NORD-LOCK sponsored Andover 1st XI produced a below-par performance at home to second in the league Sparsholt on Saturday, ending up on the receiving end of a five-wicket loss, writes ALI HOOPER.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Sparsholt, who won the toss and unusually opted to field first. The Andover innings raced to 30 inside the first five overs thanks to some top order hitting from Ali Hooper (17) and Glyn Treagus (11). Hooper perished to Ollie Perrin, which started a chain of wickets falling at far too regular intervals.

The run-rate remained healthy throughout, but the wickets column was always a concern for skipper Matt Hooper. Last week’s centurion Alex Ayers, in-form Matt Knight and Nathan Birks all came and went without using up too much of the scorer’s ink. It was left to captain Hooper (33) and Charlie Ayers (44) to rebuild the innings.

At 139-5 with nearly 20 overs remaining, Andover looked set to post a score in excess of 225. However, the relentless control from experienced duo Jeremy Frith and David Banks, tied Andover down and the town batsmen had limited scoring options.

When Ayers was dismissed, bowled by Banks, the tail stuttered to 186 all out with Hooper being the last man to go, bowled by a big turning Frith delivery. The former Guernsey international finished with match-winning figures of 3-22 off 9.3 overs. Frustratingly for the hosts, there were 10 overs remaining and illustrated the potentially high-scoring nature of the pitch.

Sparsholt’s run-chase started slowly with a watchful Frith knowing the importance of his own wicket. Opener Babu Veetil toiled away, only leaking seven runs off his six overs, while Mike Adams went about his work at the other end.

Adams made the first two breakthroughs, clean bowling Michael Howarth with the score on 50 and then trapping Frith lbw for a well-made 60 not long after. Adams ending up with impressive figures of 2-22 off his 10 overs. The momentum of the game was hanging in the balance as time was starting to run out for the visitors and the required rate was creeping up.

Jonathon Norris (10) and then Perrin (29) were sent in to play some shots, which they did with some effect, taking Sparsholt closer to victory. It was the introduction of spin that was their downfall. Norris bowled by the ball of the day, courtesy of the leg-spin of Charlie Ayers. Perrin then followed, getting caught in front lbw from the off-spin of Matt Hooper.

With Phagnami’s (8) stay at the crease curtailed thanks to sharp work behind the stumps from Alex Ayers off Hooper, Sparsholt still required 40 runs and with only 11 overs left. They needed a measured innings from veteran David Banks to see them over the line and that is exactly what they got. The journeyman notched 26 not out giving Sparsholt the victory with three overs remaining, and five wickets intact.

Andover rued not using up their overs when batting and some sloppy fielding but hope to bounce back when they host OT’s and Romsey on Saturday.