Calmore Sports’ Third XI remained unbeaten at the top of Hampshire Regional Division 2 West following a nail-biting four-run victory over local rivals Bramshaw II on a sultry Saturday afternoon in the New Forest.

Batting first after winning the toss, Paul Galbraith’s side were in a little bit of early trouble when Michael Donovan flicked opening bowler Lawrence Reeve to John Roberts at mid-wicket – Donny jr being slightly unlucky as the fielder had only just arrived on the ground.

It began a tale of the innings with little partnerships developing before they were broken. Mark Hardy and Stanton added 31 before the latter nicked off and Dan Croft followed soon after to leave the visitors 50-3.

But the stoic Hardy, showing all of his experience, went about his business in typical fashion to record a decent 31 off 73 balls and shared in a 29-run stand with Nigel Hill before slow-left-armer Kosh Patel enticed him through the gate.

Hill, showing pleasant touches and power in equal measure was joined by the skipper and it was ‘The Goat’ who dominated their 35-run partnership cracking two fours and two sixes in a 24-ball stay of 27 before Arnold trapped him leg-before – although the ‘Competitive Dad’ bowler was more than miffed at having an earlier appeal turned down.

A clearly tiring Hill, who was also struggling slightly with a calf niggle, was joined by Richard Isaacs and they kept the score ticking over with 32 between them before the latter, attempting to up the rate was bowled for a pleasant 16 (strike-rate 59.26).

But this just brought in Sam Vidler, a player in terrific form with the bat and he belted a 13-ball unbeaten 27 with two sixes and two fours while Nigel went to a superb 52 before being stumped in the final over.

Calmore’s tally of 186 for 7 was always going to be a challenge for the side languishing in the lower reaches of the table.

However, the two openers, Reeve and skipper Gary Loveless set about the task with some aplomb. They reached the drinks break at 21 overs still together and were finally parted in the 23rd over when Reeve lofted Hill to the grateful hands of skipper Galbraith at long-off for 45 (78 balls, strike-rate 57.69).

Whilst it was a solid start to their innings, they were chasing 4.45 runs per over to win the game and scored at 3.52, which put a lot of pressure on the later batsmen to up the rate to challenge the 187 to win.

John Roberts took up the mantle while keeping his captain company, but Loveless was being tied down by the wily Martin Donovan and finally succumbed for 45 off 89 balls (strike-rate 50.56).

Mike Rowland became Donny’s second bowled victim but that brought in Ben Arnold to try and bring his side some momentum and he and Roberts certainly did their best, planting four sixes between them as they put together 63 in the last eight overs to bring them close.

Needing 14 to win off the last over, Roberts hit a six to the short leg-side boundary off Hill but the Calmore veteran held his nerve when they needed five to win off the last ball – Roberts not quite connecting with his last big shot and finding Michael Donovan on the boundary edge.

The visitors were certainly indebted to Martin Donovan’s outstanding 1-19 off his alloted 10 overs while Vidler was unfortunate to end with 0-31 off his 10.

So, Calmore’s unbeaten record remains intact – just about – but this will be sorely tested next Saturday when they travel to Wellow to play Totton and Eling 3rds in a top v third battle.

Match scorecard: