CAPTAIN James Hayward believes South Wilts will shake off the disappointment of losing their unbeaten record to Havant and go on to lift the ECB Southern Electric Premier League championship, writes Mike Vimpany.

South Wilts lost for the first time in 12 outings when defending champions Havant beat them by five wickets at Bemerton.

The defeat trimmed South Wilts’ lead at the top to 36 points but, with three matches remaining and starting at Lymington on Saturday, they are still firm favourites to land their first title since 2004.

“We’ve played good cricket all year so I see no reason why we can’t put the finishing touches to what we’ve achieved so far,” he said.

“If Havant pick up maximums, I reckon we’ll need no more than 30 points from three games, so if we win at Lymington we’ll almost be there.

“We’ve got home matches against Bournemouth and St Cross Symondians to finish, so it would be nice to be crowned champions at home.”

South Wilts were never able to get into their stride against a Havant side that has reached the ECB Kingfisher Beer Cup semi-finals and will not hand over the Southern Electric trophy until it is mathematically impossible for them to defend it.

They were on the back foot directly openers Tom Morton and Steve Riddle were trapped leg before wicket by Ben Walker (2-30).Eddie Abel (47) saw Jack Mynott (24) and James Hayward (26) perish before the midway point of the innings as Havant employed a familiar four-pronged spin attack.

Play was halted for 20 minutes or so midway through the afternoon when Havant wicketkeeper Jez Bulled was hit in the face by a ball from the influential Steve Matthews (2-35) that flew up off Hayward’s pads.

But, save a nasty nosebleed, Bulled – who was not wearing his customary face mask – was unhurt and came back on the field later. James Hibberd (34) and Owen Alsop (30) lifted the total to 186-5, but Stuart Ransley (3-52) was the catalyst as the last five South Wilts wickets fell for only ten runs.

Chasing 196 to win, Havant suffered two early blows, but recovered on the back of a ten-boundary 89 not out from Ransley, whose stand with Chris Stone (50) sealed the five-wicket win and led to South Wilts conceding their 11-match unbeaten record.