Barnard Castle begin their Darlington Building Society NYSD ECB Premier League title defence on Saturday with a home game against newly-promoted Billingham Synthonia.

Skipper James Quinn said: “We showed fantastic consistency last year to win the league and we surprised a few people, including ourselves. However, the new season brings different challenges and if we are in the mix come the last few games, who knows?

“Synthonia will be eager to impress in their first game back. We need to do the basics well and play positive cricket.”

Overseas professional Hashan Dumindu returns and James Wainman (ex-Yorkshire) becomes the new English professional. Patrick Roberts who has played for Cheshire, keeps wicket and the overseas amateur is Giles Creedon, returning after enjoying a superb first season.

Synners’ skipper Mike Yuill commented: “We want to cement a place in the Premier and stop been a yo-yo club, but it’s a tough start to go to the home of the champions.’’

New signing Iqbal Khan is part of a full squad to select from.

Darlington are at Marske and have engaged all-rounder Liam Coates and Tom Hewison. Peter Armstrong returns, alongside new pace bowlers Mark Davis and Shaun Charlton.

Marske have engaged Ryan Gibson and Nauman Anwar – who has played for Pakistan - joins as overseas professional. Michael Brokensha is the overseas amateur.”

Richmondshire are at Seaton Carew. The Dalesmen have captured an excellent player in Stephen Reeves as their new professional. Next Wednesday they go to Lords to face the MCC.

In the Dukes ECB North East Premier League, Hetton Lyons, who finished a credible third position last season, welcome champions South North to Lilywhite Terrace.

Skipper Jonathan Malkin said: “We have signed Karl Turner, and returning to the team after a few seasons away is David Lowther..”

South North welcome back Chris Hewison, returning from Swalwell after seven years. Jacques Du Toit and Ollie McGee join from Newcastle, alongside Gareth Wade from Northamptonshire. Richard Stanyon misses out with an elbow injury.

Eppleton welcome local rivals and newly-promoted Burnmoor to Church Road. New signing Sam Dinning from Tynemouth is a good addition, and they will be looking to improve on last season’s return of just five wins.

Burnmoor join the elite and secretary Ian Linsley said: “We have Sami Ullah Khan Niazi returning as professional, with Graham Bridge and Martin Hubber both signing alongside Ryan Pringle from the Academy. We have a good experienced team and with the Symington lads Craig and Mark staying on, we are looking to compete all season.”

Chester-le-Street were runners up in 2018, but a long way behind South North. They start at home to Newcastle and skipper John Coxon said: “We are delighted to welcome Ben Whitehead as our Durham player for 2019. He will add extra variety to our attack, and we hope he will be available for much of the season.

“We also have a young seamer called Brodie Glendinning, highly-recommended from Penrith - he is involved with Durham Academy and is an excellent prospect.

“We will be much the same as in previous seasons and the strong nucleus remains the same. Stephen Cantwell is now one of the best fast bowlers in the league and we hope his recent first-class experience will push him even further.

“We also have one of the best batsmen in the region, with Kyle Davis comfortably topping the run scoring list last season.”

Sacriston who narrowly avoided relegation last season, entertain Tynemouth. Fixture secretary Iain Bestford said: “Our only absentee is overseas signing Ross Williams from Perth, who arrives on Tuesday. Graeme Wrightson continues as skipper and he is able to call on new signing Chris McBride, at the top of the order.

“Will Gidman returns having retired from first class cricket and Matty Potts is our County contracted player. Sol Bell is returning from the Durham Academy.”

Shotley Bridge join the First Division from the Northumberland and Tyneside Senior League and begin at home to Willington. Skipper Paul Greenwell said: “We are at full strength, in addition to Oliver Gibson joining and Jack Camarda the overseas amateur, who will play after arriving from Australia. We have zero expectations and it will a big learning curve for the players and the club, our aim though is to get into the Premier League.”

Castle Eden entertain Crook and Chairman John Spellman said: “Saeed Bin Nasir is retained as professional and we do expect to be competitive. Three junior players - Isaac Unsworth and twins Ben and Lewis Simpson - will be pushing for first-team places, after impressing in the second team last year.”

Crook secretary Alan Stewart said: “We have two new players in Eddie Watson from Esh Winning and Abi Joshi from Tudhoe, and have retained the majority of the squad. Professional Daniel Doram is expected in early May and we are looking forward to the season and new challenges in a different league.”

In the Northumberland and Tyneside Cricket League, Lanchester host Stocksfield and vice-captain Greg Halliday said: “All-rounder Kieran Gohery has signed from Lintz and Dan Nicotra returns. The rest of the squad is more or less intact and are fully expecting an excellent season.”

Annfield Plain are at Morpeth and skipper David Maughan commented: “The side remains much the same as last season, but recruitment is ongoing. Players are thin on the ground at present.”

In Division Two, Leadgate make the journey to Alnwick and skipper Gary Innes has new signing Graham Hubber making his debut.