m sure his phone’s been going berserk with offers.”
After back-to-back relegations in 2017 and 2018, Bexhill will be aiming to start heading back in the right direction this summer.
Russell said: “I think everybody wants to go back up and if that happens, it’s great. But to be honest it’s not the be all and end all.
“They will certainly be up there with the favourites, if not the favourites, but you just don’t know who else is around.
“There’s some second teams in the league this year and some clubs they’ve never played before. It’s a really hard league to judge if you like.”
Bexhill will face some new opponents such as Rye, Rottingdean, Seaford, Portslade and Crawley Eagles, as well as the second teams of Brighton & Hove, Eastbourne, Hastings Priory and Preston Nomads.
“There will be plenty of new experiences and wickets to deal with,” continued Russell. “The club’s been in a rebuilding phase, and hopefully we can build a bit of confidence, stability and a feelgood factor if we can start putting wins on the board as a club again. If promotion comes with it, then great. But it really isn’t the be all and end all.”
Bexhill have taken the unusual step of not recruiting an overseas player this year - partly for financial reasons - and Nick Peters has joined Division Two club St James’s Montefiore.
The spin bowler is hoping to play some Sussex second XI cricket this summer and therefore needs to be playing club cricket in the league’s top two divisions.
Experienced players Stuart Collier, Chris Deeprose, Richard Harrison and Lloyd Waughman - all in their mid-30s and have played a lot of cricket together in the past - are set to make themselves available this term.
Johnathan Haffenden will skipper the side and Shawn Johnson, who shared the captaincy with Haffenden last year, will be free to focus solely on playing.
“A buzz isn’t quite the right word, but there’s a little bit of excitement or expectation really,” added Russell.