MARTINSTOWN 198 (7pts) lost to DORCHESTER 202-6 (20pts) by four wickets

DORCHESTER overcame a serious test from neighbours Martinstown to keep alive their hopes of a fourth successive Dorset Premier League crown.

Dan Belt’s men were in early strife chasing 199 until a fine innings from the returning Simon Mitchem, plus a massive 53 extras, helped Dorchester claim maximum points.

Their victory at Lower Ashton Farm was made all the more significant by the previously unbeaten Wimborne’s defeat by Poole.

It means the top three are now separated by just 12 points with a possible 100 still to play for in the final five matches.

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Martinstown, on the other hand, are being sucked into a relegation battle. They lie just 32 points above bottom side Puddletown with only one team going down.

Dorchester inflicted Town’s fourth straight loss by winning the toss and bowling the hosts out for 198, a below-par score on a ground with easily accessible boundaries.

Dorchester opening duo Belt and James Dunham were in excellent form with the new cherry once more, reducing Martinstown to 44-4.

Dunham (3-35) removed Ed Nichols (6) and Finlay Williams (4) cheaply, while Belt accounted for Sean Williams (5) and the dangerous Will Maltby (20).

Rob Nobbs (1-38) made it 63-5 as Tom Pope (6) perished lbw but Martinstown fought back thanks to George Pope and Sam Kershaw.

Sharing 93, the duo halted Dorchester’s progress and began to set a platform for their teammates to attack late on.

However, after Pope had notched his first half-century of the season, Kershaw (46) fell four runs short of his own fifty having accrued eight fours in his 44-ball knock.

Pope’s more measured 53 from 76 balls contained nine fours but both men fell victim to Jamie Barrett (2-25).

Ryan Blair (12) and skipper Charlie Durant (16) added late runs but could not propel Martinstown over the 200 mark as Dorchester bowled them out for 198.

Martinstown had Dorchester firmly on the backfoot early in their reply at 20-3 as Jacob Coombs (2-30) dismissed last week’s centurion Seb Carty (7) and Jim Ryall (1).

Their exits came either side of the magnificent run out of Gautham Rajendar (2) by Tom Pope.

And when Durant (1-29) found the outside edge of Mike Peak (18), Dorchester were 60-4.

Mitchem doggedly stuck to the task though and dragged Dorchester back into the game along with Jon Legg (15).

Kershaw (2-54) trapped Legg lbw but Mitchem continued on to a merited fifty, sharing a quick 54 with Belt (26).

Although Belt became Kershaw’s second victim, Jack Owens (19no) blasted two fours and a six to take the visitors home along with Mitchem (61no).

Speaking to Echosport, Belt said: “We obviously lost a few wickets only chasing 200 on a reasonably free-scoring ground.

“Credit to Si, he dug in and saw us home with the help of a few others and got us the win.

“He missed the last two weeks and before that he’d been opening the batting.

“We didn’t want to change the order so him coming in at five worked perfectly. He’s done that role in the past.

“It wasn’t an easy pitch against the new ball, so credit to him for seeing us home.”

Meanwhile, Durant lamented his side’s bowling.

“I’m a little disappointed in the way we bowled and fielded,” he said.

“We gave them far too many extras. Add 20 more runs with the bat and halve the amount of wides and it’s a very interesting game.

“We were looking for wickets at times, where we could’ve been looking to contain.

“Where we haven’t had that win we maybe snatched at a couple of opportunities, but I don’t think we’re that far away.”

He added: “George and Kersh, all credit to them they batted well but they’ll be honest with themselves and said they played pretty ordinary shots to get out when they were set.

“We could’ve been looking at a bigger total, but that’s not to criticise them because they did bat well.”

Martinstown Seconds lost to Abbotsbury by 30 runs in County Division Three, while Dorchester Seconds and Thirds lost to Parley Seconds by 96 runs and beat Marnhull Thirds by eight wickets respectively.