TOM Morton is hopeful that South Wilts will put their disappointing pre-season results behind them in preparation for Saturday’s opening defence of the ECB Southern Electric Southern League championship.

They host Ventnor at Bemerton (1pm) today to the start of their bid to win the Premier title for a third successive year, writes Mike Vimpany.

But South Wilts’ two warm-up matches – against Corsham and Bournemouth – have both ended in heavy defeats.

“It’s been a disappointing start to the season. Certainly there were some positives to take out of both matches, but ultimately the batsmen haven't delivered and this will need to be rectified,” Morton said.

“In both games, we found ourselves on the receiving end of some incredible individual innings, initially from Corsham’s Michael Coles, then Bournemouth’s Mike Kitson, whose 140 not out against us was quite special and deserved to see his team home.

“We have never been a side which perform well in friendly matches.

“We needed to get some momentum going last weekend, but our last friendly match against Falkland and the ECB Cup tie at Warminster were both washed out.”

All-rounder James Hibberd and Zimbabwean Ryan Burl are expected to make their first appearances of the season when Ventnor visit Bemerton for the opening Premier Division match, the first of five 50-over pennant matches.

Hibberd missed the two pre-season games due to illness, while Burl returned to Africa over Easter, but is now back hard at his Solent university studies in Southampton.

The only absentee from last season’s championship winning side is Owen Alsop, who is taking a break from cricket.

South Wilts completed the double over the Islanders last season – the match at Bemerton producing a 600-run plus aggregate scoring fest.

The match had mixed fortunes for Eddie Abel, who made a superb Premier best 138 – only to break his finger in the field later and miss the remainder of the title winning season.

Ventnor finished fourth last season, mainly on the back of Australia’s Travis Head, who topped the batting charts with 733 runs.

The island side are without an overseas player this summer, but have all-rounder Tom Friend back in their ranks after two seasons playing in the ECB Birmingham & District Premier League.

South Wilts seconds launch their Division 3 programme away to Tichborne Park, who were relegated last season.

Tom Pearce skippers SWII again this season and, having finished a creditable third last term, will look to push on this summer. But South Wilts look to their second team for player development, with an endless supply of talented youngsters emerging off the Bemerton conveyor belt over a long period of time.

South Wilts will play their rain-delayed ECB Royal London national championship tie at Warminster on Sunday (1pm).