The time Havant CC captain Chris Morgan and his Hampshire U17s crushed Ben Stokes’ championship dream ...

It was a match Chris Morgan still remembers well; Ben Stokes, England’s swashbuckling national hero, probably less so.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 11:46 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 11:47 am
Ben Stokes celebrates his remarkable Ashes century at Headingley last summer. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images.

It was late August 2007 when the Portsmouth-born Morgan - a regular in Havant’s Southern Premier League side for the last decade - skippered Hampshire to their first ever under-17 County Championship title.

In a single-innings final against Durham at Hove, Hampshire rattled up 470-8 on the first day. Hamza Riazzudin struck 146, Tim Ravenscroft exactly 100 and opener James Vince fell seven short of becoming a third centurion.

Hampshire then bowled their opponents out for 136 on day two to win by a mammoth 334 runs.

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Chris Morgan pictured after leading Hampshire under-17s to County Championship silverware against a Durham side containing Ben Stokes in 2007

Danny Briggs, one of two players (Vince was the other) in the Hampshire XI that went on to play for England’s 1st XI, bagged 5-19 including the key wickets of No 3 Stokes (23) and Scott Borthwick, who was to win as many Test caps as he scored runs in the final - just one.

Eight of the winning Hampshire XI at Hove went on to play county cricket.

Vince, Briggs, Chris Wood, Michael Bates, Riazuddin and Ravenscroft all played for Hampshire

South African-born Cameron Delport, who was in the Hampshire team as he was on a school exchange trip to Portsmouth Grammar School at the time, has become a T20 specialist and helped Essex win last year’s Vitality Blast.

The eighth player was seam bowler Tom Friend, who played two first class games for Cardiff UCC, and also appeared for Unicorns in three games against Lancashire (twice) and Essex in the 2011 CB 40 tournament.

Morgan, Darren Rouse and Vince’s opening partner Neil Marsh were the only three who never went on to play first class or county cricket.

Morgan did play one game for Hampshire on a pre-season tour of South Africa in 2009, alongside the likes of Dominic Cork, Jimmy Adams, Michael Lumb, Chris Tremlett, Nic Pothas and Sean Ervine.

He took 1-58 in the first innings against a Boland and Western Province Combined Academy XI, and scored five not out batting at No 10 in Hampshire’s second innings.

Even though he skippered Hampshire to the under-17 title, that wasn’t the start of a long captaining career for Morgan.

Indeed, he had never skippered a side regularly until he was appointed Havant’s captain last winter. However, the pandemic has resulted in Morgan having to wait until late July to lead the eight-times SPL champions into competitive action.

That comes in this weekend’s opening Southern Premier League Premier/Division 1 League Cup group against St Cross 2nds at Havant Park.

Looking back on overseeing Hampshire’s win at Hove, he admitted: ‘They made it easy for me. Out of the 11 players, most went on to play first class cricket.’

Morgan also captained the West of England under-17 XI in 2007. That wasn’t a bad side either - England World Cup winner Jos Buttler and last summer’s Headingley Test cult hero Jack Leach were among his team-mates.

While nice to look back, Morgan is now keen to oversee an improvement in Havant’s on-field performances and boost his own enthusiasm for the sport as well.

After never finishing outside the top two in the SPL between 2013-2017 inclusive, Havant finished sixth in 2018 and seventh last summer. For a club with an illustrious history, it was hard to stomach.

The loss of key players such as Ben Walker, Andy Gorvin and Brad Taylor was keenly felt.

Morgan took over as skipper in the winter, explaining: ‘Chris Stone was standing down and I had a few people come to me and ask if I would take it on.

‘I thought the time was right, while I was still getting in the team on merit, to pass on my experience to the younger players.

‘Apart from Richard Hindley, I’ve probably been in the team for the longest time.

‘We’ve had a core of five or six players, but the reason why we have not kicked on in the last few years is we lost a few of them.

‘It was a big job to rebuild. That’s the hard thing about local cricket, it’s hard to retain good players when you’re not allowed to pay anyone.’

Morgan insists taking on the captaincy will provide fresh energy.

Regular foreign travel as part of his London-based job was impacting on his enthusiasm last summer.

‘There were three games last year where I ended up flying from Chennai to London, getting a taxi to Woking station and then the train to Havant to play cricket - even though I hadn’t slept for something like 36 hours,’ he recalled.

‘That was taking its toll a bit.

‘Now I’m really excited

‘My enthusiasm had started to wane a bit with all that travelling, but now I’m re-energised.

‘We’ve got a good crop of youngsters at the club, we’re rebuilding, and being captain has put me at the centre of that rebuilding.

‘I’m genuinely excited, and a bit nervous as well as I haven’t captained much for 13 years or so - and cricket can be a bloody hard sport to captain!

‘I’m always analysing things, and that can be detrimental - you can overthink and some thing which is tiny can end up being a big issue.

‘You tend to perform better when you’re in cruise mode.

‘So the fact I will be captain and having to analyse the other players, rather than focussing on myself all the time, will be good for my mindset.’

Since his debut as a 13-year-old in 2003, Morgan has taken 285 league wickets for Havant - the vast majority for the 1st XI.

Of those 285, 27 were taken in 2003 and 2004 for the 2nds and six for the 3rds - the latter haul all coming on his debut against Old Netley & Highfield in 2003.

In addition, he also bagged 76 Southern Premier League wickets for the Hampshire Academy between 2005-008 - including 35 in his last season on The Ageas Bowl staff.

His 2008 haul for the Academy included a career SPL best of 7-36 against Hursley Park., while his best Havant figures are 6-16 against Lymington the following year.