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South Wilts gnaw away at Bournemouth lead

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South Wilts set up a potentially intriguing finale to the ECB Southern Electric Premier League championship race when they beat table topping Bournemouth by 69 runs at Lower Bemerton.

With four 50-over pennant matches remaining, Bournemouth’s formidable 42-point lead of three weeks ago has been trimmed to a mere 11 points.

It was Bournemouth’s third defeat in four matches, the margin of which would have been far worse but for a remarkable century-plus partnership which papered over a batting calamity against South Wilts.

Bournemouth plunged to 56 for nine in response to South Wilts’ 247 for seven, but were spared embarrassment by tenth-wicket pair Scott Barlow and Chris Cahill, whose league record 123-run stand yielded some precious batting bonus points.

South Wilts skipper James Hayward, who earlier rescued his own side with a superb unbeaten century, reckons the wheels are falling off Bournemouth’s title challenge.

“The pressure is firmly on Bournemouth now,” he claimed.

“The title is theirs to lose, but it looks as though the wheels have come off and they are in such a state of shock that I honestly believe we can prise the championship away from them in the last few weeks of the season.”

In fact, Bournemouth from 36-3 lost six wickets for just 20 runs – four bowled, three trapped leg before and two others caught behind by Tom Morton.

Six of the wickets fell to James Hibberd (6-21) while Branston took three others to leave Bournemouth on their knees at 56-9.

South Wilts, though, were unable to finish Bournemouth off and for well over an hour the final Time Pennant showdown of the season took a bizarre twist as last pair Scott Barlow and Chris Cahill launched an amazing rear-guard action.

Lymington must beat Ventnor in next Saturday’s bottom of the table showdown if they are to remain in the top flight of ECB Southern Electric Premier League cricket.

A five-wicket defeat by a Julian Ballinger inspired Alton, which coincided with Ventnor forcing a draw against St Cross Symondians, has left Lymington effectively 25 points adrift at the basement.

Lymington lost two early wickets at the Jubilee Ground, but fought back to 114 for two through Morgan Rushbrook (52) and Nic McMurray (43).

The pair departing within two runs of each other prompted the off-spinner Ballinger to carved through the middle-order – Lymington losing four wickets for just six runs at one stage either side of lunch.

Simon King (34) watched the demise from the opposite end as Ballinger finished with 7-20 and Lymington crumbled to 176 all out.

Ryan Hale (65) led Alton’s victory charge and was well supported by Marc-Antony Eysele (36) before Scott Myers belted a quick-fire 48 to carry the hosts home.

Lymington gleaned a mere four points from the defeat – three less than Ventnor, who played out time after St Cross Symondians had posted a formidable 299 for four.

St Cross have been struggling for runs all season, but an 82-run start by George Adair (75) and Charlie Esson (32) gave them the ideal launch pad at Newclose.

Jack Jenkins was trapped leg before first ball – one of three identical victims for Roger Miller (3-70) – but Hampshire’s Hamza Riazuddin (30) soon got the board moving again.

It set the scene for Lawrie Prittipaul to unleash a blistering 101. His century contained a six and 14 fours and Charlie Cooke make 44 not out.

The pair added an unbeaten 148 and send the St Cross total rocketing to 299 for four.

Any prospect of a St Cross victory was effectively thwarted by Ventnor’s top order.

Richard Wilson (28) and Adam Hose provided a 98-run opening stand, which was extended when Ian Hilsum (48) joined the teenage opener, who went on to make 71.

Tim Lewis (3-50) and Stu Charman, with a miserly 3-12 off nine overs, sent Ventnor crashing from 165 for two to 190 for eight, but by then the Islanders had done enough to secure a draw.