Stephens efforts in vain for relegated Cuts
Southampton Oval (Southampton Rangers won toss): Southampton Rangers beat Willow Cuts by 18 runs
Dean Stephens blasted a whirlwind century and claimed two wickets in vain as a depleted Willow Cuts became the first team relegated to the First Division after losing at Southampton Oval yesterday.
The middle-order batsman struck an aggressive 119 from just 81 balls and dominated a century partnership with Dexter Basden, the Cuts player-coach, that carried ten-man Cuts to within sight of their target, before a late collapse enabled Rangers hold on for victory.
It was cruel twist for Cuts who up until their late capitulation had ticked all the boxes with Stephens and Basden putting on a clinic at the crease.
Stephens kept the fielders chasing leather with some brutal stroke play while a more sedate Basden, who chipped in with a patient 68, provided the perfect foil at the other end as the pair frustrated a blunted Rangers attack.
Set a target of 259, Cuts got their run chase off a poor start as they were reduced to 58 for three in the fifteenth over after first change Kyle Lightbourne picked up two wickets with his left-arm spin.
However, Stephens and Basden came to the rescue, adding 147 runs for the fourth wicket to put Cuts back on track.
Stephens went for the big shots early and helped himself to a half-century off just 38 deliveries.
Basden, who rotated the strike superbly and occasionally grabbed the attention with some exquisite cover drives that pierced the gaps, brought up his half-century four overs later off 78 balls as the partnership continued to flourish.
Stephens shifted into high gear as Cuts neared the finish line, smashing successive sixes off Vernon Eve, the left-arm spinner, to move his total into the Nineties.
He brought up his hundred off 68 balls in the 35th over in similar fashion as he hammered successive boundaries off Janeiro Tucker, the Rangers captain, shortly after surviving a confident leg-before appeal.
It was Tucker who eventually made the breakthrough after Basden was caught behind by Ricardo Brangman, the Rangers wicketkeeper, shortly after being dropped at mid-off.
The Cuts opener's 117-ball knock included eight boundaries and six.
Stephens continued his onslaught with Cuts requiring 41 off the last ten overs with five wickets in hand, but was eventually dismissed when he took one big swipe too many and was held at long-on.
He struck ten sixes and seven boundaries off.
With the big-hitting Stephens and Basden back in the pavilion, Eve mopped up the tail during a second spell. He trapped tail-enders Cody Wainwright and Rashid Ebbin in front with successive deliveries to place himself on a hat-trick, which he was denied after sending down a wide to Shamar Gomes.
Lightbourne, Janeiro Tucker and Eve led the Rangers attack with two wickets each.
Earlier, Brangman and Kwame Tucker thumped half-centuries and shared in a century partnership that rescued their team from a top-order collapse.
Rangers slipped to 83 for five after electing to bat before Brangman and Tucker stitched the innings back together via a 111-run sixth-wicket stand.
Brangman led the way with 75 from 92 balls, that included six boundaries and a six, while an explosive Tucker blasted eight boundaries and a six in his knock of 58 from 54 deliveries.
Both batsmen reached their half-centuries in the 38th over, Brangman off 72 balls and Tucker off just 38.
Soloman Burrows, who had earlier kept behind the stumps with the wicketkeeper gloves, made the breakthrough for Cuts in the 42nd over when he bowled Tucker.
Lightbourne chipped in with a vital 19 batting at No 8 as the tail wagged to frustrate the Cuts attack.
Stephens led the Cuts bowling with two for 14, while Bashir and Kwasi James also took two wickets.