BASHLEY skipper Richard Morris believes there is likely to be a “clear divide” in the top flight of the Southern Premier League this season.
Morris predicts reigning champions South Wilts and five-time winners Havant will again be a force – and also lists Bashley as one of the five leading clubs.
Runners-up in 2006 and 2012, Bashley’s credentials will face a stern test when they meet South Wilts at the County Ground on Wilton Road on Saturday (1pm).
Morris told the Daily Echo: “If anybody finishes above South Wilts and Havant then I think they will have won the league.
“It is early days but I think there is a clear divide between the top and bottom five this year and that makes this game doubly important because you need to be taking points off the teams around you.
“South Wilts are a really good side and are all a good age. They have played a lot of good cricket and it is an attacking brand of cricket. It is a model of a club that we have taken parts of and tried to integrate into ours.”
Despite opening their campaign with a comfortable 52-run win at Alton five days ago, the Bashley selectors have made several changes for the trip to Wiltshire with Ryan Gilmour, Jake Lilley and Josh Digby stepping down, while Nick Baker is unavailable.
Morris said: “We have had a few difficult calls to make this week because our squad is bigger and, in my mind, stronger than ever. We played very well at Alton but the reality is that you can only pick 11 and we have had to leave out Ryan, Jake and Josh.
“The logic behind the thinking is that I had a first choice 11 in mind for the first week of the season and, for one reason or another, it hasn’t had a chance to field itself yet. The 11 we have gone for this week were the 11 we had selected for the first week.”
Morris’s older brother James is set to make his debut, the 29-year-old bringing a wealth of experience having played for Durham UCCE, MCC and British Universities. He also currently captains Berkshire.
Richard Morris added: “A major contributory factor to bringing him to the club was not only his skill and ability with the bat but also his level of experience in county and Premier League cricket. He can certainly help us with the tactical side of the game so is going to be a good addition and we are looking forward to having him.”
Asked whether there was any sibling rivalry, Richard Morris replied: “We get on well, on and off the field. When we were younger, I was a bowler and he was a batter so our roles in the garden complemented each other! As we have grown up, more often than not, we have been on the same side so are always rooting for each other to do well.”
South Wilts have been depleted by the loss of opening bowler Jack Sheppard to Middlesex Premier League outfit Ealing, while Ryan Burl and Steve Riddle are both unavailable.
Bashley: R Morris, Thurgood, Porter, Morgan, J Morris, Thomson, Ridley, Neal, Friedman, R Grierson, Nash.