US Portsmouth CC stage Hampshire Cricket League history – and it could be an English cricket first
US Portsmouth took part in a bit of Hampshire Cricket League history at the weekend.
Just a goal kick away from where USP’s footballers were taking on Binfield for a place in the FA Vase final at Wembley, the cricketers were hosting Follands in their Division 3 South curtain-raiser.
For the first time in Hampshire League history - and possibly in the whole of English recreational cricket history - the game, which USP lost by 40 runs, was totally played on an artificial surface.
Not only was the 22-yard wicket strip artificial, the entire outfield was part of the two 3G football pitches at HMS Temeraire.
As a result, there was the unusual sight of cricket sightscreens just a few yards away from rugby posts and football goals.
Indeed, on a couple of occasions, fielders had to retrieve the ball from inside the goal net after it had sped across the fast artificial surface.
USP are playing all their home games in the Hampshire League this season on the 3G pitches due to pitch renovation work at their usual home ground on Burnaby Road just 100 metres or so away.
USP only found out their grass wicket would be unavailable for the whole of 2021 a few weeks before the start of their competitive season.
‘It was enjoyable playing on the new pitch,’ said USP captain Sameen Mahboob.
‘There was certainly no risk of getting injured and the ball came onto you well.
‘I enjoyed it, and the opposition enjoyed it too.’
The early morning rain that swept across Hampshire on Saturday ensured there were lots of cancellations in the Southern Premier and county league.
But due to the quick-drying nature of the 3G, that was never an option at USP and by the time the huge match kicked off at the Victory Stadium the cricketers had been playing for a couple of hours.
USP started well, reducing Follands to 32-3 and 50-4. The visitors slid to 123-7 but ended on 215.
Gayan Lakshitha top scored with 61 while No 10 Bryan Eaton hit a breezy 31 not out off 15 balls, taking advantage of some small boundaries.
Jahanzeb Habib only bowled 3.4 overs but took 3-8, while Vineet Vajpayee (2-32) and Ijaz Tarakhail (2-36) were also among the wickets.
USP didn’t help themselves, though, by sending down 30 wides in a total of 39 extras - Ian Cole conceding 11 of them in three overs.
Follands bowlers were similarly wayward, with Sam Helps sending down 14 wides as the visitors also conceded 30 wides.
Cole top scored with a 40-ball 34 at No 7 but the tail couldn’t wag as USP lost their last six wickets for 18 runs to be bowled out for 175.