SOUTH Wilts’ prospects of landing a second consecutive ECB Southern Premier League title appears a fading dream after a crushing 146-run defeat inflicted by the Hampshire Academy in the searing Bemerton heat.

A team decision to put the Hampshire youngsters into bat backfired spectacularly as South Wilts roasted in 30 degrees for almost four hours, conceded 282 and were later bowled out for 136.

It was South Wilts’ third successive defeat and their fifth overall.

With three matches remaining, they are still in the mix, 14 points behind St Cross Symondians, who have the academy as their closest rivals.

But it will need each of the top two to lose one of their remaining matches to let South Wilts back in.

So, what was South Wilts’ rationale for putting the academy into bat?

“The team and I felt that given our last two defeats were batting first (against Bournemouth, South Wilts posted a modest 207-9 and lost, while at Bashley (Rydal) they were unable to defend 272-5), we would try mixing it up and backing our skills to bowl first to Hampshire and back ourselves to chase whatever they posted,” skipper Ben Draper explained.

“Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way but when you're battling for a Premier Division title sometimes you need to shake things up to get back on a winning streak.

“I feel now the team is playing catch up to the others. We can play with our aggressive style that helped us win last year and has been incredibly successful for the club over a number of years.”

Matt Burton, who toiled for his 4-64 return, picked up Charlie Mumford at slip early on, but Tom Cheater (41) and left-hand talent Dom Kelly (55) gradually batted the academy into a strong position.

Joe Eckland (41) continued the good work before Winchester College prospect Wilf Fontaine-Jackson (54) played an important mid-innings role.

With eight overs left, the Academy looked as though they might be losing their grip at 216-6, but Eddie Jack applied the long handle and 40 rapid runs later he’d put the young Hawks in a powerful position at 282 all out.

South Wilts’ fifth bowling option had gone for almost 90 runs. A key statistic.

A jaded South Wilts quickly had 20 runs on the board, but directly Tom Morton and Peter Rowe perished within four balls of each other in Ethan Martin’s second over they were facing defeat.

Rowledge-raised Martin (3-15) then nipped out the dependable Jack Stearman and, by mid-innings drinks, leg spinner Ethan Baker had begun to make an impact and six wickets were down for 93 (Arthur Godsal 22).

Jack Mynott (33) and Aaryan Sen (23 not out) raised the final total to 136 before Baker cut through the lower order to finish with 5-23.

Meanwhile, Wiltshire were frustrated by bad light then heavy rain at South Wilts where play ended just after 3pm when they were on course for victory against Cornwall.

Cornwall had been set 335 for victory but lost their top five for 50 inside 12 overs, with Matt Burton taking three of the wickets.

They had limped to 64 for five when the weather closed in and play was abandoned 90 minutes later.