HAMPSHIRE captain Steve Williams believes his team’s chances of winning the English County Championship for only the second time in their history depends on being able to keep his seven-man squad as fresh as possible.

Hampshire’s team will have to contend with 108 holes of matchplay as they face Somerset, Lincolnshire and Lancashire, starting on Friday, at Wychwood Park.

Williams is looking to achieve what his predecessors Andy Bow, Alan Mew and Richard Elmes were unable to do in four previous attempts between 2007 and 2013 – by finishing top of the table at the end of the roundrobin event.

All three captains are members at Stoneham and Williams was quick to pick the brains of his clubmates in the search to find the missing ingredient that could create a titlewinning recipe when they play at the Crewe club, which has in the past hosted events on the Europro circuit.

Steve, who will lead Hampshire out in their 12th appearance in the finals since 1955, said: “In the past some people might have thought we were picking six players and a reserve.

“But after chatting to the last three captains to have played in the event, it is evident we need to make sure the players are as fresh as possible come the final match on Sunday so it is a squad game.

“Obviously, you might get to Crewe and when play gets under way, someone might not be playing as well as you were hoping and as captain I will have the job of deciding what is the best team to pick on the day.

“That is where having players who can play in different pairings for the three morning foursomes is crucial and why Ryan Henley and Tom Robson are such great players to have to call on as they are very versatile in that format.

“Ryan can play with almost everyone in the squad and Tom has played in a number of partnerships in the league over the years.

“If everyone is playing well, then asking someone to sit out a session – I can play a different line-up in the six singles after lunch – might not go down well.

“But by Sunday, after two days of 36 holes in what could be trying playing conditions and against some of the best amateurs in the country, it can be very tiring.”

Williams, who had the unenviable task of telling several players they were not in his seven-man squad despite some outstanding performances over the past month or so, is convinced that getting the maximum out of his whole squad will be the key to winning the trophy.