New Horsham captain Michael Thornely is expecting a ‘wide open’ Premier Division this season both up and down the table.
The former Leicestershire and Sussex batsman returned to Cricketfield Road last season and has taken up the mantle of skipper from James Johnson this year.
The 29-year-old took charge of his first game on Saturday where Horsham suffered a 71-run defeat to expected title challengers Preston Nomads.
Reigning champions and local neighbours Roffey also made a solid start, along with Cuckfield and East Grinstead, who are looking strong outfits.
Thornely expects the new Sussex League format with fielding restrictions and a win/lose format in a 45 over innings game - which continues until mid season when the old formats return - will also add to the competitiveness of the division.
He said: “I think this year is going to be much more wide open than it has been in recent years, especially with the new format.
“It limits the amount bowlers that some teams can bowl their best bowlers. It will be very interesting to see how the season progresses.
“A few of our players are at university, at school or are Sussex players, so it’s a bit of a tough time at the moment.
“We’ve got some new additions who have started really well like Ryan Maskell and Nick Oxley, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they go throughout the season.”
The Lions’ next fixture will see them face a Cuckfield side, who boast former batsman Joe Ludlow and New Zealand international Jeet Raval, at home on Saturday.
Thornely added: “It was quite a tough test first up, and we’ve got another tough fixture this weekend against Cuckfield.”
“It’d be a great team to take down. They’ve improved their team over the winter. They’ve got quite a well-known overseas player as well who got runs last week on his debut.
“They’ll be in a good place coming in to the game but we need to just keep improving. If we can get a result or have someone stand up on the day and put in a special performance, I’d always back us to chase anything or set a big total.
“We’ve definitely got a good chance. It’ll be another tough game, only second game in. Whilst some teams may have got a win they may be playing against some of the lesser teams.”