Alton win last-over thriller against Portsmouth to move into second place

Friday 5th August 2022 4:00 pm
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Alton batsman Dan Harris
Alton batsman Dan Harris (Tindle )

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Alton kept their nerve to clinch a last-over victory against Portsmouth to move into second place of the Southern Premier League Division 1 table.

Alton made one change to their side – with Toby Salmon missing, former Alton colt Ian Carpenter came into the side to make his long-awaited first-team league debut.

Portsmouth, who had won their past three league games, won the toss and elected to bat first.

Portsmouth’s leading run scorer Ben Duggan and Jack Marston started watchfully against the pace of Bash Walters and Huw Wheeler.

Scott Myers introduced himself into the attack and the change paid immediate dividends. Duggan, who had thwarted the Brewers in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, miscued Myers’ first delivery, looping a simple chance to Zack Gadsby at mid-off. Alton had their man with the board showing 31.

It was soon three down as Marston, trying to attack Walters, could only top edge the Alton seamer, Myers completing the catch.

Myers then got his second as Jamie Mitchell’s cut found Michael Heffernan at gully, who made no mistake to reduce the visitors to 44 for three.

Young seamer Gadsby was introduced into the attack and once again the change made an immediate impact, as James Christian could only edge to Myers at second slip as Portsmouth slipped into further trouble at 50 for four.

Unfortunately for the Brewers it was a case of deja vu as overseas player Minhaj Jalill and the wicketkeeper Sujeeth Daini built a partnership of 83 to bring Portsmouth back into the game.

The Brewers rang the changes but the pair batted patiently and at the second drinks break they had moved to 133 for four off 34 overs.

The break in play saw the reintroduction of Wheeler into the attack and with Jalill one short of his half-century, Wheeler produced a beauty to find the Sri Lankan’s outside edge, keeper Mark Heffernan making no mistake.

Looking to increase the rate, Stephen Warner was next to fall. Tom South, returning to the attack, took pace off the ball and Warner could not resist it – but could only drive back to South, who completed a sharp caught and bowled.

Warner had made 19 off 20 balls but Portsmouth were now 170 for six.

Daini, who had looked comfortable against the spin of Freddie Egleston and South, continued to frustrate Alton.

Gadsby replaced Wheeler and made the breakthrough in somewhat fortunate circumstances.

Daini, trying to pull Gadsby away, dragged the ball round and could only watch as the ball dropped and trickled on to the stumps. Daini had made 41 as Portsmouth were now 174 for seven.

A cameo from Ashan Silva, who made 22 off 19 balls, took Portsmouth past 200 in the 47th over.

Gadsby then struck twice, as Silva skied a pull shot and found the safe hands of Walters at midwicket, and then a text-book delivery to Joseph Kooner-Evans saw the ball clip the top of his off stump to give the young Alton seamer his fourth wicket and fine figures of four for 37.

Portsmouth were now 214 for nine, and they failed to add to that as their innings ended with a calamitous run out with four balls remaining.

Alton’s reply did not start well, Kooner-Evans finding the edge of Abhay Gonella to reduce Alton to one down with no score on the board.

Wheeler joined Dan Harris but when he was bowled by Silva for 15, Alton were wobbling at 23 for two.

This brought together the experienced pair of Harris and Myers together, and Alton’s leading run scorers went about bringing their side back into the game. Harris completed a boundary-strewn 50 off just 49 balls as Alton moved to three figures without further loss.

Harris was next to fall with the score on 106 when he was caught by Warner off the accurate Rakshith Rao for 53.

Fresh from their partnership the previous week, Michael Heffernan joined Myers with work still to be done.

Both Rao and Jalill were bowling well so the pair looked to soak up some pressure with plenty of overs left in the game.

Myers was working the ball round well and completed a well-made 50 off 73 balls.

Heffernan remained patient, just trying to rotate the strike and keep the board ticking over.

The pair looked to have put Alton in complete control as they added 78 to move their side to within 31 runs of victory with ten overs remaining.

However, a rush of blood from Heffernan opened up one end as he was caught at mid-off for 28, Silva picking up his second wicket with the board showing 184 for four.

Alton were still well placed, needing just 30 runs off 54 balls with Myers still at the crease and six wickets in hand.

Despite the scoreboard seemingly being in the home side’s favour, Portsmouth sensed an opportunity and with some tight bowling and good fielding they restricted Alton to just eight runs off the next five overs. This period also brought about the wicket of Myers to really set the nerves jangling in the home ranks.

Myers struck a full toss from Jalill to deep midwicket where he was caught for a fine 83 off 104 balls, with Alton now 188 for five.

At the end of the 45th over Alton were now 192 for five – and still 23 runs short of their target with 30 balls remaining.

South was struggling to rotate the strike and when he fell for nine trying to pull Silva over midwicket, Alton were 199 for six, with Silva capturing three wickets for 46.

Looking to ease the pressure, Mark Heffernan was then caught in the deep off the returning Kooner-Evans.

The score was now 201 for seven with just 16 balls remaining.

South African Walters joined Egleston with Alton in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as, with two overs to go, they still required 13 for victory.

Reuben McArdle conceded only six runs off the penultimate over, leaving Alton needing seven runs to win off the last.

Two singles off Kooner-Evans left Alton needing five runs from the final four deliveries.

Walters went on the attack and his full-blooded swing saw him edge the ball out towards third man – and with the Portsmouth fielder unable to stop the ball crossing the ropes, relief could be heard in the Alton ranks as the scores were tied with three balls remaining.

Walters held his nerve as he worked a full toss from Kooner-Evans into the leg side for a single to complete a three-wicket win for the Brewers.

Alton had almost fluffed their lines but the win – and maximum points – saw them move into second place in the table.

Alton will hope to keep the pressure on league leaders Sarisbury this weekend as they make the trip to the Isle of Wight to face Ventnor.

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