Paul Hungerford has admitted the absence of overseas star Andrew Webb for the opening stages of Portchester’s Hampshire League division one season has been a ‘shocker’.
The Australian overseas player scored more than 600 runs last season as the club finished a superb second in the league.
Webb will be a big miss as Portchester cross the Solent to take on Ryde looking for a second win of the current campaign.
The batsman was all set to return for a third season at Cams Hill but disaster struck when he arrived at Heathrow Airport.
‘He failed to get through border control,’ said skipper Hungerford.
‘The authorities held him in a holding cell for 30 hours and questioned him.
‘He was coming over to stay with his long-term girlfriend and play amateur cricket for Portchester.
‘Unfortunately he lacked the required paperwork to prove that and they sent him back.
‘He is now back in Australia sorting it all out.
‘Hopefully that will happen in the next couple of weeks because he is a difficult player to replace.’
The absence of Webb has only added to the problems facing Portchester this summer.
The club have lost their other three leading batsmen from the side that was so successful last season.
Rich Locke has joined Southern Electric Premier League division two side Portsmouth.
Meanwhile, his brother Curtis Locke is not available because of family commitments.
Weekend work has also cost Portchester the services of last season’s captain Tom Adams.
Hungerford accepts the absence of so many key batsmen at the top of the order will only make life difficult for his side.
‘We are having to do without our top four batsmen from last season and they will be difficult to replace,’ said the Portchester captain.
‘Andrew Webb and Rich Locke scored somewhere in the region of 1,300 runs last season, so replacing them will be a big ask.
‘It means everyone has had to move up the batting order and they are very much learning a new trade.’
One player who so far has thrived on the extra responsibility is Blake Barnwell, who has moved up from number five to three in the batting order.
Barnwell smashed 73 runs from as many balls as Portchester got off the mark with a victory over struggling Ventnor II.
But Hungerford is under no illusions that the early part of the season will prove tricky for his side.
‘We know this season will be tough,’ said the skipper.
‘And because of that we don’t have the same expectations as we did last season.
‘Having to replace almost the whole of our top order won’t be easy.
‘We are hoping our overseas player can get his paperwork sorted out sooner rather than later because he will make a big difference to us.
‘It isn’t going to be easy at Ryde tomorrow.
‘We have never won there, so it will be a tough test.’
Portchester: Steve O’Neill, Hayden Sole, Blake Barnwell, Paul Hungerford, Matt Crouch, Jake Hastie, Lee Hungerford, Jason King, Harry Robbins, Jack Warner, Keith Wood