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Brewers battle for a draw at the Rose Bowl

Alton secured a draw away to the Hampshire Academy this weekend, but were made to work hard for their points.

Alton were without Ben Mortimer for this tough test at the Ageas Bowl nursery ground – the first of the round of time games.

Hampshire Academy won the toss and chose to make first use of a very hard but green looking surface, Dewayne Bowden and Scott Myers sharing the new ball in Mortimer’s absence.

Academy openers Jacob George and Lewis McManus were quick to punish anything remotely loose once the inner fielding cordon had been punctured the ball raced away to the boundary.

Myers control was crucial in the early stages, bowling into the wind he was able to keep McManus in particular on his toes with an excellent line and length and swing in both directions. It was a Myers in-swinger that created the first real excitement as McManus misjudged the drift and was trapped in front but Umpire Prouton replied in the negative feeling the ball was perhaps swinging a little too much down the leg-side, a huge relief for the youngster who went on to capitalise on that let-off.

Ireson replaced Bowden, his 9 overs of off-spin ineffective on a pitch that was unreceptive. George and McManus offered little in the way of even half-chances. The Brewers however were a determined and focussed collective and found a breakthrough as Bowden returned to have George LBW for a well made 84 from 105 balls. The Academy having reached 155-1 at lunchhad set a decent platform from which to look to push on from.

That push never really materialised and the Academy batsmen continued to push the ball around the field rotating the strike – interspersed with occasional acts of aggression. Michael Porter fell to Julian Ballinger LBW for 21 – the Academy had reached 224-2 and were still not finished.

McManus completed a decent looking century before being bowled by the wily Ballinger for 115. 253-3.

Ballinger took his third wicket as he bowled Tom Alsop for 18, 274-4, and the Academy took a further over or two before declaring on 277 for 4 after 60.5 overs.

Will Phillips and Michael Heffernan opened the Alton innings and it was immediately obvious how tough a task scoring was going to be. Tom Barber’s very swift left-armers were poorly directed with the vast majority of deliveries short and wide down the leg side of the two right-handers – the wide laws being relaxed in this the time game version. Runs were a premium but both openers looked comfortable and untroubled.

An injury to wicketkeeper Lewis McManus required him to leave the field and head to the dressing rooms in search of medical attention, the delay inevitable as a change of keeper was required. The Academy bought on the vastly experienced Charlie Freeston, a coach with the Academy as a twelfth man.

At the re-start Barber finally found a line that troubled Phillips who feathered an edge through to new keeper Alsop, Phillips gone for 8 and Alton 10-1.

Young leg-spinner mason Crane replaced Barber the runs still difficult to come by, but again the Brewers looked untroubled.

Then a nasty incident as a fiercely struck Jon Dow sweep saw the ball find its way through the grill of the helmet being worn by the short leg, seeming as though he may just be fortunate to escape unhurt it quickly transpired that he had received a blow and was fast showing signs of a concussion.

Medical attention was sought firstly from one of the Hampshire Physiotherapists from the main ground where the final day of the LV County Championship game against Kent was taking place – and then from Paramedics after the arrival of an Ambulance.

The break totalled around 40 minutes before play got back underway – umpires Sparshott and Prouton busily checking the ruling on the delay and re-calculating the required score. It transpired that despite the break in play and the reduction in available overs from 60 to 50, the score required for Alton to win remained at 278 although the score to reach a winning draw had reduced to 228, it would be an uphill task but not beyond the realms of possibility.

Michael Heffernan was then dismissed, Crane clean bowling the opener for 13, 35-2.

The overs were slipping by, and despite the massive total on the board the Academy were – under the guidance of Freeston – quick to set men patrolling the boundary edge in various key positions, scoring still supremely difficult.

Scott Myers and Dow added another 16 before Dow fell edging Brad Taylor to Freeston at slip, Dow gone for 8. 59-3.

Jack Penn fell quickly looking to accelerate and push the close field back to create scoring opportunities – 59-4.

Bowden joined Myers, Alton were finally getting a grip on the game and the idea of reaching the winning draw total was still a decent possibility, Myers fell to Taylor whilst looking to loft the spinner into a gap – he made 30 and Alton were 82-5.

Kiwi Bowden and the returning Ed Hubbard looked to work the ball around, Bowden striking a huge blow for 6 but he fell trying to repeat the stroke a few overs later, caught in the deep by Matt Cooke for 23 off of Taylor, 107-6.

The rearguard action started from there, it was apparent that the Brewers were not going to reach the winning draw score, the field well set and preventing the majority of scoring shots, though Hubbard played two magnificently timed aerial clips through mid-wicket, Crane trapped both him and Jack Myers LBW 121-7 and then 128-8.

Ireson and Mark Heffernan then survived a number of exceptionally loud appeals as the Academy players’ frustration took hold. The umpire remained steadfast and even had to call the Academy Skipper across as the appealing and reactions started to overstep the mark.

The Academy’s chances of winning the game outright were undone by the long delay, but perhaps also victims of the length of time that they occupied the crease for.

Alton will have their work cut out this coming Saturday as high flying league leaders Ventnor visit the JCG, 11:30 start.