The city's newest cricket club aiming to be at the heart of their Community ...

Portsmouth’s newest cricket club are determined to try and put down roots in their local area.

Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 1:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 1:28 pm
Kesron McDonald bowling for Portsmouth Community in their first ever home game against Rowner at Cockleshell Gardens. Picture Ian Hargreaves

Portsmouth Community were formed last autumn by a handful of players who had previously been in the same team at Railway Triangle.

Due to the pandemic, they had to wait until a fortnight ago for their very first game, away at Westbourne. And last Saturday they hosted Rowner in their maiden home friendly at Cockleshell Gardens, Eastney.

Rowner scored 210-3 off 40 overs, with Mark Darby carrying his bat for a fine 131 not out.

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Matt Darby on his way to an unbeaten hundred for Rowner against Portsmouth Community. Picture Ian Hargreaves

Community started positively with an opening stand of 107 between Jamie Nottage (69) and Matt Barber (31) - coincidentally the two men who founded the club.

Despite a spirited eighth wicket stand between Dave Going and Kesron McDonald, Community fell short on 188-7.

The Cockleshell Gardens site - owned by a trust - is home to Meon Milton FC and also boasts a rugby pitch. Now, after a gap of several years, it has all three major team sports once again.

‘It was nice to play the first game, but even more so to play at home for the first time,’ said club chairman Barber. ‘It was a very special day in front of many family and friends.

Rowner's Harry Coxham batting against Portsmouth Community. Picture Ian Hargreaves

‘It was the culmination of nine months hard work in establishing the club and a proud day for Jamie and myself.’

It was a race against time to get everything sorted for the historic first home game.

‘We under-estimated how much work was needed in setting up a new club,’ said Barber. ‘But from the very first meeting, we began to build the foundations.

‘We had the get the constitution in place, we had to get the policies in place.

Portsmouth Community Cc chairman Matt Barber keeps wicket. Picture Ian Hargreaves

‘Part of our licence was putting up perimeter netting, so we were down the ground last Thursday making sure that was all in place.’

Barber has big plans for Portsmouth Community CC.

‘We want a relationship with the trust and Meon Milton long-term,’ he declared.

‘The aim is to turn this into a real community club.

John Creamer bowling for Portsmouth Community against Rowner. Picture Ian Hargreaves

‘We mailshotted all the local residents and had some positive feedback.

‘People have said it is nice to see cricket back at the sports centre, it’s been six or seven years since it was last played.

‘A few residents came down at the weekend to see what we are about.’

Cockleshell Gardens is also home to Mayville School, and it was due to the club’s education links they have ended up there.

‘A couple of our guys are teachers and they heard about the ground,’ said Barber. ‘So we approached them and they were keen to bring cricket back to their community.

‘They were looking for a cricket team, so we were in the right place at the right time.’

Mark Darby, right, takes a breather during his unbeaten 131 against Portsmouth Community. Picture Ian Hargreaves

Barber added: ‘We want to get a wider audience.

‘There’s only an artificial wicket at the moment, but we want to get a grass one down and we want to start a colts section.

‘I’ve already spoken with the chairman of the Meon Milton football club, and we’re keen to offer some coaching sessions to any of their players.’

Barber said Community already have a squad of almost 20 players to pick from.

‘A group of us played for Railway Triangle 2nds last year - the core of our team used to play there,’ he said.

‘We also picked up some new players via social media, and one new player (pace bowler McDonald) joined us after he’d seen us netting - he lives right next to the ground.

‘I play midweek cricket for Fleetlands, so a couple of the players there have also joined.’

Community’s first game - out of six - in their HCB-organised ‘micro bubble’ tournament is against Railway Triangle at Cockleshell Gardens this Saturday.

‘These games will give us a bit more of a competitive edge, add a bit more meaning,’ said Barber. ‘The Hampshire Cricket Board have done a good job of organising it.’

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Portsmouth Community are one of two totally new clubs who had entered the Hampshire Cricket League for 2020.

The other is North Stoneham & Eastleigh, who were founded after Colden Common Otterbourne & Sporting Wessex 3rds withdrew from the HCL in 2019.

The following clubs also withdrew from the HCL last year: Andover 4ths, Locks Heath 4ths, New Milton 4ths, Petersfield 3rds, Salthill, Silchester and Stockbridge.

Seven new clubs entered for 2020 - the other five being Crown Taverners 3rds, Ferndown Wayfarers 4ths, Old Basing 4ths, St Cross 6ths and Twyford 2nds.

Since the start of the 2016 season, 54 teams have dropped out of the Hampshire Cricket League.

There has been a net loss of 45 teams in the same period. At the start of 2016 there were 344 teams, and now there are 299.

Covid safety measures in place at Cockleshell Gardens for Portsmouth Community's first ever home game. Picture Ian Hargreaves
Sign of the times - Covid posters at Cockleshell Gardens for Portsmouth Community's first ever home game. Picture Ian Hargreaves