By Frank Smith
With four consecutive league titles and three t20 crowns on the bounce, South Wilts CC are clearly doing a lot right but they have no intention of resting on their
laurels as they look retain their spot as the dominant force in the area.
South Wilts have won the Southern Electric Premier Division every year since 2012 and have also held the Southern Electric t20 Cup since the following year.
But South Wilts are equally as impressive away from the field, as their success at the crease has been matched by the development of the club as a whole.
Chairman Trevor Pittman said: “I think one of the key aspects to our success has been the facilities development which has helped us to retain players and retain enthusiasm.
“When I took over the chairmanship in 2010 I wanted the club to introduce something different every year so that when the players show up at the start of every season, they see it and are enthused by it.
“Over the last five years we have put electronic scoreboards at both of the grounds, we have refurbished our academy ground, we have improved the screens and covers and this year we have just finished a new three-lane outside net facility – an improvement on the Eighties’ two-lane facility that was there before.
“I also think structured coaching has been important. We regularly have 30-plus seniors and students who are playing in our four senior teams showing up for structured coaching run by our head coach James Hibberd, who is level three, and supported by captain Tom Morton, who is level two. It has provided focus and it has paid dividends.”
South Wilts was set up in 1927 and although there is no indication in the name, they are the pre-eminent club for the city of Salisbury.
However, a large proportion of their first-team squad reside in the Southampton area and regularly make the 50-mile round trip to training and on a match day.
Such dedication has been pivotal, according to skipper Morton, who himself lives in Southampton after attending university there a decade ago.
Morton, who took over the captaincy at the start of the 2014 season, said: “I am immensely proud of this year’s success because it is a great achievement for the club – although there have been quite a few of them over the years.
“I won’t take all the plaudits though because there are a lot of guys at the club who do a lot of great things.
“It has been an accumulation of having the same group of guys who have played together for a large proportion of that ten-year period.
“The guys who have done that have committed a lot to the club in always getting to training and being available.
“The way I look at it is if you have a guy in his 30s who has a wife and kids and lives 25 miles away but still makes it to training and can be bothered to turn up then why can’t the local 18-year-olds who do not have much to do?
“It has all been enabled by a lot of support from the club in terms of the facilities and things like that. It is hard to pinpoint one reason for the success as it is a culmination of things.”
Beyond first team success, Pittman also ranked the second team’s Southern League Third Division title win this year alongside the first XI’s achievement.
And South Wilts have had their share of high-profile names though. Former Australian opener Chris Rogers averaged more than 70 in his handful of games for the club in 2005 – the same summer he struck a double century against the touring Aussies for Leicestershire ahead of the Ashes.
And all-rounder Glenn Maxwell took 25 wickets and hit 282 runs in his nine matches for the club three years ago.
The latest Aussie to grace The County Ground was former Western Australia all-rounder Ryan Duffield, who struck more than 600 runs and took 46 wickets this season – including a 9-65 haul against Sarisbury Athletic.
Pittman, 48, said: “They have all left a legacy on the club in their own way. With all Australians they are determined and dedicated to their cricket and they generally like to work hard on the field.
“Chris was an awesome cricketer and you knew what you were getting from him. He was the ultimate professional.
“With Maxy he was unpredictable but a match-winner. In the 50-over game against Hampshire Academy he was opening alongside Morton and had around 50 while Morts still wasn’t even off the mark, which gives you an indication of the way he likes to play the game.
“They kept up their links with the club and that has helped us to recruit players. We are in a good position where we don’t have to speak to agents about young cricketers because we are picking them up from recommendations, which is really good.”
Pittman stated the club are already looking at how to improve South Wilts both on the field and off it next season, as they attempt to find innovative ways of filling the “big gap” when balancing the books each year.
“We know our neighbours and rivals want to overtake us and we don’t want to stand still,” he added.
And when asked about the future, Morton, the sport development officer at Southampton Solent University, stated: “It is great to have a lot of local success and we have won the t20 cup for the last three years but I don’t think we will be recognised on a national level until we do well in national cups.
“So it would be great to think we could progress in those cups. There is a slight difficulty in that we play in the Minor Counties so people often play for the county on a Sunday but it definitely needs to be an aim to do well in the national cups and keep doing well in the league – there is no reason why we can’t win it for a fifth year in a row.”
Regardless of whether they claim national honours next year, one suspects South Wilts will continue to enjoy success – both on the field and off it – for many years to come.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper on Friday December 11 2015