Alton secured their Southern Premier Cricket League Premier Division status, despite slipping to a close three-wicket defeat against South Wilts on Saturday.
In a season hampered by wet weather, Alton went into the last game of the season with their Premier Division status on the line. Four teams were in the mix for the drop, and only a win would definitely secure Alton’s place at the top table next season. A defeat would not be fatal if Lymington could beat Totton & Eling, or Alton could get more bonus points than Bashley. With so many permutations it was set to be a nervy final day.
Alton’s plans were sent into disarray when opening batter Dan Harris went over on his ankle in the warm up. The toss had not taken place so Ryan Hale was drafted in at the last minute. Things did not get better for Alton as skipper Scott Myers lost the toss and the visitors elected to bowl.
With Hale still making his way to the ground Tom South opened up with Freddie Egleston. South tried to dispatch a short ball from tall left-armer Ben Huntley but could only sky the ball up as he was removed without scoring. Jude Wright got straight into his work, timing the ball beautifully. He scored 22 off just 18 balls before he was given out leg before wicket off the bowling of Matthew Burton to leave Alton on 25 for two.
Burton then removed Egleston leg before wicket for five.
Skipper Myers tried to counter attack as he stuck three boundaries, but when he miscued off the left-arm spin of Archie Fairfax-Ross for 14 Alton were 55 for four. With bonus points potentially playing an important role later in the day Alton required a partnership. Fairfax-Ross (three for 33) removed Michael Heffernan and Sam Ruffell, and when Hale was given out leg before wicket off Tom Grant Alton were 66 for seven.
Tom Andrews joined Mark Heffernan at the crease. The pair moved Alton towards three figures, but when Andrews was caught for 16 off the bowling of Tom Lewis (two for 17) Alton were 94 for eight.
Dan Sumner looked to be positive, but when he followed soon afterwards Alton were 105 for nine and still 20 runs short of what could be a vital batting bonus point. Mark Heffernan was on 13 not out when Tom Varney came out to bat.
Some sensible cricket and risk taking saw the pair move Alton past the 125 mark. Heffernan struck three fours and three maximums in the closing stages while Varney played the supporting role.
Alton moved to 141 before the returning Burton (three for 34) finally wrapped up the innings. Heffernan had scored a crucial 43 not out off 78 balls.
In the absence of overseas player Bash Walters, Varney and Andrews took the new ball for Alton. Varney got the Brewers off to the perfect start. Jack Stearman drove hard in the air to cover, and Egleston completed a good catch.
Peter Rowe came in at three and took advantage of anything loose from the home side. Opener James Degg found it difficult to rotate the strike and edged Andrews to gully for three. Michael Heffernan took a sharp catch to reduce South Wilts to 30 for two and secure another bonus point.
Wright (two for 25) replaced Varney and dismissed Harry Broderick for 25 with a short ball which was hit to Ruffell at deep square leg.
Captain Ben Draper came and went as Wright found his edge second ball – Myers took the catch at slip to leave South Wilts on 69 for four.
Fairfax-Ross looked to counter attack and made 27 off 23 balls, while Rowe moved past his half-century as South Wilts reached three figures.
One shot too many from Fairfax-Ross saw him edge the off spin of Sumner to Myers at slip. With the scoreboard showing 117 for five the visitors were still in control.
The Brewers did not give up. Myers found the edge of Matthew Falconer’s bat, and Michael Heffernan dived away to his left to complete an impressive catch and secure another point. This meant if Totton failed to beat Lymington then Alton would be safe. South Wilts still needed 17 runs to win. Rowe remained steadfast as he took South Wilts to parity. Varney (two for 28) bowled Huntley for four, but Rowe (71 not out) saw the visitors home by three wickets.
Alton had battled hard but defeat meant they faced a nervous wait for results elsewhere – defeat for Totton meant Alton were safe.
With Premier Division status confirmed Alton can look forward to their T20 cup final on Sunday against newly-crowned league champions Burridge at South Wilts (2pm).