BASINGSTOKE and North Hants host New Milton in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday, a game that could see the Bountymen take a big step towards claiming the Southern League Division One title.
Both teams go into this weekend’s game boasting a 100 per cent record in league games so far this season, but it is New Milton who sit top of the table.
Basingstoke can ensure that they overhaul their title rivals by winning at May’s Bounty, and captain Chris Froud, pictured, admits that it is a massive game for both sides.
“It’s a crunch game and, at the end of it, one team will go home disappointed,” he said. “We have to make sure that it is not us.
“Whoever wins on Saturday will definitely have a good chance of winning the league and going up.
“There’s a long way to go but the winners on Saturday will put a bit of distance between themselves and the teams below them, so it is a big game.”
Froud says that confidence is high in the camp going into Saturday’s fixture. The Bountymen go into the game having won six out of six at the start of the season, their most recent success a narrow five-wicket victory away at Andover last weekend.
Stand-in skipper Dan Coombs lost the toss and the hosts chose to take first use of a flat, slow pitch, making 249-5 from their 50 overs.
Basingstoke’s reply began very well, with openers Coombs (84) and Patrick Joseph (75) putting on 147 for the first wicket.
However, a mini-collapse left them in a spot of bother on 212-5 with six overs remaining.
Craig Williamson then took the bull by the horns, smashing his way to a quick-fire 26 not out and hitting the winning runs with two balls to spare.
Froud said: “It was the first time we had been asked to chase a big score, so it was a good confidence-boosting performance.
“It was a tough and tight game, but a good one to win, especially going into this week’s game against New Milton.
“It’s a crucial part of the season for us and we all want to keep winning.
“We are comfortable at home and if we can get one over on New Milton, it will give us an advantage going into the second half of the season.”
Both Basingstoke and New Milton boast strong bowling attacks, but Froud believes that it is batsmen who could prove match-winners on Saturday.
“Looking at the statistics, they have a really good bowling attack and are getting teams out,” he added. “That is true of us as well, so it could come down to runs and the batting line-up that copes better on the day.”
Froud is hoping that he will have to make just one change to the side, bringing himself back into the line-up.
Joseph set to retain his place alongside the skipper at the top of the order.
Holders Basingstoke won their first game in this year’s Don Lynch Aylward Cup last week, beating hosts Aldershot by five wickets.
The hosts made 130-7 from their 15 eight-ball overs and the Bountymen got home with four balls to spare, Williamson making an unbeaten 58 to see them over the line.
Basingstoke will face Finchampstead in the first round proper.
Visit basingstokegazette.co.uk/sport for over-by-over coverage from May's Bounty on Saturday.