SOUTH Wilts firsts beat the Hampshire Academy to retain their 100 per cent leadership of the ECB British Gas Southern Premier League – but their four-wicket Vice President’s Day victory has come at a cost.

Left-hand opener Eddie Abel, so often in the wars with injury, dislocated a finger in the slips and will be sidelined for the next few weeks.

The young Academy side, parading nine teenagers and evergreen captain James Tomlinson, fought tooth and nail defending 186 and it needed a captain’s performance from James Hibberd to win it for South Wilts.

Hibberd’s unbeaten 28, which contained the only two sixes of the match, followed an impressive 3-24 return with the ball.

Batsmen were made to work for their runs on a good Bemerton cricket wicket, particularly the Academy against three-wicket pair Hibberd and Steve Warner (3-32).

South Wilts raised Miles Kantolinna (32), Fletcha Middleton (32|) and Tom South (26) all made their mark while Abel was being patched up in A&E.

“Milo played nicely,” Hibberd said. “He obviously finds it uncomfortable playing against a club that he has been at all his life, but he gets better every time I see him. His wicket-keeping has improved as well and if he doesn’t make it as a pro we will look forward to having him playing for us.”

Having been boosted by Scotland’s Chris Sole (3-36), the Academy paraded a strong pace bowling attack and South Wilts found run scoring no easier.

Emergency opener Luke Evans (26) stuck to his task doggedly, while James Hayward hit an attractive 33, before becoming the second batsman in the match to tread on his stumps and giving the lively Sole his third victim.

Hibberd reflected: “Losing Eddie shortened our batting line-up, but Luke Evans stepped up and played excellently, seeing off Sole, who bowled a ferocious spell.

“Not a bad performance considering he batted 11 all last year.”

“But as a kid he batted for the New Forest side I coached and was a batter so I knew he could bat.”

With South Wilts’ reply at 105-5, the match was in the balance, but Ben Draper (26) and Hibberd began to turn the tide and add 43 important runs.

It was left to Hibberd, after timely support from Sam Pittman, to get South Wilts across the line with four overs to spare.