TOM Morton has been handed the responsibility of leading South Wilts to a hat-trick of ECB Southern Electric Premier League cricket titles.

The 28-year old opening batsman and wicketkeeper, pictured, takes over the captaincy reins this summer from James Hayward, who has stepped down after six years at the helm, writes Mike Vimpany.

Morton has been Hayward’s vice-captain for the past two seasons when South Wilts have won the Premier Division championship.

“It was a natural progression really,” the new skipper told the Journal.

“I’ve skippered South Wilts in cup matches for the past two seasons and it’s an appointment I’m comfortable with. It’s an opportunity I have been expecting and am looking forward to.

“James has done a fantastic job and I was happy for him to continue.”

Having won the title for the past two seasons, South Wilts will start the 2014 campaign – they entertain Ventnor at Bemerton on May 3 – as red-hot favourites, but Morton knows it will be tough.

“The challenge will be there for us to meet it head-on,” he said.

“With any title winners there is a degree of expectancy and pressure to back this up the following season. Sides always want to knock the top spot team off their perch.”

Havant are the only club to have previously won three straight titles – they lifted the Premier crown between 2007 and 2009 – and Morton knows rival clubs are busy recruiting players.

“It’s four months before the new season begins, so plenty of time for sides to develop and recruit new players.

“It would be premature to make any predictions at this stage. I regularly hear of other clubs introducing new initiates to improve.

“South Wilts also need to maintain a proactive approach in order to place ourselves in a strong position come the start of the season.”

Morton, whose pre-season fitness and training sessions have been a catalyst to the Salisbury club’s recent successes, doesn’t plan any dramatic changes at Wilton Road.

“We have achieved our aims in the past two seasons, we now need to reassess these and set new ones.

“Providing the team is still looking to improve and develop we should continue to be successful. I probably have a different style of captaincy, but the ethics and winning mentality will remain the same.”

Morton, sharing the same name with Salisbury men’s first hockey team captain, doesn’t expect too many changes to last season’s title winning side but, in addition to hoping for another run-laden summer from Hayward, is looking forward to seeing 18-year-old Jack Mynott develop as a top order batsman.

“Jack is a very promising young cricketer and being available all season will be a real boost to what’s an already strong batting line-up.”