IT WAS a close-run thing, but Basingstoke and North Hants maintained their 100 per cent league record with a final-over victory away at Andover on Saturday.
Having been set a target of 250 to win by their hosts, Basingstoke openers Dan Coombs and Patrick Joseph got their side off to a fine start with the bat, putting on 147 for the first wicket.
However, the visitors began to struggle as they looked to up the run-rate. Joseph was dismissed for 75 going for one big shot too many, while Andrew Niblett’s 15-ball 25 ended when he holed out to mid-off.
Worse was to follow as Coombs was dismissed by the ball of the match, getting an edge through to the wicket-keeper to end his 116-ball innings of 84, leaving the Bountymen needing to rebuild at 196-3 with just under 10 overs remaining.
All-rounders Martyn James and Graham Porter didn’t last long at the crease, and the visitors looked in real trouble at 212-5 when Craig Williamson joined Steve Bucksey in the middle.
Basingstoke required 38 from the last 31 balls, but Williamson was in no mood to allow his side to throw away all of their hard work.
He hit an enormous six over square leg off the bowling of leg-spinner Danny Foy, smashing the ball out of the ground, to reduce the rate to less than one a ball.
The left-handed found the boundary again in the next over, leaving the Bountymen requiring 15 from the last three overs, while some good running between the wickets earned them six more runs from the 48th over.
Williamson hit another four in the penultimate over, but was lucky to survive a couple of balls later, Andover wicket-keeper Robbie Hadfield failing to take the catch when the Basingstoke man top-edged miles into the air.
Having survived that scare, Basingstoke needed two from the last over. Bucksey, who played the anchor role well for his 18 not out, took a single off the first delivery to level the scores, and the field circled around Williamson.
The pressure built as he was unable to finish the job off the next two deliveries, but a glance behind square on the off-side gave the Bountymen the run they needed to secure a very good victory.
The game had got off to a bad start for Basingstoke as stand-in captain Coombs lost the toss. On a flat wicket, it was little surprise that the hosts elected to bat.
After an early breakthrough, the Bountymen toiled in the heat as David Taylor (86) and Byron Haycock (92 not out) put on 127 for the second wicket.
Wickets then fell at fairly regular intervals, but the visitors could not shake Haycock and the closing overs were expensive, with Andover adding 60 from the last 36 balls to reach a defendable target.
However, it was probably a few short of a par score on what was a very good pitch – and while it was closer than they would have liked, the Bountymen crept over the line to make it six wins out of six at the start of the season.
As a result, Basingstoke sit second in the Southern League Division One table ahead of their top-of-the-table clash against leaders New Milton at May’s Bounty on Saturday.
Click here to see a post-match video interview with Craig Williamson and wicket-keeper Lawrence Benge.