ADAM Wheater expects to lose his top-three place tonight but will not be surprised if Owais Shah’s three-match deal is extended – after playing a key role in the signing of his former Essex teammate.

Wheater and Shah are preparing to take on their former county at The Ageas Bowl tonight (7pm) after helping Hampshire to back-to-back wins at Sussex and Middlesex.

But Wheater is expected to drop down the order, following England’s decision to make Michael Carberry available to his county.

And Glenn Maxwell will take Shah’s No.4 spot against Kent next Thursday.

With Liam Dawson due back from injury in four weeks’ time, Hampshire will soon have an embarrassment of batting riches.

But Wheater expects Shah to play more games for Hampshire beyond his current deal, having recommended him to director of cricket Giles White.

He said: “When Daws went down I reminded Chalky that Owais was a free agent.

“He’s a good friend of mine and we’ve kept in touch so I knew how well it would suit both parties.

“Having a player of his ability and experience has been a bonus with Carbs away with England, Maxi yet to arrive and Daws injured.

“They’ll be back soon but it’s been great to have Owais to call on and long may that continue for us.

“We may well need him again because none of us would be surprised if Vincey joins Carbs in the England squad soon.

“He’s shown his class all season to be honest.”

Wheater and Shah built on James Vince’s latest blitz by sharing a match-winning 79 from 51 balls in an unbroken third-wicket stand against Middlesex at Merchant Taylors’ School last Sunday.

Shah is yet to be dismissed in a Hampshire shirt but his 26-ball 49 was a very different innings to his 22-ball 17 at Sussex last Friday.

Wheater was the more aggressive batsman at Hove, where he made a 25-ball 34 before contributing a 33-ball 30 against Middlesex 48 hours later. “My role changed quite dramatically at Middlesex, I just tried to give Owais the strike because he was playing so well,” said wicketkeeper-batsman, who has enjoyed his first chance to bat in the top three.

“It’s the best place to bat in T20 cricket,” he added.

“You have time to build an innings which makes a nice change to batting at No.7, when it’s often a case of good luck with the last five!

“But the stars will be back soon for us! Carbs will come straight back in, but it’s better to have options than scraping the barrel to get a team out.” Sean Ervine will make his 100th T20 appearance tonight, while rookie off-spinner Brad Taylor, 17, could make his home debut against county opposition after being included in a14-man Hampshire squad.

Hampshire (from): Vince(c), Carberry, Adams, Shah, Ervine, Coles, Wheater, Smith, Abbott, Wood, Briggs, Gatting, Taylor, Bates.