‘We’ve recruited really well’ – Morgan confident of Havant CC chances ahead of 2021 Southern Premier League campaign
Chris Morgan is ‘really confident’ Havant can challenge for the title in what appears one of the strongest Southern Premier League top flights for many years.
The all-rounder took on the captaincy ahead of the 2020 season following two poor SPL campaigns by the club’s high standards.
Having won the title eight times between 2000 and 2017, Havant finished sixth in 2018 and seventh 12 months later.
Due to the pandemic, last season’s SPL campaign - which didn’t start until late July - saw teams split into geographically-based groups. But Morgan was satisfied with Havant’s runners-up spot in their group, while they also won the SPL T20 Cup.
The squad is stronger this year, following the return of serial title winner Ben Walker and the arrivals of ex-Hampshire Academy wicket-keeper/batsman George Metzger and ex-Academy seamer Sonny Reynolds.
Walker helped Havant to six SPL crowns in his first spell at the club, while he also won the league with Bashley in 2019.
‘I’m more confident this year, we have recruited really well in areas where we have struggled historically,’ said Morgan ahead of this weekend’s home curtain-raiser against Hook & Newnham Basics.
‘Ben is a proven runscorer, a proven winner, and he’s a leader.
‘He’s a feisty character, very handy with the ball and a good fielder. He can help me tactically and keep the energy levels up in the field, so he’s a massive, massive plus for me.
‘Ben left for Bashley for non-cricketing reasons, but his personal situation was right to return. He was always going to come back at some point.
‘George Metzger will share the gloves with Jez (Jeremy Bulled), he’s a really good top order batsman, and Sonny Reynolds will add some strength to our quick bowling department.
‘Our spin trio (Richard Hindley, Freddie Gadd and Morgan) are the strongest in the league - they are three of the best four or five spinners in the league.
‘Historically, the spinners have always had success, but you can’t win the league with just one unit - and we have a fantastic batting unit as well.’
The stats bear out Morgan’s comment. In 2017, when Havant last won the title, the top three wicket-takers - Morgan (32), Hindley (22) and Hampshire’s Brad Taylor (20) - were spinners. Hindley (28) and Morgan (27) had taken most wickets when Havant had won the title the previous year.
Last season, it was more of the same - the top three wicket-takers in SPL action were Morgan (17), Gadd (13) and Hindley (5). Seamers took just eight wickets in six completed games.
‘We’re really confident of doing well,’ said Morgan.
‘We want to be competitive in the league, we want to retain the T20 Cup, and historically we’ve done well in the National Cup, that’s a great experience for some of the new guys.’
Havant certainly possess an experienced core. Morgan, Walker, Bulled, Hindley, Stuart Ransley and Peter Hopson all played at least 10 games when the club won the SPL title a decade ago. Those six remain at the club.
Hindley (33) and Walker (28) were Havant’s top two wicket-takers in 2011, while Walker (689) and Hopson (631) were the top two run scorers that year.
‘We have an experienced core of players,’ remarked Morgan. ‘I don’t want just one captain out there. I want people to have their say and I will filter out the good and bad ideas, that’s how I want the team to run.’
He continued: ‘We got better with every game last year. We lost the first match to Alton but I think we then won nine in a row (including T20 ties), that was the most rewarding thing for me.
‘It’s an incredibly competitive league. St Cross have recruited well, they will be strong, and Bashley have five or six high quality players. South Wilts are always there or thereabouts.
‘If we can keep our core together, we will be strong and we’ll have a good chance of challenging for the league. That’s our goal, to win the league, but I feel next year (2022) could be the year we really press for the title.’
Winchester-based St Cross, the 2018 champions, appear favourites after adding Taylor - who was initially in discussions with Havant about returning to the club - to an already strong squad.
Hampshire batsman Felix Organ is expected to open with Harry Came - a regular for the county in the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020 prior to his release - at No 3. Tom Foyle and Dorset wicket-keeper Ed Ellis, along with Taylor, will form a very powerful top order.
Bashley may have lost Walker but can still call on the likes of Hampshire’s Scott Currie, his brother Brad, and all-rounder Tom Friend, the division’s second highest run scorer in 2019.
Tom Morton’s presence will always guarantee South Wilts runs, but opening bat Jack Mynott misses the first few weeks of the season and the Salisbury-based club’s attack could lack major spin options.
Elsewhere, Bournemouth are always competitive - with a number of Dorset Minor Counties players - while Lymington and Alton have made overseas signings.
Alton have snapped up South African seamer Bash Walters, whose season with Havant was scuppered by the pandemic in 2020. The 34-year-old has played 127 first class games, most recently for Warriors last December.
Lymington have signed South African all-rounder Ximus Du Plooy, who hammered a century and took three cheap wickets in last weekend’s friendly win at Purbrook.
‘I don’t think we needed an overseas this year,’ said Morgan.
‘We have enough talent and there’s young lads knocking at the door, I’d prefer to give them opportunities rather than bring in an overseas.’
Havant 2nds will play in Division 1 of the Hampshire League this year, while the 3rds are in Division 5 South East.
‘We have got strength in depth and one of the main aims of the year is for the 2nds and the 3rds to both win promotion,’ Morgan declared.
‘It’s an exciting year for the club - we’ve got a 4th XI again, that’s a really positive step, and we’ve launched the women’s section.’