Without a win on the first day of the season since promotion into the premier league in 2006 Alton hoped the new ‘white ball’ 50 over pennant competition would see a change of opening day fortunes. It could not have been a tougher start however as the faced a trip to the champions Havant, a side they have failed to beat since that promotion.
On arrival Alton were surprised to see the Havant pitch devoid of any grass, with the pitch cut short spin looked to be the order of the day, something the home side had plenty of. With the toss seemingly important Havant won and captain Ben Walker had no hesitation in choosing to bat first.
Alton took to the field in their new blue one day kit (Team picture attached) and knew they needed to start well. With Havant’s imposing batting line up early in roads would be key for the visitors. Captain Myers had the extra fire power of overseas South African seamer Sean Jamison to call on and Jamison did not fail to deliver. The free scoring Gibson seemed to struggle against Jamison and with the score on 16 Jamison found the edge of Gibson who was caught behind for 2.
Ben Mortimer took the new ball from the other end and produced a fantastic spell of bowling to leave Havant in trouble at 57 for 5. Mortimer took 4 wickets in an opening spell that included Alton’s nemesis from last year Walker. Walker had completed two hundreds against Alton in 2016 but he was removed for one when a short ball from Mortimer rushed him only to see the ball balloon up and Ballinger making no mistake with the catch.
Stone also fell to short delivery before Mortimer found the edge of local lad and former England under 19 skipper Brad Taylor for 28 safely caught second slip. Havant found themselves in further trouble as another Hampshire and England under 19 player McCoy was removed for 14 skewing a deliver from Mortimer to point.
Ransley joined Gorvin as Havant looked to build a partnership and gain a foothold in the game. Alton looked to keep things tight with Alex Hughes bowling a fantastic containing spell and the spin due of Ballinger and Myers trying to find the breakthrough. The partnership moved past 50 before Ballinger found the breakthrough Gorvin looking to increase the rate was bowled for a patient 43 attempting to reverse sweep Ballinger for the second time. With the score at 125 Havant were 6 down, the experienced Hindley joined Ransley.
Havant continued to accumulate runs before Alton dropped Ransley off consecutive balls off Ballinger. Frustrations were short lived as Jack Myers had him caught behind in the next over for 49. Havant had moved to 181 for 7 as the innings entered the final overs. Morgan added some lusty blows before Ballinger had him caught in the deep and Havant ended up on 214 for 8.
With the pitch difficult to score on and it likely to get slower as the game went Alton knew that they needed to bat well to chase what was a competitive total. Janmohamed and Hammond opened up and fireworks ensued Hammond took it upon himself to get the brewers off to a flying start. In an explosive innings Hammond struck 6 boundaries in a 25 ball 32. McCoy was struggling to contain Hammond before eventually getting his man, Hammond could not resist chasing a short ball from McCoy and edged through to the keeper.
In the context of the game Alton were off to a flyer 46 for 1 off 7 overs. Janmohamed unfortunately fell softly soon for 15 after miss timing a short delivery off the spin of Morgan straight to Taylor at short cover, Alton 53 for 2. Dan Harris played a vital role in his first league innings for the club, going against his natural aggressive style he built a partnership with skipper Myers. Both batsman knowing they just needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over with plenty of time left in the game. The pair eased the score past 100 before Harris attempting to increase the rate holed out to deep mid wicket for 29 off the bowling of Hindley. Another wicket fell immediately and Alton were wobbling at 112 for 4.
Skipper Myers stood steadfast and was joined by Mark Heffernan. The pair put on a partnership that would put the visitors in the box seat. Heffernan combined resolute defence with the odd aggressive shot, Myers remained focused working the ball around seeing him pass 50. The pair added 63 for the 5th wicket before Heffernan was removed for 29 and Alton were 173 for 5 with work still to be done.
With Alton needing a run a ball for the last 6 overs Myers kept his cool. Jamison joined Myers as they edged Alton closer to their victory target. Alton appeared to have it under control as they went into the last over requiring just 3 runs to win. 3 off 6 balls with 5 wickets in hand was the equation with Alton in touching distance of their first win against Havant in the premier league.
Jamison on strike with the majority of the Havant players saving one, he was unlucky not to piece the field with the first ball so it was now 3 off 5. Alton thought they had their victory as Jamison got onto captain Walkers second delivery only to find the one man in the deep, Hindley taking a fantastic catch, Alton 212 for 6. Myers was now on strike with 3 off 4 required. Myers managed a single off the third delivery so it was now 2 off 3 with Mortimer on strike. He connects cleanly driving down the ground only for Gorvin to swoop from mid off to throw down the stumps with Mortimer short of his ground and Alton still needing 2 for victory. Myers was now back on strike with his younger brother Jack joining him. 2 off 2 needed. Walker held his nerve producing a dot off the penultimate ball, with nerves shred Alton players could barely watch. Alton looked like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory but Myers who had played a fantastic innings was not about to let this slip away. Walker bowled it full outside off stump Myers held his nerve driving the ball away through point for 4. Celebrations ensued as Alton had their victory. A superb bowling performance topped by Mortimer’s 4 wicket haul was rounded off with a fantastic chase, captain Myers leading the way with a magnificent unbeaten 74 from 123 balls.
A fantastic game of cricket played in great spirit. Alton will look to take confidence from this result into their second game next weekend as they face Lymington at home 1pm start.