Jez Bulled was a relieved captain as Havant held their nerve to defeat Ventnor by just two runs in a thrilling Southern Electric Premier League premier division clash at Havant Park.
The return of the competition’s 50-over format pitted the two top-flight powerhouses against each other.
But while the home side looked in charge for much of the contest, they took their foot off the gas and almost let Ventnor in to snatch an unlikely triumph.
‘It was close in the end but we made a lot harder work of it than we should have done,’ said Bulled, who was standing in for absent skipper Richard Hindley.
‘A combination of some good batting and us not bowling and fielding very well let them back into the game. We were much too lax.
‘It became fairly tight and with six or seven overs left Ventnor had got the run-rate down to around six an over.
‘Fortunately for us they had lost a few wickets which made it difficult for them.
‘Even so they got to the last over needing 12 or 13 to win.
‘A four off the last ball would have given them a tie but we were able to prevent the boundary.’
Earlier Havant had been given a solid start by openers Peter Hopson (23) and Rob Gibson (58) – after Ventnor put them in to bat.
When the former was run out, Chris Morgan (66) kept up the good work and put on a 55-run partnership with Gibson for the second wicket.
Ben Walker (32) and Stuart Ransley (19) pushed the score along before Bulled (16 not out) finished with a flourish, plundering 13 runs off the final over.
Chasing a target of 261 for nine, Ventnor made the worst possible start as they lost Ollie Mills clean bowled by Jeremy Ord without scoring.
When Travis Head and Ian Hilsum soon followed, Havant looked to be cruising and they reduced Ventnor to 150 for seven.
‘We’d got rid of their danger men and things looked comfortable,’ said Bulled.
Neil Westhorpe (71 not out) had other ideas, though.
Batting at number seven he proved a thorn in Havant’s side and with support from Hugh Calloway (16) and Rob Snell (14) edged the visitors within touching distance of their target. As the situation became tense, Havant were glad when death bowlers Walker and Morgan held their nerve.
‘Ben Walker had a great game for us,’ said Bulled.
‘When we were batting he was the glue lower down the order.
‘Then at the death he bowled a fantastic couple of tight overs just when we needed them.
‘Morgan was also difficult to get away and that got us over the line in the end.’
The defeat dented Ventnor’s hopes of winning the 50-over pennant but kept Havant’s feint chances alive.
‘We need to win our final three games and hope South Wilts slip up,’ said Bulled.