DORCHESTER captain James Dunham believes the returning Dan Belt is “one of the most talented cricketers in the county”.

Former Dorset all-rounder Belt’s comeback from retirement was this week confirmed after just one season away from the game.

Dorchester, who claimed the Dorset title in 2019 and 2020, are further strengthened by Jack Owens after a spell in 2020 at Southern League level with Totton & Eling.

Back-to-back champions Dorchester get their title defence under way at rivals Wimborne on Saturday, May 1.

But it is the addition of Belt that has set tongues wagging on the Dorset circuit.

Dunham told Echosport: “It’s great to have a mate back playing cricket again.

“He was still watching us most weeks last year. With the NHS League last year it was a good year for him to have off with his family and two young girls.

“He’s come back refreshed and is looking forward to getting going.

“It’s great to have him back.

“He’s one of the most talented cricketers in the county and it’s good to have him back in the changing rooms – brilliant news.”

Owens took a combined 5-146 in six games and scored 27 runs across four innings with Totton.

The young all-rounder was also a key component of Dorchester’s title-winning campaign in 2019.

Dunham said: “It’s great to have Jack back. He played with Totton last year and I think he enjoyed the step up and challenging himself.

“He’s bowling quite sharp and he learnt a lot from playing at that level. I don’t think he had too much of an opportunity with the bat.

“Again, I think he wanted to come back. He enjoys playing for us and we all love playing cricket together.

“We’ve got quite a strong bond between us all. We’re hoping to have another successful year so it’s great to have them both back.

“Sometimes you look at them as new signings but it’s about keeping the players you’ve already got and bringing two back that already know the club well and have contributed before.”

However, Dorchester have lost a bowling option with former Bournemouth off-spinner Ben Thompson moving to Monaco for work commitments.

Dorchester held their first training session of 2021 last night.

Fielding one Evening League side, the county town team will hold two training sessions per week at Dorchester Rec on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6-8pm.

Elsewhere, club coach Sean Fitzgerald will lead newly-formed Dorchester Thirds in County Division Five North & West this season.

Dunham added: “That’s the best news ever because it’s going to bring our Colts through into adult cricket.

“Just to have Fitz back playing and helping them transition to adult cricket, we couldn’t have asked for anyone better.”

Dorchester will stage an inter-club friendly on April 10th, before hosting Southern League giants Bournemouth at the Rec on Saturday, April 24th.

Dorchy will then contest 2020’s postponed T20 Cup final against Poole Town at Poole Park on Sunday 25th.

Rob Nobbs will again lead the club’s second string and has lined up two home warm-ups with Verwood and Beaminster on the 17th and 25th of April respectively.