COMPETITIVE cricket returned last weekend – although no-one could have blamed Alton for wishing the action could have been delayed for another week...
A new-look Alton side – with the emphasis on youth – took on the talented Hampshire Academy outfit at Jubilee Cricket Ground.
Alton skipper Dan Harris won the toss and decided to bat on a pitch most were expecting to yield runs and make bowlers work hard for their wickets.
However, the start challenged that theory as Ben Huntley bowled Alton’s Ryan Covey in the first over without troubling the scorers, and then Huntley’s opening partner 14-year-old Dominic Kelly, hit Abhay Gonella leg before for two and then bowled Alton’s consistent Scott Myers for seven.
At this stage Alton were wobbling at 34 for three, and this soon became 46 for six as first-change academy bowler Harry Broderick picked up three quick wickets by removing Jude Wright, caught by Tom Prest for one, Harris (caught by Huntley) for 21 and Alex Hammond (caught by Kelly) for three.
This brought together Alton wicket-keeper Mark Heffernan and leg spin bowler Jack Myers, who batted sensibly and without too many alarms to gradually start repairing some of the damage. By the time Heffernan was out, caught by Mumford of the returning Huntley for 61, the pair had added 96 valuable runs and Alton stood at 142 for seven.
Toby Salmon joined Myers and made six before he was bowled by the fourth of the impressive Academy quartet of seamers, Huw Wheeler.
Myers and Dan Scott then added 19 for the ninth wicket to take the score to 173, before Myers, trying to step up the pace, was stumped by wicket-keeper George Metzger for 39.
Xavier Bochereau lasted only two balls before Kelly, returning to bowl at the death, cleaned him out for a duck.
This left Alton with a score of 174 all out, and although a good effort to recover from 46 for six, the feeling was they were probably 60 to 70 runs short on what was proving to be a very good wicket, combined with a fast outfield.
Early wickets were a must – but in the first over when an outside edge from Prest flew to Scott Myers at second slip, he could not hold it.
Prest then went on to make Alton pay with an unbeaten 86 from 104 balls.
Alton’s sole breakthrough didn’t arrive until the score had reached 77 when Prest’s opening partner Broderick was out leg before to Jack Myers (1-24).
This brought Fletcher Middleton to the crease and he remained unbeaten on 44 as he and Prest saw the game out.
In response, Altons’ bowlers manfully tried to keep the game alive with Dan Scott (0-23), Jack Myers (1-24) and Abhay Gonella (0-14) all going at less than five runs an over.
To add to Alton’s woes, Abhay Gonella had to be taken to hospital after falling awkwardly in the field and suffering a dislocated shoulder, which is likely to keep him out for a few weeks.
This week Alton have no Southern Premier League fixture and visit Hook and Newnham Basics for a friendly (12.30pm).
Rowledge, on the other hand, got off to a flyer in the new shortened Southern Premier Cricket League Cup, at home against Sparsholt
But having lost the toss, the home side was then grateful to an unbeaten seventh wicket stand of 58 between Jake Wish and 17-year-old Will Ryman to guide them to a four-wicket victory in front of a good crowd clearly delighted to see recreational cricket back at Rowledge.
Rowledge made just 84 for six, despite starts from Sam Plater, Ollie Baker and Jontie Sebborn, as the batsmen struggled with the slow bowling of Callum Doran and accuracy of Mitchard and Haworth.
On a pitch that was not conducive to stoke play, Rowledge quickly found themselves in trouble, until Wish and Ryman played sensibly while being aggressive to any width on offer.
The Sparsholt fifth bowling option allowed for run scoring, and Wish finished 38, leaving Rowledge in a strong position come the change around.
The Rowledge bowling attack performed admirably, backed up by some spirited fielding, with Ethan Martin taking a wicket on his first-team debut, while Ricky Yates and the left-arm spin of Ollie Baker bowled nine maidens from their 16 overs, a testimony to their accuracy.
The new-ball spell from Joe Randall was lively, and fellow seamers Jake Wish and Will Ryman picked up two wickets apiece, with a direct hit from Wish being the highlight of the fielding display. The Sparsholt innings finished on 138 for nine from their 40 overs.
Rowledge head to Burridge next week who have been a force at the top division for a few years.