Portsmouth’s faith in Christian pays off

James Christian. Picture: Keith Woodland (170781-814)
James Christian. Picture: Keith Woodland (170781-814)
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The gamble of promoting James Christian up the batting order paid dividends for Portsmouth as they stormed to victory against Basingstoke & North Hants in Southern League division one on Saturday.

Christian, who usually bats at five, opened up and notched a superb 104 as his side triumphed by 138 runs.

The Durham University student had made his feelings known to captain Rich Locke before the game.

The latter went with his hunch and it paid off as Portsmouth racked up more than 300 runs for the first time in 10 years at St Helens.

The hosts were also indebted to some power-hitting from Jack Marston (80) and Fraser Hay (64) as they finished on 304 for six.

‘I was set to open but when a player shows the confidence James did I decided to go with it,’ said Locke.

‘He had a glint in his eye which suggested he could be on to something.

‘It showed a great level of maturity for him to put his hand up, wanting to open against the very dangerous Basingstoke bowling attack.

‘We know he possesses a heck of a lot of talent, is a committed cricketer and has made some decent runs at university.

‘This is his second season with us and by his own standards he’ll admit last season was not his best.

‘It was a case of settling into a new environment. But in this game he showed great maturity.

‘After giving us a solid start he went on to accelerate – putting pressure on the opposition bowlers throughout.’

It was a good toss for Portsmouth to win, on the hottest afternoon so far this year.

Locke decided to bat first on a good wicket, with Christian and Jordan Palmer-Goddard (27) giving the hosts a solid start of 75.

‘Our opening pair saw off the new ball well,’ added the skipper.

‘They rotated the strike well, moving the fielders around and making it difficult for the bowlers.’

Jack Marston looked at ease right from the start of his innings – timing the ball perfectly.

His half-century arrived in 52 balls as he and Christian put on 121 for the second wicket.

Christian was the next wicket to fall – trapped leg before with Portsmouth on 196 for two.

If the Basingstoke bowlers thought his exit would provide some respite, they were quickly made to think again as Hay strode to the crease

The all-rounder was in devastating form – despatching the experienced visiting bowlers to all parts of the field as he reached his half-century in just 28 balls.

‘He took 20 off one over from ex-Hampshire bowler Dave Griffiths,’ said Locke.

‘Some of his shots were phenomenal.

‘He flat square cut one ball for six and despatched the next ball through extra cover with a drive that scorched the earth.’

When Basingstoke & North Hants replied, Hay (three for 31) and Andrew Marston (three for 40) saw off their challenge with superb spells of bowling.