THERE'S still an icy chill in the air, but the sound of leather and willow is back and local big guns Kendal and Netherfield are all set for an eagerly awaited Northern Premier League campaign.

The big local derby is of course back on the fixture list after Kendal won promotion from the Palace Shield Premier Division at the first time of asking and are confident of making an impact on their return to the top table.

But cross town rivals Netherfield will as ever be a major force, and the reigning 40 Over Cup champions will be out to go one better after narrowly missed out on retaining the Northern League title in 2018.

The Parkside Road outfit, who will be captained by Ben Barrow for a third consecutive season, have signed New Zealand all rounder Bevan Small as their professional, while young Australian opening bowler Joel Blain comes in as the new overseas amateur.

“We hope to be fighting for honours come the end of the season," said Barrow.

"Our squad adapts well to both league and cup cricket with a number of players pushing hard to get into the first team which will only add to our strength in depth.

"I am looking forward to seeing Bevan Small make his debut as our new professional.

"He is a player we have tracked for a couple of seasons who currently plays for Central Districts.

"He is a quality all rounder who comes highly recommended by Tom Bruce and Dan Ingham, and Bevan is keen to get involved with the clubs coaching both senior and junior and we look forward to his arrival."

The Netherfield skipper said he was also excited about the arrival of Blain, a young leg spinner who performed well with Whalley in the Ribblesdale League in 2018, claiming more than 60 wickets and scoring 300+ runs.

Blain has played in the first team at top Australian club side Geelong in Victoria Premier Cricket during the close season, appearing in every game in the Vic Super Slam, and he was instrumental in Geelong reaching the Victoria finals.

"We have spoken to contacts in Australia and England who again recommended Joel’s quality and we look forward to seeing him in action this coming season," said Barrow.

He added that young players such as Dylan Hoyle and Theo Gallagher will be keen to make an impact for the club while Dan Gaunt returns after his spell in Australia and will captain the second team.

Kendal meanwhile are buoyant after overcoming a poor start to go undefeated throughout the second half of the season and clinch promotion in style.

The Shap Road men will be captained by Chris Miller and will have South African Wesley Marshall as their new professional.

The ranks have also been strengthened by former Cumberland wicketkeeper Tom Benn, who joins from Carlisle, and Torrisholme all-rounder Daniel Wood, who Miller said was a stand out player in last season's Palace Shield.

“After gaining promotion from the Palace Shield as well as winning The Meyler Cup, we look forward to making our return into the Northern Premier League," said Miller.

"Our aim for this season will be to consolidate ourselves back in the league and have a decent run in either the T20 or League Cup.

"We have added a few names to the ranks alongside our promising juniors, while we are delighted to welcome Wesley Marshall as our new professional."

Marshall has already played three seasons in the UK so is well used to English conditions, and he performed well in his native South Africa where his province Easterns where they won the One Day Competition.

Miller said he was also looking forward to the club's home grown players making an impact, with several of the youngsters including Tom Aspinwall having trained with Lancashire in the winter and Harry Lee having spent six months in Australia with the Darren Lehmann Academy.

"The players have been working hard under the guidance of Martin Speight through the winter and are raring to go for what will hopefully be a successful season for all three senior teams,” he said.