Second string win season opener

Hambledon's second string kicked off their Hampshire League division three south campaign with a comprehensive win over Portsmouth II.

The men of Hambledon awoke to bright sunshine and fuzzy heads looking forward to the first league game of the 2013 season. The weather forecast was not so good.

Both teams arrived with high expectations. Hambledon fielded one of the strongest sides in recent years, as did Portsmouth, who seemed to have dropped their entire first team - Hafeez, Tahir and Bailey who took four wickets in the first team last weekend.

Rain, some more rain and a lot of waiting followed. Having tossed up knowing a late start time would follow; showing some inexperience the Hambledon skipper took a gamble and backed his batsmen to put runs on the board - a decision questioned by many, supported by few.

The game was reduced to 33 overs per side, eight overs per bowler and a start time of 3.15pm.

Player-chairman and all round veteran Mark Le Clercq and the muddy hobbit Owain Chapman picked up from where they left off last year, taking to the crease to face a shiny new cherry.

Hafeez opened from the bottom end, wind assisted and left arm over Bailey from the top.

A battle between both batsmen and bowlers followed, the first few overs very tough with the new ball swinging and seaming off of a green pitch.

But some loose deliveries and classy strokes saw Hambledon put a good start together. From 10 overs the Dons were 48 without loss - a platform worthy of a Tom Daley dive.

A change of bowling and the Dons were still building momentum, rain then stopped play with them 96 without loss from 17 overs.

A treat for all as an early tea was taken, both sides comforted by the food and drink on offer.

Play resumed and Mark Le Clercq completed his landmark and got 50, this having not held a bat since the indoor league and not batting in pre-season.

The chairman troubled the scorers no more after being bowled by the second ball of Tahir's spell, though.

Jamie Lewis then took to the crease. Tension began to mount but Chapman and Lewis started to knock the ball around and put pressure on the field.

A partnership looked likely but the former was then bowled by Tahir trying to cut one from middle stump, disappointed but not a bad score of 35 to start the year.

Lewis then succumbed to a leg before wicket appeal from Marston for 11 bringing Will Bond and Paul Vickers together but The Posh was unlucky after a mad deviation of the ball saw him dismissed for four.

A minor collapse saw the Dons tumbled from 98 without loss off 18 overs to 124 for four.

Veteran Adrian Magrath joined Bond with patient batting, glorious strokeplay and some good running rescued the situation.

Magrath (21 not out) and Bond (30 not out) finished the innings, Bondy smashing the last ball of the innings straight into the sightscreens.

Hambledon ended up 181 for four from their allotted 33, leaving Portsmouth to chase 171 from 30 overs to win after the rain reduction.

Newly-crowned king of swing Chapman took the new ball and kicked of the second innings with just one run, early movement and some worried batsmen after the opening over.

Kyle Shinn followed in his usual fashion up the hill, only one loose delivery and five dots from his first set.

Chapman then struck with a pearly inswinger, hitting all three stumps and after both bowlers had completed their spells Portsmouth were struggling at 34 for three from 15.

Shinn returned figures of one for 15 from seven; including a maiden - followed by a wicket maiden. Chapman took two for15 from eight.

It was then the future chairman Spencer Le-Clercq and Georgeous George Harding's time to shine.

Leg-spinner Spencer picked up two wickets for 22 from five overs, while George was unlucky not to pick up a few wickets after the ball was chipped in the air but away from any fielders - and a difficult chance was dropped at long off.

Phil Silvester, who had been busy in the field, came onto bowl and - with a scene from Hollywood movie Independence Day now overhead - a monstrous cloud threatened to ruin the game just a couple of overs short of the required 25.

But quick turnarounds in some heavy rain saw the Dons home, with Silvester getting himself among the wickets with two for 13.

Match over the Dons winners by 55 runs.

Afterwards skipper Chapman said: 'It was an important start to the campaign. There was some impressive bowling, good energy in the field and chances were taken.

'We also had some good batting to put big runs on the board which led to a relatively comfortable win against one of the stronger sides in the league.'