Cricket: Hem Heath make the move in transfer market
HEM Heath have been the big movers in the transfer market ahead of the new North Staffs and South Cheshire League season.
A total of 181 players have switched clubs, with 11 new arrivals making their way to Hem Heath and their sister club Forsbrook.
The Trentham Lakes club endured a disappointing 2012 season, finishing in eighth place in the Premier Division, despite being tipped to mount a title challenge.
They have moved to remedy that situation with their most eye-catching recruit being Pakistan right-arm paceman Bilawal Bhatti.
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The 21-year-old claimed 65 wickets last year for Alfreton in the Derbyshire League and weighed in with 584 runs. He also played in the Champions League for Sialkot Stallions in October.
He is joined at Hem Heath by new skipper Lee Ridgway, who moves from Caverswall, experienced Wood Lane opener Matt Hagan and Little Stoke wicketkeeper/batsman Spencer Byatt.
But exiting Hem Heath are seamer Steve Atkinson and batsman Brian Sims, with the duo embarking on a new challenge at Division Three Fenton.
Burslem, who narrowly avoided relegation from the top flight last season, have recruited old boy Imran Arif to spearhead their attack.
Arif had a previous spell at Festival Heights before he switched to Whitmore and helped them to promotion to the Premier Division in 2012.
Longton, last year's top-flight runners-up, have strengthened their already formidable batting line-up with the acquisition of Staffordshire left-hander Dave Wheeldon from Cheadle.
And Knypersley have continued to invest in up-and-coming talent by snapping up highly-rated Meir Heath youngster Tom Edwards.
Division One side Meakins look to be making a concerted bid for promotion after a flurry of winter activity at Ivy House Road.
Staffordshire all-rounders Ben McGuire and Richard Hassall join from Hem Heath and Longton respectively, while Newcastle and Hartshill captain Andy Whitehead has also made the move.
Left-arm spinner Steve Morgan, who helped Elworth to promotion to the Premier Division last season, has surprisingly opted to remain in the second tier after joining relegated Cheadle.
Leaving Tean Road, however, is last year's skipper Simon Plant after he opted for a new challenge at Division Two side Kidsgrove.
Oulton, who finished in mid-table in the third tier last season, look to have pulled off one of the signings of the winter by tempting seamer Dan Colclough from Little Stoke.
He weighed in with 64 wickets last year, despite Little Stoke's relegation from the Premier Division.
However they have moved quickly to replace Colclough by signing former Sussex left-arm paceman Naveed Arif Gondal from Horsham.
Also departing Little Stoke is young all-rounder Greg Massingham, who has made the move to Division Two Stafford.
In Division Three, influential Fenton all-rounder Chris Mellor has taken up a new challenge at Hanford, while a handful of new signings will help add strength in depth to Leek Moorlands after their promotion from the Stone and District League.
Among their new faces is experienced Oakamoor seamer Chris Price, who is set to lead the attack for Richard Ogden's side.