ROB Pack hauled Bournemouth from the brink of defeat to a nail-biting three-wicket win over Southern Premier League champions South Wilts at Chapel Gate.

His unbeaten 46 proved the mainstay of two key partnerships, initially with Chris Park (21) then teenager Conor Smith (21no), lifted Bournemouth from 58-6 and past South Wilts’ 154 all out with 11 balls to spare.

It was double delight all round for Bournemouth because the Chapel Gate pitch – deemed ‘unsafe’ on the opening day of the season when the curtain raiser fixture against Hook & Newnham Basics was abandoned – got an emphatic nod of approval.

“People may look at the scores and see 17 wickets fell for little over 300 runs, but the pitch was excellent and barely a ball misbehaved all game,” said Bournemouth skipper Chris Park.

“The relatively low totals were down to both sides possessing good bowling attacks and, at times, some indifferent batting.

“An enormous amount of work has been undertaken here since that Hook match and we can’t thank the Bournemouth University and Dorset pitch advisor Stuart Antell enough.

“It’s been a worrying time for us all, and on top of the progress that’s been made with the square, to have beaten Bashley (Rydal) and South Wilts in our last two games is very pleasing indeed.”

The match took a significant twist after drinks in the afternoon session with South Wilts firmly in the driving seat, with Peter Rowe and Ben Draper building on the 86-run start Tom Morton (17) and Jack Stearman (23) had largely provided.

South Wilts were 103-2 and eyeing a 250-plus total when Draper made a pig’s ear of trying to reverse sweep Jack Hurley and not long after Rowe (56), who is in a rich vein of form and was batting nicely, tried unsuccessfully to play a ramp shot and departed, furious with himself.

Spinners Hurley (4-34), who bowled really well, supported by Pack (2-23) and Smith, drove a dagger into the heart of the South Wilts innings, which fell apart in remarkable fashion.

Batsmen seemed to lose all composure as seven wickets fell for 23 runs – from 131-3 to 154 all out as chaos reigned in the middle.

“I thought Jake and Conor were outstanding. They contained South Wilts and really applied the pressure during the squeeze,” Park smiled. “We fielded much better too.”

South Wilts hit back with left-armer Josh Croom ripping out Bournemouth’s top five, including Tasmanian birthday boy Tom Willoughby (27), who pulled one glorious shot for six and hit four other boundaries.

When he fell at 49-5, Bournemouth were in a sorry state and in even deeper trouble nine runs later when Hurley was trapped leg before.

But Park (21) used all his experience to weather the storm and soon found a reliable partner in Rob Pack.

Over by over, run by run, they wrestled the initiative away from South Wilts and more than doubled the score – until 122-6 when Park nicked one behind to give the returning Croom (6-16) his sixth wicket.

Smith may be a Premier Division rookie, but coming in at nine, he didn’t lack confidence and provided the perfect foil for Park, who had the whole situation under control, none more so than when he dumped a huge six over long-on.

Smith went for his shots and, as South Wilts spilled two dolly catches, Bournemouth gobbled up the last 30-odd runs they needed to pull off a fine victory. Park finished 46 not out, Smith unbeaten with 23.

“It was a great win and a great game of cricket, played on a good pitch, for which we are very thankful,” Park concluded.