Skipper Dunstan stars on return to action
Portsmouth & Southsea made a perfect start to their Hampshire League division one campaign with an eight-wicket win over Ventnor II at St James Hospital.
Home captain Kieron Dunstan made an impressive return after missing the second half of last season with a shoulder injury.
Slow left-arm spinner, Dunstan, ended up with figures of five for 29 including a spell of five wickets for just six runs.
Earlier Dunstan had almost taken himself out of the attack after making a poor start.
‘He was going to take himself off after his first over went for 12 runs,’ said opening batsman Matt Smith.
‘Our other spinners were warming up but we convinced him to stay on and stick it out.
‘He hadn’t bowled for a while because of his injury and he came back to mop them up at the end.’
Opening bowlers Matt Benfield and Chris Turrell put pressure on Ventnor from the start, the latter removing one of the openers without scoring.
Benfield then took over the mantle with three quicker wickets including an outstanding dismissal of the visitors’ danger man.
‘The caught and bowled catch Matt took was outrageous,’ said Smith.
‘Their batsman ‘smoked’ a full toss back at him and he dived full length to take the catch one-handed.
‘I think it is the best caught and bowled I have ever seen.’
Dunstan then returned to finish the visitors off, leaving the home side chasing a comfortable target of 117 runs.
Smith and the experienced Steve Clements made sure there were no early mishaps putting on nearly 50 for the first wicket.
When both departed, Benfield and Jack Davies plundered 55 runs from five overs to see the hosts home in under 17 overs.
Smith, who commutes from London each week to play, admits there are much sterner tests ahead.
All the same he shares the view of his captain that this could be their year.
‘Our team has been together for about five years now and some have been playing even longer together,’ said Smith.
‘We don’t go for any overseas players and would rather bring our own young players through.
‘All our talent is homegrown.
‘The club is a bit like a family and there is a good spirit here.
‘We should have gone up last season but we threw away too many games that we should have won.’
Smith believes they possess two of the best batsmen in the league in Benfield and Davies.
He is also of the opinion that opponents won’t find it easy to amass runs against their bowling attack.
‘We know there are tougher games ahead but we are ready for that challenge,’ he added.