ALL-ROUNDER James Hibberd has been handed the responsibility of returning former champions South Wilts to former glories in the ECB British Gas Southern Premier Cricket League this summer.

The 35-year old has taken over the captaincy reins from James Hayward, who stepped into the breach 12 months ago when Tom Morton joined Ealing.

But Hibberd, who has scored more than 5,500 runs and is closing in on 450 SPL wickets, acknowledges that, having seen their run of four successive titles ended last season, South Wilts are now facing a transitional period.

“Across the board, we lost about seven senior players last season and I anticipate that only half the team which won that fourth straight title in 2015 will be playing this summer,” he explained.

“Rob Franklin, who is such an effective spin bowler and very handy down-the-order batsman, has decided to retire.

“And we’ve not yet buttoned down a replacement for Jake Winter, the talented South Australian youngster who opened the batting for us and made over 500 runs last summer, though I gather a pretty decent Aussie all-rounder is being lined up.

“But we’ve got some talented youngsters, so the opportunity will be there for them to make their mark.

“We will remain competitive, but I’m looking at the coming season as a transitional one for the club.”

Although his only SPL captaincy experience was with Calmore Sports in 2004, Hibberd skippered Wiltshire for one season.

He will lead South Wilts for the first time in the ECB Royal London national club championship tie at Potterne on Sunday, April 23.

South Wilts open their Premier League campaign against Lymington at Bemerton on May 6.

Spin all-rounder Rob Pittman will captain South Wilts II, the only club to have a second team playing in Premier League Division 2.