Promotion contenders set for early season showdown

Hambledon skipper Dan Hewitt. Picture: Mick Young
Hambledon skipper Dan Hewitt. Picture: Mick Young
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Two Southern Electric division two promotion candidates go head-to-head tomorrow with Sarisbury Athletic skipper David Banks revealing: Nothing but promotion will do.

Banks has enjoyed plenty of success with his former club Totton & Eling but still has a burning ambition to lead Athletic to the top flight, even though they were only promoted from division three last season.

But Sarisbury have recruited quality players and fancy their chances – even though they face a dangerous Hambledon outfit at Allotment Road tomorrow.

Banks said: ‘With the side we’ve got, the ambition is to win the league.

‘The big test for us is when we have players unavailable.

‘We’ve got players to cover, but it’s about how we do when our bigger players aren’t playing.

‘We’ve got good players to come in but it always gives the opposition a bit of a lift if they don’t see a Dan Goldstraw or a James Ingram playing.

‘I want to win the league and I think we’ve got a good chance of doing that.’

While the Dons have made an encouraging start to the campaign, skipper Dan Hewitt is rather more conservative with his ambitions.

He insists that safety from relegation is the first priority with his side missing an overseas player.

Hewitt said: ‘If we had an overseas player, I think we would be in contention come the end of the season, but our focus is on getting safe first.

‘With such a young squad and so many lads playing school cricket and at university, we wouldn’t be good enough for the premier division for a few years yet.

‘You only have to look at the gap between our firsts and seconds to see the issue for our club.

‘So getting the firsts safe with a solid, top end of mid-table finish, while the seconds and thirds got promoted would be a great season in my book.’

While Sarisbury have designs on the title, Hewitt believes the league is wide open, in stark contrast to last season.

He said: ‘It will be a really competitive league and I think all sides have the potential for upsets.

‘It doesn’t look like the same shape of the league as it was last year with Hook and Ventnor being the best sides by a distance and the rest of us playing an eight-team league to see who’s going to get relegated.’

Banks, meanwhile, believes Hambledon’s batting line-up could be in for a stern examination this week with Sarisbury’s pace attack set to be unleashed.

The Sarisbury skipper said: ‘With the pitches getting a bit harder, it become interesting with the likes of Dan Goldstraw and James Ingram.

‘When it bounces above ankle height, it’s not so easy for batsmen to play them.

‘Our wicket is very hard at the moment and facing our two bowlers on a bouncy track might be a different proposition for some players.’

SARISBURY ATHLETIC: Archie Norris, Ricky Rawlins, Jack Lovett, Pete Hammond, David Banks, Matt Journeaux, James Ingram, Lewis Michard, Dan Goldstraw, Phil Jewell, Adam Sharp.

HAMBLEDON: James Scutt, Toby De Mellow, Roddy McAtkins, Joe Collings-Wells, Dan Hewitt, Indy Chakrabarti, Nick Scutt, Paul Vickers, James Atkinson, Will Mann, Rupert Hetherington.