NEWPORT will have a new captain calling the shots when they start the defence of their South Wales Premier Cricket League title tomorrow.

Michael Clayden has stepped down as skipper for family commitments after leading the Spytty Park club to the Division One and T20 titles in 2016.

He has been replaced by fellow batsman and last year’s player of the year Matt Norris, who will lead a side that has had an injection of vast experience with the arrivals of Glamorgan greats Mark Wallace and Dean Cosker following their retirement from professional cricket last season.

Wicket-keeper Wallace will play in the opener against Pontarddulais while spinner Cosker, who played for the club last year, will feature when his job as a cricket liaison officer with the ECB allows it.

With a formidable top five that features South African Norris, Clayden, Wallace, Imran Hassan and Glamorgan pro Nick Selman, Newport are hoping to be in the title mix once again.

“It was a great season last year and to be champions was almost a bonus,” said head coach Mike Knight, reflecting on a 2016 that also saw first-class cricket return to the city with Glamorgan hosting Pakistan A.

“We knew that we had a good side and wanted to finish high up the table but as the season progressed we got into a winning run and managed to get over the line.

“This year we are hoping to retain out title and we feel that we have a good side with the added experience of Mark Wallace, which will be a help to Matt.

“I think our side has evolved through the years after some tough experiences. They are a harder side to beat now and know how to win games.”

It’s a new challenge for Newport Fugitives when they step up to Division Two after triumphing in Division One of the South East Wales Cricket League.

The Fugies must get used to life on the road, with a trip to Ynystawe first up, and the challenge is an exciting one for the club.

“We are really looking forward to it,” said captain Matthew Evans. “There’s a bit of the unknown for the club but it was unanimous to take up the offer.

“It’s not just exciting for the firsts – our seconds will be playing the likes of Newport and Cardiff, so that shows how far we have come as a club.

“We are just hoping to be competitive; we didn’t set any targets last year and did well but obviously we want to stay in this league.”

The Fugitives have lost some experience with Huw Wilcox returning to Blackwood while Tom Cleeve has left because of a new job.

Those losses are counterbalanced by the arrival of some youth with Premier League experience with Newport in the form of Jack Thorpe-Yon, Rob Williams and James Didcote.

While the Fugitives are looking forward to life in Division Two, Panteg must get over the disappointment of agonisingly missing out on promotion to Division One.

They kick off with a home encounter with Tondu after a being pipped to top spot in 2016 by Penarth, who leapfrogged them after winning a duel on the final Saturday of the season.

Panteg warmed up for the league campaign with a 76-run victory against Merthyr in the preliminary round of the Welsh Cup.

Ian Thomas top-scored with 62 while Jack Mayers claimed four for 18 in a win that earns a clash a week on Sunday with those familiar foes Penarth.

Premier Division One: Bridgend Town v Neath, Cardiff v Ynysygerwn, Newport v Pontarddulais, Penarth, Ammanford, Port Talbot v Mumbles.

Premier Division Two: Carmarthen Wanderers v Tata Steel, Clydach v St Fagans, Miskin Manor v Swansea, Panteg v Tondu, Ynystawe v Newport Fugitives.