South Wilts now have a 30-point advantage over second placed-Bashley, defeating Basingstoke and North Hants with only a couple of overs to spare at the Lower Bemerton ground.
After being put in to bat by ex-Hampshire cricketer Mitch Stokes, South Wilts made hay in the sunshine, with Tom Morton as belligerent as ever and Jack Mynott continuing his exploits from the Academy last week, before skipper-Stokes broke the partnership on 84, bowling Morton for a nearly run-a-ball 45. Mynott and the returning Tom Cowley (30) continued to score at a good rate, with the former passing 50 on his way to 68 from 100 deliveries, before both men fell within a couple of overs of each other, Stokes again with the breakthroughs to give him figures of 18-3-74-3.
Although the score was a healthy 153-3, it was likely in the minds of the South Wilts batsmen how they collapsed before lunch last week against the Academy to lose much of the initiative. James Hayward, in form after a century against St Cross earlier in June, and Will Wade, ensured there would be no repeat of last week, the former batting very positively while Wade, batting uncharacteristically in the middle order, looked solid at the other end as the score went pass the 200 mark and beyond.
Despite Wade falling for 21, Hayward continued to flail the ball to all parts of the ground, finding the boundary 13 times in scoring 84 from only 96 balls. Although Bradley Neal restricted some late scoring by running out Hayward and Ben Draper, James Hibberd was still able to declare on an intimidating 290-6, crucially within the 61 overs that provided a handful of extra overs to bowl Basingstoke out.
Although in-form Luke Evans and a resurgent Steve Warner were able to take a wicket each, Basingstoke made a decent start through Ben Thane and Bongumusa Makhanya. The score was 100-2 before Mynott made the crucial break through, trapping Thane in-front for 53. Luke Evans then re-entered the attack and bowled the spell of the game, taking the next three wickets, including that of Stokes for 0, to rip the heart out of the Basingstoke innings.
Running out of partners, Makhanya, who plays his professional cricket in South Africa, moved up the gears as the lower order desperately attempted to block at the other end. David Griffiths managed this for a while, before Hayward got him lbw at 171-7 for his first wicket of the season. However, with overs running out and the tail still doing a job for the visitors, Hibberd bought himself on as an unfamiliar fourth change, quickly removing keeper-Lawrence Benge, before Evans took a deserved 5th wicket to back up his sixfer for Wiltshire earlier in the week. Meanwhile, Makhanya passed a deserved hundred, made at better than a run-a-ball, as the Basingstoke score passed 200 and the overs ticked away.
Finally, in 59th over, Hibberd made the breakthrough, Cowley with the catch as Martyn James departed after a 28-ball stay, leaving Makhanya unbeaten on 111 off 91 balls. Evans, with 18-5-42-5, was the main hero for South Wilts, while Hibberd took 2-27 as Basingstoke were eventually bowled out for 220.
South Wilts are away to Burridge at The Ridge next week, as Hibberd’s resurgent side look to amend their 50-over loss to the same opposition first game of the season.