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Last summer . . . Albion veteran Dylan Winter faces Waitaki Boys' High School bowler Blake Martin during the Borton Cup final at Centennial Park in March. The wicketkeeper is Kurt Thomas. PHOTO: CAROL EDWARDS

Hello, summer. North Otago club cricket begins with rounds of the holiday competition this weekend and next. Then it’s into the Borton Cup for five rounds, back to the Dick Hunt Trophy for five rounds either side of Christmas (including a T20 bash on January 12), before finishing with the race to the Borton Cup final on March 17. Hayden Meikletakes a quick look at how the five teams are shaping up.

ALBION

Key players: Dylan Winter, Regan George, Jordan Cafferkey, Brady Kingan.

Gains: Cafferkey, Pete Cartwright, Jonty Naylor, Andrew Searle, Sam Fleming.

Losses: Jeremy Smith, Zach Wade.

The oil: Defending champion Albion has some new (and returning) faces but the big story is the loss of Smith. The star North Otago top-order batsman and useful bowler is off to give Dunedin cricket a crack after playing in England again this winter. Still, the Mungers should field a strong XI most weeks as they strive for back-to-back Borton Cups. George will score runs, Winter will take wickets, Brad Kernahan will contribute both, and English import Cafferkey is an interesting newcomer. Strong contender for final.

OAMARU-SKC

Key players: James Ferris, Craig Smith, Nick Johnston, Ashley Abrahams.

Gains: Ferris, Abrahams, Zach Naldrett.

Loss: James Mallinson.

The oil: Still trying valiantly to rebuild. A big step is the enlistment of Abrahams, who has been recruited by the club and school as a player/coach/hostel master. The transplanted Aucklander is predominantly a batsman but also bowls legspin. Another positive is the return of the talented Ferris, who hits the ball a mile and can bowl at pace. Should be better, and making the semifinals is a realistic aim.

UNION

Key players: Sam Bastin, Blake James, Matt Lilley.

Gain: Possibly Neil Rushton.

Losses: Dan Conlan, Thomas Shields, Sean Conlan.

The oil: North Otago’s most successful club is in something of an uncertain period as it tries to replace good players who have left and to squeeze some more summers out of the legs of its veterans. English import Bastin is back for a second season, and Lilley and James are handy players. But Dan Conlan’s bowling will be sorely missed, and depth could be an issue. Semifinal at best.

VALLEY

Key players: Cameron Grubb, Lachlan Kingan, Reuben Simpson.

Gains: None.

Loss: Zach Naldrett.

The oil: Plenty of pressure on the shoulders of burly all-rounder Grubb (252 runs and 20 wickets last summer) and top-order batsman Lachlan Kingan if Valley is to have much hope of Borton Cup success. More likely is a Dick Hunt Trophy threepeat thanks to the presence in the holiday competition of North Otago superstar Francois Mostert and schoolboy tyro Llew Johnson.

WAITAKI BOYS’

Key players: Mason James, Francois Mostert, Scott Kitto, Rhys Petrie.

Gain: Aaron Maxwell.

Losses: Petrie, Thomas Hutton, Hayden Creedy (after Christmas).

The oil: As usual, Waitaki Boys’ will have something of a season of two halves. The pre-Christmas squad looks very strong, especially in the bowling department. James, Kitto and Glen McClea will have to shoulder the load in the new year. Keep an eye out for Maxwell, the prodigiously talented year 9 pupil who has a bright future.