CAPTAIN Ben Bridgen insists Wimborne CC will continue their philosophy of promoting youth, despite the club’s “mixed start” to the Dorset Premier League season.

Wimborne won the title last year, for the first time since 2018, losing just once along the way.

But five games into the 2024 campaign, Bridgen’s side have already suffered more defeats than the whole of 2023, winning three and losing two of their five matches.

Reflecting on last year’s success, Bridgen told the Daily Echo: “We really had a strong emphasis of youth within the team.

“It was supported by a couple of the senior guys, who did well with the bat and the ball. But it did give us the opportunity to play some young lads.

“Alfie Appleby Ingram, who is in the county setup, made his debut at 13 and each week we had six or seven under-17 players playing for us and contributing towards the performance.

“It’s great to see. We’ve got a big squad with a lot of depth that has come through for the youth.

“The emphasis of the club really is to promote youth and give them the opportunity. We’ve got a lot of talent in the ranks.”

He added: “The difference this year is we’re in a new format.

“The league is now an ECB-accredited league. The new Premier League is now only six teams, so now there are no easy games.

“Each week it is Dorchester, Poole, Bere Regis, Sherborne, who have all improved and the standard is really strong now. So we have no easy games any more.

“When you win the league, you become the team everybody marks as the one they want to beat.

“We’ve had a mixed start to this season. We’ve struggled with the bat, ultimately.

“We’ve not been putting enough runs on the board.

“But at Sherborne on Saturday we got 160, which was probably a par score, and the young kids bowled brilliantly. Alfie took four wickets, he was exceptional.”

Asked if the tougher schedule this year will make it harder to continue pushing so many youngsters into the side, Bridgen replied: “We want to push them, ultimately.

“We pick them because we think they’re good enough, whatever opposition we play.

“We do have to try and balance having enough senior players to support the young kids. We try to cap it at no more than seven under-17s, because you do need those senior players around them to support them, and we need drivers for the away game as well!

“But these under-17s are playing county level cricket. Alfie is at Gloucester, Harry Fairchild plays for Somerset, we’ve got Barney Overton, who is 14 and plays for Hampshire and up the age groups. He’s gone from playing in the fourth team last year to the first and second team this year after a huge growth spurt.

"He’s bowling quick. He’s going to be an exceptional player.

“We feed them in at the right times, trying to get the right balance within the team as well, whether that’s batting or bowling.”

Wimborne will look to follow-up last weekend’s win at Sherborne with success in the upcoming Twenty20 matches, starting against Chalke Valley on Saturday.