Wobbling New Milton and Sarisbury Athletic are in danger of letting their Southern Electric Premier League Division 1 title chances slip away as Basingstoke & North Hants have dramatically closed the gap going into Saturday’s final round of matches.
Defeats for the top two means there is only seven points separating the top three sides – three between the top two, Sarisbury Athletic and New Milton, with Basingstoke only just behind.
It’s been a horrific run-in to the season for the lead pair – Sarisbury having lost three of their last five games and New Milton winning only one in four.
It will all come down to this weekend’s final fixtures – Sarisbury entertaining fourth-placed Bournemouth and New Milton taking on gap-closing Basingstoke at Fernhill.
Sarisbury lost by 51 runs at Liphook & Ripsley – a result which produced a team tongue lashing from skipper Dave Banks.
“We have played poor cricket for the past month and we were really poor again at Liphook,” he said.
“It was the worst bowling performance I’ve seen. We dropped catches, bowled full-tosses and long-hops – all a bit embarrassing.”
Half-centuries by Rob Nicklin (59), Giles Cover (54) and Surman Ganguly (51) eased Liphook to 255 – a target Sarisbury seldom threatened, despite Matt Journeaux’s 63 not out.
New Milton lost by 12 runs at Chapel Gate – despite at one stage being 125-1 chasing Bournemouth’s 197-5.
New Zealander Brad Schmulian hit 90 for Bournemouth, who looked probable losers while James Park (62) and Mark House (53) were together. But nine wickets fell for 60 runs as New Milton crashed to 185 all out.
If the results go their way, Basingstoke could gatecrash the party come Saturday evening – a 25-run win over Andover at May’s Bounty enhancing their promotion prospects.
An unbroken eight-wicket stand between Steve Bucksey (72) and Ryan Connor (31) yielded 73 runs and gave the Bountymen a 208-7 total to defend.
Byron Haycock (55) and Robbie Hadfield (38) lifted Andover from 44-4 to 110-5, but the visitors finished short at 183-8.
Andover must win their last match against Hook & Newnham Basics to be certain of staying up.