Bishop’s hope fortress Albany will be decisive

Gareth Lovett has been in fine form for Bishop's Waltham. Picture: Malcolm Wells (150606-0418)

Gareth Lovett has been in fine form for Bishop's Waltham. Picture: Malcolm Wells (150606-0418)

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Bishop’s Waltham captain Dan Wheeler reckons their Hampshire League division two clash with United Services at Albany Road is the title-decider.

The home side have led the table from the start of the season but second-placed Services are breathing down their necks.

While the priority for both teams is ensuring promotion, they would each love to go up as champions.

‘Whoever wins this game are likely to finish champions,’ said Wheeler.

‘There is a lot at stake and it is a crunch game for both teams who are looking to finalise promotion in the next couple of weeks.

‘We have home advantage and we like to think Albany Road is a bit of a fortress for us.

‘Whether setting or chasing a target, we have a good idea of what is needed at our place.

‘United Services will be dangerous opponents and we won’t be taking them likely.’

The key to success could be the home side’s potent bowling attack.

Skipper Wheeler is leading the way for Bishop’s Waltham with 27 wickets to his name this season.

He has been backed up by overseas player Suhaib Ahmad.

The Hong Kong all-rounder has taken 22 wickets, while the medium pace of Neerav Trivedi and off-spinner Sam Medhurst have also been vital to the team.

Trivedi, who has returned to London after working in a school, travels down each weekend and boasts an excellent strike-rate of a wicket every 16 deliveries.

Wheeler said: ‘Our bowling attack works well as a unit. It means we can maintain the pressure on the opposition batsmen and make it difficult for them.’

If the opponents do manage to post a competitive total, though, Bishop’s Waltham also possess the batting firepower to chase them down.

Opening batsman Phil Baldock has already scored more than 700 runs – at a strike-rate in excess of 130.

Baldock missed the opening two games of the season through injury but has been ever-present since.

Wheeler believes the continuity of his side has been a huge factor in their success.

‘At most I have only had to make two changes to the team any given weekend,’ added Wheeler.

‘Having virtually the same players available week in, week out makes life a lot easier.

‘Phil has been terrific and quite brutal with the opposition bowlers on occasions.’

Apart from Baldock, Gareth Lovett and Mark Boriani are approaching 400 runs for the season.

If Bishop’s Waltham succeed, it will crown a rapid rise that has seen them earn three promotions in four years.

Wheeler insists his team are ready for the tougher challenge of division one cricket.

‘We feel division one is where we should be,’ said the skipper.

‘A little bit of recruitment may be needed but we already have the core of what we need to succeed.’

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