Standing (from left): Ollie Kanavan, Tom Benfield, Mike Patey, Jake Peach, Jono Willey, Matt Smith, Paul Barsby (coach). Seated: Matt Benfield, Steve Clements, Keiron Dunstan, Tom Farnworth, Ben Saunders.
Portsmouth & Southsea will be back in the Southern Premier League next season after a three-year absence – as will Lymington II, who were relegated just 12 months ago.
The pair finished champions and runners-up, respectively, in County Division 1 this season.
Who they’ll replace won’t be known until after today’s final round of Premier League matches.
Hursley Park are down, for sure, but either Alton II, Fawley or Purbrook could tumble with them.
Pre-season favourites P & S, pictured, wrapped up the title they’d previously won in 2012 with a nervy three-wicket win over St Cross Symondians II.
An unbroken 120-run stand between Kevin Lockwood (61) and Steve Berryman (58) helped St Cross post a tricky 230-3 (Kevin Neave 58).
P & S slipped to 22-2, but powered into pole position through a 147-run stand between Matt and Tom Benfield in only 26 overs.
Matt thumped four sixes and 12 fours in his 111, while Tom hit 55 – but after they were out, P & S wobbled and lost a further five wickets before Tom Farnworth’s timely 18 not out got them home.
Apart from the players themselves, no one will be more pleased with P & S’s success than Ray Benfield and Keith Ward, who have laboured hard to get St James’s Park in really good nick.
Lymington II and Longparish, who finished immediately behind them, were the two sides who beat P & S this season.
Lymington closed five points behind after Tom Atkins (68) and Jack Roberts (86) top scored in a 246-9 fest at Hook & Newnham Basics II (112).
Longparish were dealt a harsh blow when their penultimate match with relegated Sarisbury Athletic II was washed out. And how they suffered.
The final cut saw them finish third, 11 points behind P & S and five adrift of Lymington – a deficit that, in all probability, wouldn’t have occurred had that game at Allotment Road not been washed out.
Parish laboured to beat Rowledge II, who did so well to avoid relegation, having looked odd-on favourites for the drop most of the season.
With Joe Swan making 58, they made 147 (Scott Sturt 4-33) at Longparish, who looked like losing until Alex Coetzee (32) and James Bevan (21) came together at the end.
Fareham & Crofton took the ‘best of the rest’ credits, thrashing nine-man Ventnor II by 120 runs at Steephill, where retired Surgeon Captain Chris Kershaw creditably helped boost the dwindling personnel.
Chris, now into his 70s, did wonderful medical work in his time at Gosport’s RN Haslar hospital and probably thought he’d be required to administer first aid as Fareham piled up 311-6, with Luke Watson (left, 135) scoring a maiden County 1 century.
To their credit, the Ventnor nine didn’t give up – 16 year old Ben Attrill, who captained, conceding only 37 runs off his ten overs of off-spin.
Phil Mew (44) and Cameron Bartlett (36) top scored in Ventnor’s 191 – a leg weary Chris Kershaw being run out before retiring to the bar, always cheerful, beer in one hand and ready for a chat ! Great bloke.
On a more serious note, it cost Fareham (as it does every island visitor) £300 or more to make the trip to the island – and ask more questions of Ventnor whether they can seriously sustain their second and third teams in the Hampshire League.
It’s certainly been a challenging season for the island club, who have worked so hard to reach their current status, only now to be struggling to field 11 players.
Robert Smith (87) and James Forrest (5-50) caught the eye as Ropley (212-8) swept aside OTs & Romsey (139), while Burridge II chased down Shrewton’s 189 to win by four wickets.
Newly wed Ben Wadmore was the only Ryde player to have much to smile about after Bishops Waltham had piled up 256-8 to beat the islanders’ by 114 runs.
Harry McGhee (77), Andy Wakely (69) and Harry Barrett (55) all made half-centuries for Bishops, but the 37 runs Wadmore scored may have clinched the County 1 batting prize above Matt Benfield and Longparish’s Will de Cani.
United Services saved themselves from relegation with a six-wicket win over Sarisbury Athletic (194-7), but New Milton became the third side to drop when they lost by 34 runs at Hythe & Dibden.
The Watersiders posted 184 (Inam Agha 45) before removing the Green & Golds for 150 (Oli Nicholls 54).