Hambledon run machine Matt De Villiers on course to follow Hampshire legend Robin Smith into the Southern Premier League record books

Matt De Villiers continued his remarkable Hambledon career by blasting the highest individual innings in the Southern Premier League for three years.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 19th June 2022, 11:11 am

The South African belted 168 - the highest SPL score by a Dons batter in the 21st century - as the Division 2 leaders romped to their seventh successive league win of the year at Hartley Wintney.

De Villiers is now very much in the running to become only the fourth batter since 1982 to reach the 1,000 runs milestone in a SPL season.

He already has 571 runs at 114.20 from seven innings - 179 more than the next highest scorer across the four tiers of the SPL, South Wilts opener Tom Morton.

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Robin Smith set a new Southern League runscoring record 40 years ago that only three people have since beaten. Picture: Allsport UK /Allsport

His league innings so far in 2022 have been 89, 67, 63 not out, 100, 53, 31 not out and now 168.

Back in 1982, Robin Smith - the man who went on to star for Hampshire and England - set a new Southern League run record of 1,015 for Trojans.

That was beaten twice in 2003, when South African Erasmus Hendriske - also playing for Trojans - hit 1,025 Division 3 runs. But that same year, Kiwi Neal Parlane set a new record with 1,074 for Totton-based BAT in the top flight.

Parlane’s record stood for just two years, before South African Will Prozesky topped it by just two runs.

Will Prozesky holds the Southern League seasonal run record with 1,076 in 2005, for Havant and Purbrook. Picture: Mick Young

After starting the 2005 season with Havant, Prozesky dropped down to Division 3 to play for Purbrook. In 10 innings, he struck 223 (on debut), 111, 180 not and 164 not out (on the final day of the season), with other knocks of 80, 76 and 66. Purbrook won the title.

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So far - touch wood! - De Villiers’ SPL season has been free of rain. Should it continue that way all summer, he will bat in 18 innings. And, if he continues at his current scoring rate, he would end with over 1,400 league runs!

De Villiers, the leading runscorer for Claremont in the Western Province Cricket Association League in 2021/22, shared a second wicket stand of 230 with George Marshall after Hambledon had elected to bat first at Hartley.

Hambledon's Matt Le Villiers, right, with his skipper Spencer Le Clercq

That partnership was only ended when Marshall was run out after scoring 108 off 106 balls with 14 fours and a six.

De Villiers ended up smashing 11 sixes and 12 fours in his 111-ball assault on the home bowlers before he departed - but not before he had hit the highest SPL score since South Wilts 2nds’ Joe Cranch struck 185 not out in a Division 3 fixture in 2019.

With Henry Glanfield slapping 37 off 21 balls, Hambledon closed on a stunning 398-6 off 50 overs.

Reality TV star Hugo Hammond was among the runs for Hartley as they were dismissed for 250 in reply, to lose by 148 runs.

Hammond, who appeared in the 2021 edition of Love Island, hit 44 - his side’s second highest innings after James Mulvey’s 77 - before he was bowled by Dan McGovern (3-65).

Hambledon are 16 points clear at the top - a total which would be 36 had they not had 20 deducted for a close-season administrative error.

OTs & Romsey leapfrogged over Waterlooville into the second promotion slot after beating them by six wickets at Rowlands Avenue.

Matt Bampton took a career best 6-34 - the best figures recorded anywhere in the SPL on the day - as Ville posted 197-8 after skipper Archie Reynolds won the toss and batted.

Reynolds top scored with 58 - his highest SPL score of the season - but next best was Alex Shepherd’s 32.

New ball pair Jon Hudson and Josh McCoy each struck as OTs slipped to 22-2 in reply.

But skipper Charlie King (67 not out) and opener Joseph Vaugha (41) put on 76 for the third wicket, before Harry Tulk (38 not out) helped his captain add a further 74 for the fourth.

Wicket-keeper Rob Newman then took 16 off the 47th over - bowled by Hudson - before victory was secured when Tim Jackson delivered a no ball off the first delivery of the 49th over.