Havant suffer second early loss to hit title hopes

Steve Matthews, centre, produced an explosive knock but failed to save Havant from defeat. Picture: Mick Young (111854-14)
Steve Matthews, centre, produced an explosive knock but failed to save Havant from defeat. Picture: Mick Young (111854-14)
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Defending champions Havant insist there is no cause for alarm, despite falling to their second Southern Electric Premier League defeat of the new season.

Richard Hindley’s side went down by 53 runs at Hampshire Academy on Saturday.

The loss came hot on the heels of their defeat at St Cross the previous week and leaves them floundering in the lower reaches of a division they have dominated over the past few years.

But first-team manager Geoff Owen is not about to press the panic button, having seen his charges recover from a slow start last year to storm to the title.

Owen said: ‘Havant lost two games at the beginning of last season, so don’t write us off yet.

‘We lost two of the first three games and then went on to win the league.

‘It’s the batting that has been the problem.

‘But you have got to feel for the batsmen because they haven’t had the knocks.

‘They’ve played twice at Havant Park this year, which is in a lot better shape than plenty of other grounds.

‘But they played at the Ageas Bowl nursery ground and it was absolutely lightning quick because it’s covered all the time.

‘It’s a bit of an eye-opener for any batsman but sometimes you just need that one innings and it can all turn around.’

Hampshire’s young guns turned in a steady batting display to post 245 all out – with Oliver Green (52) and Michael Porter (51) leading the way.

Hindley (four for 18) checked the Academy starlets’ progress with a tricky spell of bowling, while Stuart Ransley (two for 43) and Jez Ord (two for 56) chipped in with useful wickets.

But it was Havant’s batting that let them down once again.

They got off to a dreadful start as both Ben Walker and Ransley departed in the first over without troubling the scorer.

The pair struggled to cope with highly-rated Academy bowler Tom Barber (four for 47).

Owen said: ‘Some of our batsmen were talking about Hampshire’s young lad Barber and suggesting he was the best bowler they had ever faced in Southern Electric Premier League cricket.

‘There is obviously a lot of potential there.’

At 18 for four – and then 72 for – eight, Havant looked set for a real chasing.

But Tim Jackson (43) and Steve Matthews (79) launched a tremendous counter-attack and added 119 runs for the ninth wicket.

Jackson, 16, played with real maturity for his 69-ball knock, while Matthews went for broke with a 34-ball blitz that included six sixes and four fours.

However, when Jackson was dismissed, Matthews followed soon and Havant were bowled out for 192.

Owen said: ‘It was highly entertaining from Steve Matthews.

‘It was an innings of a lifetime for him.

‘Tim Jackson is only 16 and played well.

‘They got it down to needing 60 to win off 16 overs with two wickets left, so there were some worried faces for a few moments.

‘But there is no doubt that this is a lot stronger league this year.

‘A lot of sides have recruited some very good players.’