Portsmouth & Southsea seconds edge home in thriller

Matt Benfield took a crucial catch
Matt Benfield took a crucial catch
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Both teams paid tribute to the groundstaff at Ridge Meadow after Hambledon II and Portsmouth & Southsea II fought out a close Hampshire League division four south encounter.

Ultimately, Steve Clements’ visitors sneaked to a five-wicket win in the final over at the conclusion of a good contest.

‘Our volunteer groundsmen were the real heroes,’ said Hambledon vice-captain Mark Le Clercq.

‘Four of them were up here all day Friday – cutting, spiking and rolling the wicket.

‘As a result, although the outfield was wet, the wicket played well.

‘It was soft and low but nothing popped or shot along the ground.

‘When you consider not a single game has been played in county division one in the first two weeks, it is remarkable we got our game on.’

Clements was also positive about the conditions.

‘They did a great job to allow the match to go ahead,’ he added.

‘It was just good to get out and finally play some cricket.

‘Batting wasn’t easy when you first went in but if you stuck around it became a lot easier.’

Portsmouth & Southsea feared the worst when Hambledon reached 70 for one wicket after being put into bat.

The dangerous Le Clercq was going well on 44 and looking like repeating his previous season’s score of 120 against the visitors.

At that point, though, Le Clercq hammered a long hop from left-arm spinner Kieron Dunston straight to Matt Benfield at extra cover and the fielder clung on to take the catch.

‘I got myself out by hitting it at the one fielder on their side capable of taking the catch,’ said Le Clercq.

That proved a turning point as the home side fell apart to end on 135 for nine.

Dunston (three for 29) and Daryl Willey (three for 16), with his medium pace, were the pick of the Portsmouth & Southsea bowlers.

In reply, it proved slow going early on as Clements (18) and Dan Cleary (11) saw them reach 50 for one off the first 25 overs.

‘We knew if we kept wickets in hand we could accelerate in the later stages,’ said Clements.

The calm figure of Mike Patey (33), with the assistance of number five Ashley Fookes (32), moved the visitors within sight of the finish line.

‘A couple of big sixes five or six overs from the end helped,’ said Clements.

‘We paced it right and I never thought we wouldn’t get there in time.’

Needing one to win off the final over, Portsmouth & Southsea got home with four balls to spare.