JUBILANT skipper Ryan Beck described as “the biggest win of my career” New Milton’s dramatic five-wicket victory over fellow Division One high-fliers Sarisbury Athletic.
A double-century partnership between Mark House and James Park helped the Green & Golds chase down Athletic’s formidable 270 – with just one ball to spare.
And victory over their nearest pursuers left leaders New Milton in pole position in the race for the title and a place in the top flight for the first time in their history.
Milton’s cause was further boosted when news came through of a second successive defeat for much-fancied Basingstoke & North Hants who crashed to a surprise 27-run reverse at lowly Liphook & Ripsley.
Captain Ryan Beck told the Daily Echo: “A few people said we were top on false pretences having had our previous games with Basingstoke and Sarisbury washed out, but this win should put that one to bed.
“Sarisbury and Basingstoke have lost two and three matches, respectively, and we have won all nine. I make it we are 18 points up with five to play, but we have got to beware of slips-ups because they can happen.”
A superb Allotment Road surface, which produced close on 550 runs, provided the backdrop for a terrific contest between the two Division One juggernauts.
Archie Norris (79) and Jack Lovett (93) shared a third-wicket stand of 93 as Sarisbury made a solid start before Lovett and Matt Journeaux (43) put on 100 for the fifth wicket, with 96 coming off the last 10 overs as the hosts piled up 270 for seven (Lee Beck 3-35, Nick Elliott 2-48).
Skipper Ryan Beck said: “We knew it would be a tough task to chase, especially as we had been struggling to pass scores of 120 and 150 in recent matches. But it was a great deck to bat on so we weren’t despondent at tea.”
The pendulum immediately swung in Sarisbury’s favour after in-form opener Nick Park had been caught behind with the score on 11.
But House and James Park consolidated the New Milton reply, the 100 coming up in the 20th over and, soon after, both players brought up their 50s.
The rate ebbed and flowed and was as high as nine when the final 10 overs began with New Milton on 187 for one.
Kieran Gayle had James Park (90) caught behind as the 208 partnership – the fourth highest for the second wicket in the history of the competition – was broken to leave the visitors on 219 for two.
House, who hit two big sixes and 12 fours, celebrated his maiden SPL century before holing out in the deep for what proved a match-winning 115.
Elliott’s fresh legs at the crease proved important, the left-hander cracking a timely 21, including two sixes, as New Milton got the asking rate down to a run-a-ball.
Needing 12 from the last two overs and then four off the last, an absorbing tussle came to a thrilling close when Ryan Beck cut the penultimate ball of the final over to the third-man boundary to spark a pitch invasion by his team-mates.