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Basingstoke and North Hants gear up for title decider
BASINGSTOKE and North Hants’ ambition when they joined the Southern League this summer was to win the Division Two title.
They can go long way towards achieving that on Saturday with victory in a top-of-the-table clash with Hursley Park at May’s Bounty.
These two sides have led the table from the start of the campaign, with the Bountymen having lost the once and Hursley only twice.
One of those defeats was in the first meeting between the teams – Basingstoke won by 54 runs after being bowled out for 199.
Both sides warmed-up for the clash in great style as the Bountymen won by 243 runs at Totton and Eling. Chris Froud hammered a century in their highest score of the season so far as they made 347-6.
Meanwhile Hurlsey won by nine wickets against visiting basement side Tichborne Park.
The leading wicket taker in the league, Matt Oliver, grabbed his third five-wicket haul to take his tally to 33 – four ahead Basingstoke’s Matt Thankachan, the next best in the list.
Oliver also took four wickets when the Bountymen visited Hursley so is going to be one to watch at May’s Bounty.
Another is Australian batsman Jamie Eccles, who has 670 runs to his name to lie second in the scoring list, 56 runs ahead of Basingstoke skipper Dan Coombs.
It is almost certain to be a battle royal and Coombs will welcome back to the line-up explosive opening bat Mo Rizwan, who has an average of 51 for the season.
On the minus side, seam bowler Graham Porter is unavailable so Coombs and Andy Fulton will share the fifth bowling duties if needed.
Looking ahead to the mouth watering game, Coombs said: “We have not been beaten at home this season and want to keep that run going. They have some dangerous batsmen, especially their overseas guy, who we got out early last time.
“They also have three very good spinners so we know it will be tough, but we also know a win will almost certainly mean we will win the title.”
The second XI also have a big game this weekend.
They can make sure they do not get sucked into a relegation battle in the final two weeks of the season if they win at Southern League Division Three bottom side Bournemouth II.
The Dorset side have won just once this season and when the sides met earlier in the season the Bountymen won by six wickets.
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