South Wilts continue to rule the roost as champions of the ECB Southern Electric Premier League.
They clinched a third successive title with a 48-run victory over Havant in the ‘winner takes all’ showdown at Wilton Road to finish six points ahead of their arch rivals.
Nine points adrift of Havant at the start of play, South Wilts posted what proved a competitive 175-9 on a damp and worn Bemerton surface, where batsmen had to work hard for their runs.
Havant, the only other side to win three titles in a row (2007-2009), were sent reeling at 18-3 and lost three more wickets with their reply on 40.
Seventh-wicket pair Stuart Ransley and teenager Harry Hovey got Havant back in the frame with a battling half-century stand.
Jez Bulled continued the rearguard action, but Havant eventually conceded at 127 all out to give South Wilts a 48-run win and a third straight title.
Skipper Tom Morton, whose 813 runs this season have contained four centuries, was once again the lynchpin for South Wilts.
He gave them the perfect start, planting four short-pitched balls from Rohan Kandiah to the mid-wicket boundary before hitting the Western Australian for six in the same place.
But, just as happened at Burridge seven days before, Morton found batting partners rotating far more than he liked.
Brilliant return catch Eddie Abel, Charlie Esson, James Hayward (to a brilliant return catch by Chris Morgan), Steve Riddle and Jack Mynott all came and went as South Wilts lurched to 79-5 against an effective Havant spin attack.
When James Hibberd (27) arrived at the crease, Morton recruited a staying mate – and together they added a precious 48 runs which shaped the balance of the game.
Morton (75) eventually departed at 127-6 – a second wicket for left-armer Morgan, the pick of the Havant spin quartet.
Rob Franklin clouted two big sixes in his run-a-ball 25 not out, which gave Wilts an extra batting bonus point at 175 before Morgan (4-39) took the last two wickets.
The start of Havant’s reply could have been more perfect – for South Wilts!
Rob Gibson, having hit two delightful fours, was trapped leg before by Hibberd, Pete Hopson miscued an intended pull-shot to mid-wicket, and Morgan was run out in a horrific mix-up with Ben Walker. Left-hand pair Walker and Richard Hindley added a handy 22, but Havant cracked again – losing three wickets with their reply at 40.
Off-spinner Franklin (2-26) accounted for Walker and Chris Stone (first ball) either side of Hindley getting a faint nick off Army all-rounder Stephen Booth to give Morton the first of four victims with which to clinch the Premier Division wicket-keeping prize.
“It was far from over,” Morton remarked.
“Havant bat so far down they were still in the game. Stuart Ransley, at seven, is a proper player and Harry Hovey, at 16, a very talented youngster.”
Morton called it right.
Ransley (38) and Hovey (29) doubled the total and with their reply 56 better off at 96-6, Havant weren’t out of the game.
Hayward snapped up a return catch to remove Hovey (96-7), but Ransley and Jez Bulled took the score on to 119.
But when the captain and Stevie Matthews went inside three balls – both caught by Morton off the leg-spin of Steve Foley (2-29) – it was all over for Havant.
“We achieved what we intended to do four months ago back in early May. Three titles on the trot is some going,” Morton said. “We’ve had to play a bit of catch-up along the way, but we beat Havant in the two crucial matches of the season.
“Havant have probably been more consistent than us, but we’ve won big games and won matches we shouldn’t have done, like Ventnor when we took their last five wickets for 16 runs when we looked like losing.
“To win the title in my first season as captain is special, as is winning two of the three major individual awards (batting and wicket-keeping).
“But it’s not about me, it’s been a great team effort and everyone should be proud of their achievement.”
In addition to completing a title treble, South Wilts also celebrated a Premier League and Southern Electric t20 Cup double for the second consecutive summer.