SOUTH WILTS will officially be crowned ECB Southern Electric Premier League champions before Saturday’s final match of the season against St Cross Symondians at Bemerton at 1pm.

Skipper James Hayward will be presented with the championship trophy by Premier League chairman Paul Thompson at noon, an hour before the decisive 50-over pennant match with St Cross gets underway, writes Mike Vimpany.

The match is decisive with the limited-overs pennant up for grabs – St Cross Symondians, having won all six 50-over matches in the weather ravaged season, currently topping the log, with South Wilts second.

“Depending on how the bonus points pan out, whoever wins on Saturday will probably take the pennant, so it’s good to have plenty riding on the match,” Hayward said.

“We’ve had a fantastic season and it will be nice to have both pennants alongside the cup in our trophy cabinet.”

South Wilts had hoped to clinch the title in style last weekend – but their penultimate match against bottom-of-thetable Bournemouth was washed out after only five overs, with the Bemerton side 18-0.

With Havant’s match at Totton & Eling suffering a similarly soggy fate, South Wilts tied up the loose ends of their title triumph, barely breaking sweat in the process.

“It was a shame to win it with a rained off game but it seems to be the way the season has gone,” Hayward said.

“That said, we have played excellent cricket all year. We have been close for the last few seasons and I think as a club we felt this was the year we could push on and take the top spot.

“That didn’t just start in April. We were back in training in February where James Hibberd and Tom Morton led the training sessions and all the team bought into this work culture and really committed themselves.”

Hayward acknowledged that the pre-season signing of Australian ‘Master Blaster’ Glenn Maxwell had been significant.

“Picking him up was a huge bonus – a massive signing, a quality player the boys loved having about.

“It is nice to know you have a player of his standard in the squad and I think the lads fed off that.

“Ironically, he didn’t make a fifty, but the 26 wickets he took were crucial, and particularly his spell at Havant, where he bowled us to a very important win.

“As a team we really developed a killer instinct and showed that not only in league matches but also the ECB Kingfisher Beer Cup, where we made it to the last 16.

“All of a sudden we were winning tight games where perhaps in the past we had lost.”

Hayward underlined what a ‘team performance’ South Wilts’ success had been.

“Everyone made a contribution. No single player had an outstanding season but every player who played for us contributed at some stage and that’s what winning sides do.

“Our bowling and fielding has been second to none and without doubt that has helped us win games.

“This was abundantly clear in the Kingfisher national knockout. We have made it tough for the opposition.

“We developed a winning culture and will certainly be looking to continue this into future seasons. Our side has played together for a number of years now and have bonded incredibly well as a side.

“The guys thrive off other’s success and the end result has become a lot more important than individual performances.”