James Hayward has called time on a 20-year career playing ECB Southern Premier League cricket for South Wilts.

When Ben Draper leads a much-changed team onto the field in Saturday’s Premier Division opener at Totton & Eling, Hayward won’t be among them, nor his long-term teammate Tom Morton, who shattered all the SPL records last summer.

Hayward hasn’t hung up his boots altogether but, like Morton, plans to turn out for South Wilts seconds as and when.

“South Wilts cricket has played a huge part in my life and will always hold a special place for me but with a young family it’s time to focus more attention on them,” he explained.

“It’s been an amazing 20 years, starting as a 14-year-old in the second team and in the firsts two seasons later and then going on to enjoy all of the successes we’ve had as a club.”

Hayward has certainly been a key figure in South Wilts’ silverware monopoly.

“Winning four Premier League championships in a row between 2012 and 2015 was pretty special -in all we won six titles in my time – in addition to lifting the T20 crown on three occasions, so it’s been a pretty memorable playing career for me,” he added.

In one of those T20 finals against Burridge, Hayward hit 140 – the bowlers and fielders having no idea how to stem the flow of bizarre switch hits and ramp shots that have been synonymous with his game.

He hit an identical 140 in a Premier League match against Havant – Hayward and Tom Morton sharing a monster 306-run stand.

“I’ve been fortunate to play alongside some top players, Glenn Maxwell and Chris Rogers, both top Australian Test cricketers, and left-armer Ryan Duffield, who played a lead role in one of our 2015 title season,” he continued.

“Maxi is the most exciting and talented cricketer I’ve ever played with – no surprise he’s gone on to be a lead player on the world stage.”

Hayward reckons he’s finished with 9,482 Premier League and Cup runs, including 18 centuries and 50 scores of fifty or more, averaging 34.

His contribution to South Wilts isn’t confined to the playing field as Hayward has also been chairman, club captain and treasurer, alongside being captain for six years.

 “I’ve made some lifelong friends both within South Wilts and opposition clubs and will remain a keen supporter of the club and the Premier League. 

 “I was fortunate enough to slog a few runs in the middle order over the years at the top level of recreational cricket in the area but do it alongside good friends was a huge bonus.

 “The club seems to be in safe hands with lots of exciting younger players coming through, so all looks good for the future.”