BASHLEY captain Richard Morris admitted that fitness and form were behind the shock decision to drop club legend Neil Thurgood for the first time in more than 20 years.

The Southern Premier League’s lead aggregate run scorer will miss Saturday’s visit to Lymington (11.30am) and instead line up for Bashley’s second-string in their Division Three home fixture against Portsmouth & Southsea.

All-rounder Andy Neal has also dropped to the twos, with Berkshire captain James Morris and Ryan Gilmour drafted in.

The omission of opening batsman Thurgood – who has struck more than 6,300 runs in the SPL – has caused the biggest shockwave, but skipper Morris felt it was the right decision.

He told the Daily Echo: “Thurgs is struggling with an old hamstring injury so he isn’t 100 per cent fit at the moment.

“It’s partly fitness and partly form, but more importantly it’s the fact we’re conscious that we need a clear pathway for young players performing well in the second team to get their opportunity.

“Thurgs needs to get back some form with the bat so he will try to do that with the second team.

“Nobody is under any illusions that he can go on forever. What we don’t want to do is get to a point where Thurgs says he’s retiring and we’ve got no one to step in.

"So it’s partly that and also that we’re half way through the season and we have batsmen who are scoring more runs.”

Morris admitted he had been impressed with the manner in which Thurgood reacted to the news and hailed the veteran for his “hunger and desire”.

The skipper added: “It could have gone one of two ways and Thurgs has taken it unbelievably well.

"The reaction is really encouraging because he wants to play for the second team and show he’s still got it.

“To still have that hunger and desire is impressive given how long he has been playing.”

Lymington are missing run machine Darren Cowley, who pulled a hamstring in the t20 win over Bashley last Sunday. Felix Ambrose comes in.

Bashley: Porter, Baker, R Morris, J Morris, Morgan, Thomson, Gilmour, Ridley, Friedman, Lilley, Nash.

Lymington: Mortimer, Hand, Scott, Beetham, Ellis, C Grierson, Rogers, Ambrose, Metcalfe, McCann, Freeman.