No show: David Hemp, left, turned down Cleveland County’s request to play in tomorrow’s match with Flatts. *File photo
No show: David Hemp, left, turned down Cleveland County’s request to play in tomorrow’s match with Flatts. *File photo

Former English County player David Hemp has turned down an offer to play for Eastern Counties Cup holders Cleveland County in this year’s competition.

There had been optimism expressed in the Cleveland camp that the former Glamorgan skipper would take up an invitation to play for the Harris Bay team.

But Hemp said: “I’m back in the U.K. now and busy with my own league commitments.”

Weather permitting, Cleveland will open the defence of their title against challengers Flatts at Sea Breeze Oval tomorrow.

Among those expected to make a guest appearance for the Cup holders is Southampton Rangers batsman Dion Stovell, who was recently recalled to David Moore’s senior national squad.

Flatts’ squad could contain at least two colts in Jamaican top order bat Chris Daley and Reggie Baker, son of former St. David’s spinner Reginald ‘Lucky’ Pitcher.

The challengers may also pin their hopes on veteran swing bowler Ryan Belboda, who could be drafted in as a guest player, while another seasoned campaigner, Phillip Burgess, is doubtful through knee injury.

Former Flatts all-rounder Derek Wright is optimistic his team can wrest the Cup from Cleveland.

He said: “This year will be one of our best chances of winning the Cup. Everyone is optimistic and are excited to play.”

Both teams were expected to announce their squads last night.

Cleveland were named Eastern Counties champions ­earlier this summer after previous Cup holders St. David’s withdrew from the century-old contest in protest at the match being staged at Sea Oval and not Lords this year.