THE British Gas Southern League’s ‘old firm’ South Wilts and Havant go head-to-head at Bemerton on Saturday, 11am – but for once neither club is top of the ECB Premier Division table.

South Wilts, after a relatively low key start, lie fourth, with defending champions Havant third and trailing in the wake of early season pacemakers Lymington, who are 20 points clear at the top.

But those positions in the log as the season nears its halfway point can’t hide the significance of the Wilton Road showdown, which will be played out in front of a Vice-President’s Day audience.

“It’s a hugely important game for both clubs, who need to win it,” points out South Wilts president Trevor Hayward.

“Lunch bookings for Saturday are most encouraging, but there are still a few more spaces to be filled.

“Our guests will be wined and dined in style – and be able to enjoy some good cricket.”

At least South Wilts will go into the Havant match with a bit of confidence restored after last week’s somewhat bizarre win at New Milton.

“We need a good batting deck to get some run-scoring confidence back. It’s not been easy in recent games,” said SW skipper James Hibberd.

New Milton crashed to 42 after bowling Fernhill visitors South Wilts out for 97 in one of the lowest scoring ECB British Gas Southern Premier Division matches on record.

All 20 wickets fell for 139 runs on a low bounce surface before South Wilts emerged somewhat surprised 55-run winners.

A diplomatic South Wilts captain James Hibberd reflected: “Obviously the track wasn’t of the standard we’d like.

“I was at New Milton for a low scoring match with the Hampshire Under-15s last week, so I knew they wouldn’t find it easy even chasing 97.

“It’s not easy for clubs without bundles of money to employ full-time groundsmen.

“I feel sorry for them, but I’m not going to slate them because nobody goes out to try and prepare a poor wicket.”

South Wilts have found it difficult all season putting totals on the board and they took lunch at a desperate 82-8.

Tom Cowley (21) and Ian Holland (19) had taken them to 34-1 before left-armer James Haggaty (4-17) and George Watts, with 2-18 off 16 overs, sent five wickets tumbling for 14 runs and South Wilts to 48-6.

They limped to 82-8 at lunch, but significantly Jack Mynott (32) was still at the crease and eked out precious runs either side of the break to give South Wilts a fighting chance at 97 all out (Dan Loader 3-29).

New Milton’s impressive out-cricket caught the eye: nine of the 10 wickets were caught, with wicketkeeper Tom Arnold bagging five victims. South Wilts didn’t need a second invitation, with Hampshire’s Ian Holland (4-11) and Hibberd reducing the Green & Golds to 17-5.

The in-form Arnold got a virtually unplayable delivery from Holland, which clean bowled him.

Only Lee Beck made it into double figures.

This was before Luke Evans (5-20) ploughed through the tail to produce his best Premier League figures – and also reduce New Milton to their lowest ever SPL total.