COLCHESTER and East Essex Cricket Club first XI captain Darren Eckford will lead from the front again in the premier division this season, according to the club’s director of cricket Julian Russell.

The Castle Park side are preparing for a brand new Shepherd Neame Essex League season in the top flight, starting with a trip to play Chelmsford on May 8.

Colchester are readying themselves for a second successive season in the top flight, following their promotion from division one, in 2019.

Skipper Eckford played a big part in that and Russell believes that the New Zealander will be a big influence on everyone again, this season.

Russell said: “Darren will be leading from the front; a lot of the energy and enthusiasm that the club has got looking towards the season comes from him.

“He’s a leader that people love to follow and he inspires and empowers people to take on some responsibility themselves, so we’re really happy that he’s leading the club again, this year."

Colchester have added batsman Dan Wolf to their ranks but it will largely be the same squad that played last season, which was curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Denson Narayan will be unavailable for the first part of the season due to work commitments but it is hoped he will return for the main part of the campaign.

“In the main, it’s the same youthful core who got us promoted from division one a couple of years ago and have formed the main backbone to our premier squad for the last couple of years," added Russell.

“Some of the guys who are at University and one or two of the schoolboys who still have some school commitments have their fixtures a little bit up in the air at the moment.

“We’re hoping to get them for more of the season than we might under normal circumstances but it will be a little bit of a week by week proposition, in the first month or so.”

Colchester (233-8) ran out 81 winners over Cavaliers (152) in North Essex Cricket League division one, last Sunday.

The previous day, Colchester played a intra-squad fixture, with Team Bulls beating the Badgers by 45 runs.

Colchester are in Dukes Essex League Cup first-round action at Chelmsford, on Saturday.