A LARGE catchment area surrounding Cheshire will make Wiltshire’s opening Unicorns Championship Western Division tie a tough one, according to captain Ed Young.

Young’s troops will travel to Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club to face Cheshire on Sunday (11am) for the opening date of their three-day campaign, which will see them also face Cornwall, Devon, Wales, Herefordshire and Shropshire.

Cheshire have benefitted from a strong relationship with domestic giants Lancashire in recent years, allowing them to finish second and fifth in their two most recent three-day campaigns.

And Young insists tackling such strong opposition early on will make Wiltshire’s Championship campaign click into top gear immediately.

He said: “Counties can get access to the ‘best of the rest’ when they’re surrounded by a strong catchment area.

“Cheshire have had players go on to play for Lancashire, and that’s great – that is what minor county cricket is there for.

“It should be a stepping stone towards playing professional cricket, and most counties now do have a link with a major county.

“Ours is with Gloucestershire, and we’re trying to make sure it’s a two-way partnership. If they want a player to be playing more three-day cricket, then we will allow them to come and play for us.

“Equally, if a player is playing well for us then that player needs to be granted an opportunity at a higher level.”

Wiltshire finished last year’s Western Division in sixth after recording two wins and a draw from their six fixtures.

Debuts were handed to seven county youngsters, a theme that Young is keen to maintain throughout the upcoming campaign to build young players’ confidence levels.

He added: “Last year was very much a year for building – seven players made their debut.

“What was fantastic about last year was that we got better with every game, and that is all you can ask for from these guys.

“We want them to learn from their mistakes and become better players for it. More importantly, we want them to have the belief that they can perform at minor county level.

“It will be good to finish in the top five so next year we’ll be playing in Division One, but we’re not setting exact targets with regards to where we want to finish in the table.

“The results will take care of themselves.”

Favourites Berkshire will be aiming to secure a fourth consecutive minor county title, and Young admits it’s hard to look beyond the seven-times champions.

“Berkshire are always strong, but Cheshire are a strong outfit as well – Devon and Cornwall are producing some very good cricketers too,” said Young.

“Each team will present a different challenge to us, and no team should be underestimated.

“We have some hard away fixtures in Cheshire and Devon, but that is all part of the challenge.”