SOUTH Wilts’ quest to reclaim the ECB Southern Electric Premier League championship will come down to a potential winner-take-all showdown with Havant at Bemerton on Saturday (12.30pm).
Everything hinges on the final 50- over match of the season after the two Premier Division juggernauts collected maximum 22-point hauls from their penultimate games.
Havant maintained their ninepoint lead at the summit with a tidy five-point win over Lymington.
Tom Morton, meanwhile, hit his fourth SPL century of the season as South Wilts hauled themselves out of mid-afternoon trouble to post 265-9 and beat Burridge by 61 runs.
It will be the first time the outcome of the Premier Division championship has hinged on the very last game.
Morton’s century – later to be matched by a hundred from ex- Hampshire cricketer Derek Kenway – was arguably the most responsible innings of his career, steering South Wilts from a tottering 96-6 to 265-9, a total Burridge could only dream of making.
Ironically, Morton seemed to be a bystander for the first half of the South Wilts’ innings.
He was more than content to play the support role as Eddie Abel tore into Greg Thew, who retreated out of the attack after seeing the lefthander belt 24 off his first two overs.
Abel bludgeoned 42 off the first 52 runs South Wilts scored in the first nine overs – and made batting look pretty straightforward.
But that wasn’t the case at all: the ball nipped about off the seam, frequently beating the outside edge and causing a succession of incoming South Wilts’ batsmen problems.
Five wickets fell for 40 runs – three to South African Geoff Dods (3-41) and two to a returning Thew (2-51) - as South Wilts wobbled alarmingly at 96-6.
Morton watched it all unfold from the non-strikers’ end but, unfazed and unmoved, went about his business of repairing the damage in a methodical manner.
Lower order support, in the shape of Rob Franklin (15) and Stephen Booth (21), was forthcoming as South Wilts steadily worked their way out of danger.
South Wilts were eight wickets down before Morton completed his half-century in the 38th over off 88 balls.
Morton’s next 50 took 35 balls – boundaries streaming at will from his seemingly foot-wide bat.
Two sixes over mid-wicket sailed out of the ground and another – comfortably a 100-yard hit – landed in the boules court behind the sightscreen at the pavilion end of the Botley Road ground - interrupting a peaceful petanque match.
It was an awesome display of batting strength, Morton complementing his three six-hits with nine fours as he raced to his century.
Jake Foley, with 27 not out, provided ideal support – the ninth wicket stand yielding 88 runs and putting Burridge clean out of a game they might have fancied winning an hour before.
Burridge’s woes continued after tea, with Steve Warner (4-30) and James Hibberd (3-13) ripping out the hosts’ top order.
Burridge tottered at 33-5 and South Wilts went for the kill.
Like Morton earlier in his own innings, Kenway watched as wickets fell around him. Burridge lurched to 118-7 as Foley’s leg spin removed Jamie Rood and Sam Lavery.
Kenway remained resolute, bringing up his half-century as South Wilts, growing in frustration, found it difficult to penetrate the lower Burridge order.
Cheap and easy runs flowed as South Wilts turned to a succession of ‘beer match’ bowlers – Kenway gleefully cashing in, rampaging his way to 126 with three sixes and 17 fours.
Burridge totted up four handy batting bonus points, reaching 200 before losing their last three batsmen for four runs and conceding a 61-run defeat with two overs left.