Lord's dream lives on for Dons

Hambledon's dreams of reaching the National Village Knockout final at Lord's live on after winning the county crown on Sunday.

The Dons stumbled to 129 all out against Hursley Park at Ridge Meadow after they were asked to bat - with skipper Dan Hewitt top-scoring on 25.

But a spirited bowling performance from the home side saw them claim victory by just three runs on the final ball - Hewitt again leading from the front with four for 17.

The Ridge raiders had earlier turned up ahead of their biggest game of the season full of optimism.

The start was delayed by half an hour due to rain and with the covers still on the captains did the toss and Hursley submitted the hosts in on a green top.

Six overs down and Hambledon were cruising - but following a couple of questionable shot selections both openers had departed and Rob Atkins and Hewitt began a recovery attempt.

With blocks and occasional moments of flare, the scoreboard was ticking along nicely before the spinners came on and runs dried up due to slow turn and a sticky wicket.

Hewitt fell at 61 for three - catching a leading edge back to the bowler softly - and out came Joseph Brown, fresh off the back of a school ton the day prior.

But unfortunately it wasn't his day as a ripper from the Hursley skipper turned back through the gate and Atkins, who was the spine of the innings, fell shortly after as the ball dribbled back on to his stumps off a defensive shot.

Nick Scutt fell shortly after, leaving James Atkinson and Rory Prentice at the crease with 13 overs to go.

With Hambledon six down, the powerful pairing ran well and chose their shots carefully before Prentice was the first to fall and then Atkinson found himself back in the hutch, too.

The Dons were on the rails as Will Mann fell over a snorter and was stumped - bringing up the rearguard of Rhidian Chapman and big blocking Rupert Hetherington.

The pair put on a crucial 15 for the last wicket as Hambledon were all out for 129, 30 runs short of par and 45 short of a strong score.

Tea at the Ridge as always was delivered to the highest quality by Sue Turner.

And then, knowing something special was required in the second half and wickets early were essential, the Dons had their team talk and were pumped to say the least.

They had a team photo - being told this was a picture of the 2013 Hampshire village champions.

Prentice came down the hill and, with pace on his side, he delivered a good spell after struggling to get his lines and lengths in the first over.

Hewitt came up the hill and made an instant impact - following two dots with one that jagged back and trapped the opener in front of all three.

A fresh lefty at the crease and a hooping length inswinger chopped him in half, knocking over his off pole.

Off came Prentice and on came Hetherington, who was swiftly rewarded with a dolly catch to short cover.

A partnership was growing and the tide was shifting towards the bay of Hursley but on came Chapman and the Sunday smiler delivered his customary big inducker to trap the key opener in front.

Hursley were four down for 60 and it was beginning to look interesting when another partnership formed between the five and six batsmen.

The score crept towards 90 despite James Atkinson looking dangerous and change was needed, so the skipper brought himself back from the bottom shortly followed by Prentice from the top.

Hewitt cleaned up his opposite number and after another tight over from Prentice, he came back to clean up the number five.

At 95 for six, the advantage still firmly lay with the visitors as Hewitt completed his spell of four for 17.

Atkinson came on for his final two overs, with a very nice chap deciding that the best thing to do to a straight delivery was watch it hit his stumps.

A run out chance followed the next over and it was securely taken with a direct hit from mid-off by the skipper.

Another loose shot followed and Atkinson had his second scalp, with Hursley slipping to 100 for nine.

It was Hambledon's game to lose now as Prentice continued to steam in, bowling tight and forcing the run-rate to creep up.

Soon enough, 20 was needed off the last two overs with Prentice conceding six from the first set.

Chapman had the responsibility of the last over, with the weight of the club and history on his shoulders.

And the wee Welshman delivered, only conceding 11 and earning Hambledon victory by 3 runs.

Celebratory antics followed as the Blues delivered their best victory in recent years and regained their throne as the best villagers in the Shire.

Hewitt said: 'What a performance and what a win.

'Thank you to all involved - groundstaff, Sue, Jackie Turner, Bobby Scutt and all the crowd cheering us on.

'It was truly amazing, all 11 players wore their shirts with pride!'