DORCHESTER begin their quest for a fourth successive Dorset League title against Broadstone at Delph Woods tomorrow (1pm).

The Dorset champions took a hat-trick of titles under previous captain James Dunham, who has now stepped aside for Dan Belt.

Dorchester initially feared a tough season might be ahead with the probable loss of Dorset all-rounder James Caldwell and his brother Will, plus wicketkeeper Nick Roe and big-hitting all-rounder Josh Richardson.

However, Jack Owens has made himself available for 2022 and Dorchester have added two overseas players to their ranks.

Australian all-rounder Arunn Samynathan comes in for a second spell at the club having first joined in 2016, while Indian all-rounder Gautham Rajendar has also arrived at the Rec.

Dorchester will have a selection headache on their hands with only one overseas player allowed per game, meaning one of the new duo will play for Dorchester’s second or third team.

Speaking to Echosport ahead of the new campaign, Belt admitted he is feeling more confident of a title challenge than he did before pre-season.

He said: “The boys are buzzing, the club is buzzing for it – it’s one of those weekends you look forward to through the winter to get back out on the pitch for a competitive match.

“A few weeks ago we’d lost a couple of players and were reliant on a few second-team players to come in and help out.

“We’ve been lucky enough in the last week or two to recruit a couple of players which have strengthened the team big time.

“We’re quietly confident that we’ll be competing again to defend the title.”

Asked if the hat-trick of titles had put an extra-large target on Dorchester’s back, Belt said: “It’s something we’ve had for a couple of years now.

“The boys are used to it and we try not to put pressure on ourselves in any way, just go out, have fun and enjoy it.”

Dorchy have been handed a tough opening month, beginning with a trip to the notoriously difficult Delph and followed by clashes with fellow title contenders Martinstown and Poole.

On the trip to Broadstone, Belt said: “It’s never easy at the Delph. It’s a hard ground to go to and know what you need to score.

“We’ll go there, play our game and the situation and go from there.”

Dorchester will hand a first-team debut to Billy Baker, with Rajendar preferred to Samynathan for this contest.

Dorchester: Belt, Owens, Ryall, Mitchem, Rajendar, Legg, Peak, Barrett, Dunham, Baker, J Foot.

*Dorchester Seconds and Thirds are both home, facing Charlton Down and Swanage Thirds in their respective County Division Two and County Division Six clashes tomorrow (1.30pm).

Dorchester II: Nobbs, Macklin, Power, Porter, Samynathan, Egan, Peach, J Peak, Mikurenda, Alford, D Hill.

Dorchester III: King, Dilpeepkumar, Marsh, Firkin, Smith, Steventon, Kinsey, S Joslin, Hadgett, Quinn, Lovett.

Back in the Premier League, Martinstown have been widely tipped for the title.

Sam Kershaw’s men were hugely improved last season in finishing third and possess some of the county’s most exciting young talent including Will Maltby and the Stewart brothers.

Tomorrow (1pm), Town open their campaign away to promoted side Puddletown, who will again play home matches at Plush this season before their new grass wickets are ready for action.

Kershaw said: “We’re sticking with what worked last year. We’ve got a couple of new faces and we’ll see how they get on.

“Gordon Wint, he’s joined us from Cornwall, he comes in as an all-rounder, and we’ve added a couple to the twos.”

He added: “We probably surprised a few people last year. Maybe we overachieved? We’ll see how we get on this year.

“I wouldn’t be tipping anyone for the title at the minute. We saw that the league got stronger last year – it will be an entertaining one for sure.”

On Puddletown, he said: “They’ll be excited to stake their claim on why they should be in the league.

“It can always be a tricky fixture first up when you’re playing the new guys. They’ve got nothing to lose, no hangovers from last year or anything like that.

“They’re going to be riding the crest of a wave. We’re looking forward to it.”

Martinstown: Nichols, S Williams, W Maltby, Wint, Andrews, Kershaw, Hill, Jo Stewart, Je Stewart, Trotter, Durant.

*Martinstown Seconds open their County Division Three season at home to Bere Regis tomorrow (1.30pm).

Puddletown are embracing their debut Premier League season after cantering to the Division One title in 2021.

Adam Barrett’s charges are seen as one of the minnows of the division and the Puddle skipper expects a tough start to 2022.

Poor availability in the Puddle squad has already caused the third team to scratch their opening County Division Seven game at home to Verwood Thirds.

He said: “We were aware two or three months ago that the first couple of weeks are going to be problematic.

“We’ve just got to deal with it the best we can. We’ll approach it like we do any other game and give 100 per cent.

“It’s a tough start, we know how good a side Martinstown are – obviously they beat Dorchester last year.

“You’ve got to play the best teams at some point so we may as well get them out of the way early and give it a real good go. We’re under no illusions it’s going to be difficult all season.

“But we earned our place in the league so hopefully we can do ourselves justice.”

Puddletown: Snow, Eastment, Mitchell, Barrett, Ry Norman, Re Norman, Crabb, S Chaldecott, Hoffman, AN Other, AN Other.

*Puddletown Seconds visit Witchampton Seconds in County Division Five tomorrow (1.30pm).

Premier League side Bere Regis are meanwhile at home to Wimborne tomorrow (1pm), with both sides preparing a title tilt.

Bere finished an impressive fourth last season, while Wimborne have strengthened over the winter and are considered one of the favourites to lift the trophy in September.

Bere have signed all-rounder Pete Russell from Broadstone to bolster their ranks and have warmed up for the season with comprehensive wins over Chalke Valley and Swanage.

Skipper Brian Keegan said: “He’s an opening bat and obviously bowls as well. That being said, we’ve got to get our heads down, forget about last season.

“It all starts afresh with a clean sheet of paper.”

Established first-teamers Dave Griffiths and Crispin Brown (work) miss out, as do Matt King (family) and Rich Cole.

Bere: S Goodhew, T Goodhew, Keegan, Kennard, Murphy, Payne, Pegg, Robertson, Rogerson, Russell, Walbridge.

*Cattistock & Symene commence their Premier League season at home to Sherborne tomorrow (1pm).

In County Division One, Portland Red Triangle start with a testing trip to Swanage tomorrow (1.30pm).

Triangle finished last season in fifth spot but have re-signed Dorset Leopards all-rounder Simon Proffitt from Bere Regis.

Proffitt’s return is a major boost for a Portland side that struggled with its seam attack last season, although the ex-Bere man’s availability is expected to be limited in 2022.

Ahead of Portland’s first game, skipper Matt Randell said: “I always look at Swanage as a tough place to travel, so ideally you’d want to get a few games under your belt first.

“It’s nice to have a good challenge early on. This season we’re not putting any pressure on ourselves, we’re just looking to take each game as it comes and play some decent cricket.

“Most importantly, just look to enjoy ourselves. Hopefully we’ll play decent cricket along the way.

“Pre-season’s gone well, we’ve trained well and played a couple of games, we lost to Weymouth but beat Dorchester. They had a mixed team out but it’s still nice to go and beat them.”

On Proffitt’s return, he added: “I thought when he left Portland it wasn’t going to be too long and too many winters of me badgering him for him to come back.

“The way I look at Proff coming back is that we know his availability is going to be poor. Just having him for a handful of games is going to put us in a better position than not having him.”

Portland: Proffitt, Laws, Randell, Theakstone, M Barrett, R Price, D Adkins, G Price, J Marsh, R Marsh, Cameron.

*Portland Red Triangle Seconds host Cheselbourne in County Division Five tomorrow (1.30pm), looking to bounce back from relegation last season.

Another side aiming to put relegation behind them is Weymouth, who open their County Division Two account against Shillingstone at Redlands tomorrow (1.30pm).

The Seasiders took the drop from Division One despite finishing 73 points clear of the bottom two.

But they were penalised 80 points for fielding an unregistered player and fell a division, meaning Harry Mitchell’s men are among the favourites for promotion this term.

Weymouth have made a number of signings, including left-arm spinner Jackson Jose, while seamer Rob Townley joins from Portland.

Speaking to Echosport, Mitchell said: “We’re here to do a job this year. We’re not looking at doing anything flash. We’re here to get points and get over the line.

“We’re looking to bounce back and react to what’s happened. We’ve started well in pre-season with a couple of wins under our belt.

“There’s an excitement around the club and we’re going to make the most of it. We’re in Div Two, we’re not going to sulk – we’ll just get on with it.”

Mitchell is wary of facing Shillingstone first up, adding: “It’s been a mixed bag against Shillingstone over the years.

“They’re a tricky side to beat but in the Covid league we bowled and batted very well against them.”

Lloyd Beals, John Wilson and Neil Walton are among the absentees for Weymouth.

Weymouth: England, Lark, Mitchell, Womble, J Sapsworth, Guyett, Urumancheri, Jose, Puckett, Hoyes, Patel.

*Weymouth Seconds visit Parley Fourths in their opening County Division Six clash tomorrow (1.30pm).

In Division Three, Cerne Valley journey to Poole Thirds, while Abbotsbury entertain Broadstone Seconds (both 1.30pm tomorrow).