Rangers face test of depth in Counties

  • James Celestine will make his first appearance of the season for Southampton Rangers in today's Western Counties first round (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Holders Southampton Rangers had to dig deep to come up with 11 players for the first round of the Western Counties against Somerset Bridge at Southampton Oval today.

Some of their new signings — like Nirobi Mills, Najiyah Raynor, Charles Trott, Sheldon Caesar and Tre Manders — are not yet eligible, with Trott and Manders having played for PHC and will have to qualify.

Captain Dion Stovell and Shannon Rayner are the two guest players for Rangers, while James Celestine and Kevin Tucker have answered the call and are playing their first games of the season.

Kwame Tucker is playing his first match since he featured in the Open cricket early in the season.

“I feel good with these players if they put their all into the game we should come out victorious,” said Ricky Brangman, the Rangers coach.

“It’s good that we have players we can call on. We don’t take any team lightly and will take one game at a time.

“We had a good session last night and we’re concentrating on Bridge right now. Kwame said he wasn’t going to play much this year and said when we need him he would play. That’s what most of those guys said, that they would fill in when we need them. I do appreciate that.”

Malachi Jones, who also returned to Rangers this season, is not eligible yet to play again for Rangers, having played for Willow Cuts in the competition last year. It was ten years ago today that Jones, then with Rangers, smashed 103 not out against Willow Cuts in a Western Counties match.

Bridge, who were set to finalise their team last evening, have plans to go with their league team, possibly including three colts. Last year they named three colts Jamie Raynor, Torleair Caines and Sharye Tavares with Joshua Gilbert of Somerset Cricket Club their guest player.

“I just hope they bring their ‘A’ game tomorrow, it’s up to the players as a team,” said team official Alfred Carter. “The team is going to be based around the club team. Coach Winston Reid said that when we bring guest players not necessarily do they take wickets and make runs on the day.”

Bridge lost to Rangers by 105 runs in the second round last year, dismissing the champions for just 142 on an unpredictable pitch at White Hill Field before falling for just 37 in reply.

Rangers reclaimed the cup in 2016 when they beat holders Willow Cuts in the third round by 36 runs in a high-scoring game, scoring 272 and then restricting Cuts to 236. Today’s winners will take on Warwick in the second round next weekend.

• First Division teams take the spotlight tomorrow with no Premier Division matches scheduled. Willow Cuts lead the promotion race by nine points over Flatts who have a game in hand.

Cuts travel to Wellington Oval to meet fourth place Cleveland while Flatts take on bottom team PHC at St David’s. In the other match Devonshire Rec host Warwick.