The first league game of the 2018 season for South Wilts 2nd XI saw them visit newly promoted Portsmouth and Southsea in Division 3 of the Southern Premier League.
With the sky and weather looking perfect for batting, but the wicket looking less so, it was maybe best that skipper Rob Pittman lost the toss and the decision was taken out of his hands! The visitors were asked to bat first, and when Owain Phillips departed early, it was looking the right move. However, a very steady partnership between Berzins and Cranch saw the visitors creep along at 3 an over for the first 20 overs. Matt Benfield bowling his 10 overs straight through taking 1-29 and Jake Peach at the other end bowling tidily, conceding just 15 runs from his spell of 6 overs.
When Cranch (32 off 80 balls) was to fall with the score at 77, Rob Pittman didn’t take long to get the scoreboard ticking more freely, but his efforts were to be cut short (28 off 22) as Kieron Dunston was to take his first of 4 wickets on the day. When Berzins (35 off 110) was to fall just an over later, the innings started to fall away for the second xi. 116-2 turned sourly to 137-7 and when Ben Fisher joined Tom Pearce at the crease, it brought together arguably the partnership that turned the game around. When Fisher was bowled for 8, Pearce alertly brought the umpires attention to the fact it was infact a no ball with only 3 fielders inside the ring, and when the free hit was dismissed for 6 and the following ball also going to the boundary, what could have been 150-8, turned into 160-7. Pearce played sensibly and while only scoring 21 from 28 balls, it seemed much more valuable than that. Fisher continued on his merry way, sacrificially being run out off the final ball for a superb 35 off 27. The innings finishing on 205-9, probably 30 more than they could have hoped for at the 40 over stage.
In reply, Matt Burton got things off to a great start taking the wicket of Davies in the first over, but in truth, the opening bowlers will know they didn’t quite get things right on a wicket offering assistance. Both Matt and Tom Benfield departed for 20 apiece, and it was the stars of last year’s third team bowling attack, Fisher 2-18 and Ghauri 2-13, leading the way with the ball. At 76-5 the game seemed gone from the hosts and when Marc Burton was to take a new role bowling in the middle overs, he produced a tidy spell of 2-20 off 7 overs, to further tighten South Wilts grip on the game. Whilst Portsmouth & Southsea battled to the end trying to gain a batting point, they were to end up 2 runs short of this, being bowled out for 123 in the 40th over sealing an 82 run victory.
A workmanlike performance from the 2nd string, and with stronger challenges ahead, improvement will be needed in order to mount a serious charge on promotion. Bashley 2’s visit on Saturday at Lower Bemerton, with this looking a much sterner test for South Wilts. However, a satisfactory start to the 2018 season for Rob Pittman’s side and with much to look forward to over the coming weeks, it is looking like an exciting season for the second team.