Result: Alton 2XI won by 40 runs
On a sunny and humid day, Alton 2 XI travelled to Bishop’s Waltham on the back of an excellent run chase the week before and hoping to build some momentum to push up the early season table. Despite the overhead conditions, the end-strip pitch had retained the mid-week downpours, soft to the touch and green in colour. With the hot weather sure to dry the pitch out over the day, both teams knew the toss would be important to decide who got to bowl in favourable conditions. Unfortunately captain Lee Partner called incorrectly and was immediately inserted by the opposition.
Openers Andy Postles and Andy Pearce made a cautious start, running a few quick singles to get the scoreboard going, but Postles was soon back in the pavilion after opening bowler Suhaib Ahmad ball nipped one off the seam through the gate. Tom Green was batting at 3 and looked to be aggressive against the opening bowlers, coming down the pitch and using his excellent hand eye coordination to work the ball around the ground. However, some early mistimed shots looked to frustrate him, and one foray down the pitch resulted in Tom slapping a catch to cover, Alton wobbling somewhat on 14-2. The wobble turned into a full blown downward spiral as last week’s top run scorer Michael Salmon edged his 3rd ball behind and Joe Paul was caught off his second ball for 0. Alton were now looking up a big mountain to post a competitive total from 15-4. The rebuild was started by Andy Pearce, watching the early carnage from the non-strikers end, and youth team player Jude Wright. Realising scoring was at a premium and it was more important to keep Bishops Waltham in the field for the full 50 overs, both looked to protect their wicket. Andy Pearce was the more aggressive of the two, and with the score on 45, Jude finally fell to a catch after scoring 3 but more importantly occupying the crease for 34 balls. In a similar pattern, Howard Gadsby joined the excellent Pearce and looked to work simple singles while taking minimum risks. Howard eventually fell for 5 runs of 20 balls with the score on 62-6. Skipper Lee Partner was next in and he and Pearce batted doggedly to drag the Alton total to respectability, each of them fending off the good balls and playing aggressively when the ball was there to be hit. Pearce was excellent square of the wicket where the ball ran quickly over the square and Partner playing the spinners straight down the ground for a series of fours and a big straight six. Pearce went past 50 the second ball after the 34-over drinks break, an excellent effort to keep calm and concentrating while the top order collapse around him during the heat of the day. He eventually fell, bowled by Sam Medhurst, on 61 off 119 balls, a lesson for the rest of the top order on how to bat in tricky conditions. The wicket left Partner with Ian Carpenter on 102-7 looking to push the score along. The score became 115-8 when Carpenter was bowled for 4, bringing Xavier Bochereau to the crease, fresh from the opening few games in the 1XI. Bishop’s Waltham were now pushing for wickets and turned again to opening bowler Suhaib Ahmad for the breakthrough, however, with the ball a bit softer and the pitch a bit harder, Xavier and Partner were able to manoeuvre the extra pace on the ball around and push the score on to 139-9 before Xavier was caught behind for 14. Some late hitting a good running from Partner and last man Toby Fuller was able to push the score to 158-9 off 50 overs – Partner reading the game perfectly with a captain’s innings of 35 not out from 67 balls. An excellent effort from Pearce and the lower order, and demonstrated the new found resilience in the batting order to value wickets and time at the crease.
The pitch was indeed drying out, but Bishops Waltham had been forced to field for the full allocation in the heat of the day and Alton were keen to exploit any tired bodies and minds. Michael Salmon took the new ball and quickly found his rhythm and line to the right hand/left hand opening batsmen combination. As was predictable, the in-swingers to the right hander created the first wicket, bowled top of off stump attempting a drive, 5-1. Then a full swinging delivery taking the leading edge and a smart return catch from Salmon seeing off the number 3, 11-2. Opening at the other end as a foil for Salmon was Xavier Bochereau and he bowled a brilliant, economical spell to frustrate the batsmen. This paid dividends when the second opening batsmen was caught behind by the dependable Toby Fuller, trying to force a ball through the off side, 15-3. Alton were right in the game and were hunting for wickets, but the partnership of Suhaib Ahmad and skipper Sam Medhurst threatened to take the game away from them. Both batted well with obdurate defence to good bowling and aggressive attacking strokes to some poor deliveries. Runs were coming fast and the score moved on to 81-3, before Partner got Medhurst to play one shot too many and he was caught at deep mid wicket by Salmon for 43 from 41 deliveries. Alton now realised that keeping Ahmed off strike was key and attacked the batmen at the other end. Partner and the evergreen Pearce both weaved away with their off spin and it was Pearce who got the next wicket of Bullard for 3 and then the important wicket of Ahmed, trying one attacking shot too many, looping a catch to short fine leg. The match was back in the balance at 107-6, and Partner asked Salmon to return to pry out some more scalps. He dually obliged, getting Barrette to edge behind to a juggling Gadsby at slip and clean bowling Dadd for 1 from wider on the crease to get through the gate. Alton were favourites again at the 34-over drinks break with Bishops Waltham on 118-8. With Salmon bowled out, with excellent figures of 10-3-30-4, a discussion at drinks of who should bowl the final overs was rendered mute by Xavier Bochereau, who proceeded to bowl Dalton and Pitts-Mellan in successive balls the first over after drinks, winning the game by 40 runs. A brilliant display from Alton’s bowlers and fielders who did not panic in the face of a strong run chase and trusted the plans put in place by Partner. Xavier Bochereau finished with excellent figures of 7.4-3-18-3 and Andy Pearce, with two vital wickets, finished with 9-3-21-2.
Overall an excellent effort from Alton who had the worst of the conditions and a very poor start to the game. The win means Alton lie 6th in County Division 1 and face 4th placed Fareham & Crofton at the Jubilee next week.