Cricket: Atkins makes hay - and history - for Midhurst

Midhurst recorded an impressive Hampshire League division-one win at The Ruins - successfully chasing down 294 against Ventnor thanks in large part to a matchwinning innings of 128 not out from skipper Tom Atkins.

The day began less well for both Atkins and Midhurst - having lost the toss, the visitors chose to bat first on a wicket that looked certain to yield plenty of runs. 

The Ventnor opening pair raced along at a rate of ten per over as the home side began to resign themselves to a long, hot afternoon chasing leather to the boundary.

Mercifully, the hosts made a surprise breakthrough as Atkins trapped the Ventnor opener lbw for 21 in the 8th over.

The hosts’ first-change pair of Steve May and George Cussins took the pace off the ball and proved effective in stemming the torrent of runs. They helped Midhurst restore some parity by drinks, with the visitors 143 for three after 25 overs.

Cussins struck again and Midhurst began to dare to dream there might be light at the end of the tunnel.

Ventnor’s experienced fifth-wicket pair provided stability. The pair played conservatively, but an apparent willingness by the home side to let them use up their overs, rather than making a concerted effort to bowl them out, meant the two batsmen were able to amble along at five an over without any trouble.

The 101-run partnership was eventually broken by part-time spinner Tom Hughes but some big hitting from the visitors and aggressive bowling from returning opener Tim Powell combined in equal measure to see 40 runs and two wickets come from the final five overs.

Midhurst were left chasing 294 for an unlikely win.

The reply showed early signs of promise as openers Atkins and Cussins cantered to 23 for no loss after just four overs before the latter was bowled for six.

The Midhurst captain was joined by the increasingly-dependable Hughes and together they set about rebuilding the innings.

The pair batted well together, with Hughes stabilising the partnership as Atkins ensured Midhurst stayed within reach of the required six-an-over run rate – a task made significantly easier by the shocking number of extras being conceded by the visitors. Their partnership of 80 was eventually broken in the 20th over as Hughes was caught for 19 with the score on 103.

Young vice-captain Chris Adams came in to support Atkins, who was timing the ball beautifully. The duo crashed 80 from ten overs, combining smart running, deft placement and big hitting - leaving 100 required from the final 20 overs.

As victory slowly inched closer, Atkins played an exquisitely-controlled drive for two to bring up a deserved century that contained nine fours and a solitary six.

Adams completed a fine half-century before falling to one big shot too many with ten overs remaining and 40 needed.

Despite the loss of Powell for a rapid 11, the Midhurst captain remained composed and, together with Steve May, saw the hosts over the finish line with three overs to spare.

Having batted through the entirety of Midhurst’s 47-over innings, Atkins returned triumphant, 128 not out, to a pavilion that was on its feet applauding his achievement of not only winning the match for his side, but also becoming the first player in the club’s history to score a century in Hampshire division one.

Atkins said: “Ultimately, Ventnor’s fifth-wicket partnership cost them the game - they scored too slowly and failed to push home their early advantage. As we walked off at tea I knew we could chase down any score. It was never in doubt, I guess.”