MARTINSTOWN 135 (5pts) lost to SHROTON 139-7 (19pts) by three wickets

MARTINSTOWN’S batsmen subsided once more as Shroton collected a three-wicket Dorset Funeral Plan Premier League victory at Lower Ashton Farm.

Worryingly for the struggling hosts, who sit ninth and actually extended the gap to bottom-placed Stalbridge by two points to 24, the collapse was a continuation of a trend Sam Kershaw’s men have been seeking to improve for some weeks.

With the top order firing to 105-2 there was no indication of the mayhem that was to follow as the final eight wickets went down for 30 runs.

Martinstown’s bowlers did threaten a storming comeback when reducing Shroton to 27-4 but a fine 66 from Mike Shepherd helped get the visitors over the line.

For the hosts, it was a major case of déjà vu after their exploits at Bere Regis last time out.

Chasing 204 to win that game, Martinstown eased to 82-1 but then lost nine wickets for 51 runs in a sudden implosion.

Despite the early loss of Ed Nichols (10) and Steve Gerety (3) to Shroton’s Matt Pike (4-41), Sean Williams later stroked a brilliant 50 in rebuilding with Kershaw (40) to surpass three figures.

But the teenager had to watch his captain fall to Marc Doble (3-32), provoking a landslide of wickets.

Pike returned to dismiss the dangerous Ryan Chase and Teddy Andrews for ducks, and Doble ripped through the tail alongside Shepherd (2-9) before Williams was run out soon after reaching a deserved half-century.

Chris Read (2-34) made an immediate breakthrough in Shroton’s reply as Ryan Boardwell (2) offered a catch to Chase while fellow opener Phil Turner (2-37) had Doble (0) caught at 3-2.

Read and Turner then combined once more to remove Christian Anstee (7) and Pike (1) as the hosts sniffed the possibility of a remarkable win.

However, Shepherd steadily accelerated, hitting nine fours and three sixes in his knock of 66 to take the visitors to 114-6, before Matthew Hewitt (24no) crunched five boundaries to win the game and send Martinstown to their tenth loss of the season.

Speaking to Echosport, Kershaw admitted the blame fell on his misfiring middle order.

He said: “Last season we had guys like Teddy, Campy (Matt Camp), Fraser (Hill), Ryan where every week one of those would come off and get an 80 or 90 to really push us forward.

“We just haven’t had that this year, we’ve had one 80 from Jamie Stewart and a 50 from Fraser against Dorch – that’s all we’ve had in the middle.

“After a couple of wickets myself and Sean got us to 105-2 with the batting we’ve got to come and 25 overs left to bat we were looking at 300.

“(Shroton) just kept taking wickets – a couple of stupid shots from players you don’t expect to play those kind of shots.

“It’s just frustrating. As a captain there’s not a lot I can do about it – it’s down to the guys in the middle.”

He added: “On a positive, we had a six-over session before tea and got them two down. (Shepherd) batted really well and he was the difference, won it for them and didn’t give a chance.

“It was a good knock from him but we bowled and fielded really well.

“We showed good spirit and took the game by the scruff of the neck with the ball and gave it a good go.

“If we’d have got another 30 or 40 on the board it would’ve been another win.”

Kershaw also reserved praise for teenage opening batsman Williams, who he believed played an innings of great “maturity”.

He said: “Credit to Sean, he held the innings together.

“For a young guy he’s showing a lot of maturity to play right when wickets are falling at the other end, he’s showing a lot of fight just to say ‘you’re not getting me out’.

“It’s reading the situation. If you’ve lost a couple of wickets and, even if you’re a batsman that likes to attack, you’ve got to adapt.

“You’ve got to say for the team ‘I’ve got to scratch around a bit’ but it’s getting ourselves out again.

“It’s adapting to the situation and saying ‘I need to front up here’ and get through five overs.

“It’s just not coming off in the middle overs which is a big frustration for me.

“Our attitude now is that we take every point we can. If we can get more points on a day than Stalbridge can, I’m happy with that. It’s a bit negative but looking to next week with the batting we can just chip away and then we’ve got Stalbridge in a couple of weeks.”