April 15th 2017

Many positives in season opener

Ventnor 238-9, Sway 186ao. Ventnor won by 52 runs

The new season finally got underway with a jaunt to the  Isle of Wight to play at Ventnor's beautiful Steephill ground - the fine weather attracting an impressively large & knowledgeable crowd.

The home side was a youthful mixture of first, second and third team players whilst Sway had a mixture of youth and experience with a first appearance for Chris Morris.

Sway won the toss and asked Ventnor to bat first and there was an obvious consideration for bowlers and the skipper -  with the match being played on the far-most strip of Ventnor's square, the boundary on one side was a mere 38 yards at points. With overhanging trees also featuring, bowlers were going to have be very disciplined with their line.

The visitors duly opened with tidy stuff from Jon Waller and John Grasham as the first 5 overs went for just 7 runs, restricted by some top notch fielding from Morris is particular who was throwing himself around in the gully. Despite the recent fine weather, there was still plenty of moisture near the surface - so whilst the batting track was very good, there was no real bounce for Grasham who likes to hit the deck hard. So after a watchful start the Ventnor openers were soon scoring freely with teenage 2nd team star Tom Leon scoring particularly quickly as the home side race to 70-0 off 13 overs.

Hall turned to his change bowlers - the leg spin of Joshua Bailey (8-0-59-2) and medium slingers of Dave Marshall. Marshall kept it tight at one end as Bailey dismissed both openers  - Ben Attrill driving straight into the safe hands of Adam Clark at deep extra cover, then producing a superb delivery to clean bowl the dangerous Leon for 47. Marshall then got in on the act and particular enjoyed dismissing Ventnor's skipper and former Hampshire player, Jamie Miller who nicked one through to keeper Hall.

When Daniel Bailey  (3-0-8-1) had the number 5 caught by Clark for just 3, the home side's great start had wilted to 116 for 4 off 23 overs. Ventnor's innings needed experience and this was duly provided by left-hander Neil Westhorpe, who at 41 years of age and with over Southern League runs 5,000 runs under his belt fitted the job description perfectly.. Westhorpe steadied the ship then kept the bowlers guessing with a wide range of shots as well as sweeping the spinners.

Neil Westthorpe in Southern Premier action

Westhorpe and young first team star Hugh Calloway made steady if unspectacular progress as Ventnor move to 179 off 32 overs.

Waller & Grasham returned to the attack - the big guy (8-1-39-0) was out of luck, however, Waller (8-0-28-3) deservedly picked up the wicket of Calloway (45) caught at mid wicket by Morris then shortly after, followed this up with two wickets in successive balls. Marshall (8-1-34-3) was also back in the wickets, bowling both Wells brothers and at 208-9 the home side looked set to be bowled out for a very gettable target. Westhorpe had other ideas however and Steve Drayton (5-0-53-0) was unlucky to find himself with ball on hand for the final over. Five boundaries and 28 runs later, The home side had reached a more defendable 238-9 with Westhorpe unbeaten on 79.

The Sway reply got off the the worst possible start  - a platinum duck for skipper hall, trapped LBW by Charlie Calloway (6-1-29-1) and Sway were then 17-2 when Daniel Bailey was caught at slip for 4. The experienced pairing of Will Millard and Adam Clark steadied the ship with both players looking in good nick as they took the score on 76 off 17 overs putting the visitors in a potentially match winning position. The Ventnor first change bowlers of Hugh Calloway and Zeph Wells were, however, bowling some tight lines and it was Calloway who picked up two big wickets as first Millard was caught for 32, then Clark trapped LBW for 21.

John Grasham was looking very solid and once he started opening up his shoulders the scoring rate picked up and Sway we still in the hunt, especially in a 54 run partnership with Joshua Bailey (17) as Grasham picked up a half century at the first attempt. Another little partnership followed with Pete Bennet who was enjoying himself out there until Grasham called for one two too many and Bennet was run out for 9. Marshall now joined the fray with the game edging away and Sway's chances were effectively killed off when Grasham (54) was bowled trying to sweep spinner Dane Dovale. Ventnor's oppeners then polished off the tail leaving Marshall 10 not out as Sway were bowled out for 186.

Despite the defeat, there were loads of positives from the for skipper Hall as well as the other Sway captains as everyone looks to be fit, in decent nick and firing on all cylinders. Thanks to John Bailey for coming over to umpire and to Ventnor for hosting the game.