SOUTH Wilts, Time Pennant winners for the fourth time in five years, can effectively wrap up the ECB Southern Electric Premier League championship if they beat Havant when the 50-over cricket resumes at Bemerton on Saturday, 1pm.

They take a massive 54-point lead over last season’s champions into the match, which will turn into a Vice President’s Day celebration if South Wilts win, writes MIKE VIMPANY.

South Wilts pulled off a sensational comeback to almost snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in their final Time Pennant match against Alton at the Jubilee Ground last weekend.

The resultant ‘winning draw’ pushed the Salisbury-based club ever closer to a third Southern Electric Premier League crown.

For long periods of the game, South Wilts looked down and out but, as in the fixture with Bashley (Rydal) two weeks earlier, they fought hard to drag the result in their favour.

Despite losing 33 overs of the 120-over game to rain, South Wilts skipper James Hayward had been very positive in opting to bat first.

It was immediately apparent that scoring quickly was not going to be an option. Against New Zealander Dewayne Bowden batting was not easy and then against spin, on a very slow surface,  it was difficult to force the pace.

Steve Riddle (22) and Jack Mynott (34) battled hard to put South Wilts in a decent position at 100-4, but the new batsmen found it virtually impossible to come in and score runs from the off.

The innings petered away and South Wilts were all out in the 45th of 46 overs for 149. Off-spinner Julian Ballinger picked up 3-12 with Bowden taking 3-28 from an impressive early spell.

In reply James Hibberd and Jack Sheppard repeatedly went past the edge and when they did find it, it either flew into a gap or fell short of the slip fielders due to the lack of pace.

Alton openers Michael Heffernan (38) and Jonathan Dow eased Alton to 66-0, but Eddie Abel produced the vital breakthrough as he trapped Heffernan for 38.

However, Ryan Hale joined Dow and with aggressive intent, they moved easily to 90-1.

South Wilts were not only facing defeat but at this stage they were returning with no points.

James Hayward introduced himself to the attack alongside Rob Franklin  to tighten things up and with runs now at a premium, Dow (28) holed out to Abel in the deep off Franklin and then Hale (22) smashed one to the same fielder at extra cover off Hayward.

At 92-3, South Wilts were back in the game and, as the run rate was beginning to climb, scoreboard pressure forced Bowden to try and force the pace only to be stumped by Morton off Hayward.

Robert Heywood was then unfortunate to be bowled sweeping off Franklin and Alton had slipped to 108-5.

Scott Myers and Mark Heffernan got the scoreboard ticking over again, but then Myers tried to force the pace and sliced to Rob Wade at backward point.

Alton’s skipper was superbly run out by Mynott and then Mark Heffernan holed out to Steve Riddle on the long on boundary off Franklin. With just two overs left of the 45, South Wilts switched from defence to attack to push for an unlikely win and the pressure of the close fielders forced another wicket as Matt Ireson looped a catch up to Hayward off Franklin.

However, Alton held out for the remaining nine balls to secure a draw at 135-9.

Franklin finished with 4-32 off 16 overs and Hayward 3-25.

Hayward was ecstatic with the winning draw: “We were staring down the barrel there and fought back strongly again. Full credit to the boys for producing a bowling and fielding performance like that.”

With Havant only able to extract a winning draw from their clash with Bashley, South Wilts maintain a healthy lead at the top of the table.