Andover 1st XI started their Southern Premier League division 1 campaign with a loss to local rivals Sparsholt. The hosts got off to a stuttering start after losing the toss and being asked to bat first, losing their top three in the space of six balls with just 22 on the board.

From there, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Andover batsmen. Matt Knight (19) and Andrew Duckworth (20) rebuilt, both making positive starts, but that was to be the theme of the innings, with Andover’s middle order promising a lot but with no one going on to make that big score that they needed. Nathan Birks (17) and Max Souter (25) demonstrated their big hitting potential, taking the score to 120 before both falling in quick succession to leave the tail to wag.

Skipper Matt Hooper (40*) took the game by the scruff of the neck and, with the support of Rowan Duckworth (24*), dragged the town side to a respectable total of 195-8 off their 40 overs, a total that didn’t seem possible after the poor start.

The Sparsholt response started in electric fashion with Stuart Taylor (45) blazing anything loose to the boundary, clearing the ropes on four occasions with some lusty blows. Rowan Duckworth continued a good day for him by removing Taylor and Josh May, to get Andover back in the game. Pick of the Andover bowlers, Babu Veetill, also took two wickets to reduce Sparsholt to 145-4, but with plenty of time to spare, that was as good as it got for Andover. A superb 52* from Liam Doran, supported by Ashley Collinson (23*) saw the visitors over the line, securing a comfortable six wicket win.

A stuttering start from the Andover side that will be looking to improve for their away trip to Portsmouth this Saturday.