Andover men’s first XI, sponsored by Nordlock, dropped back into the relegation zone after a close defeat to high flying New Milton.

After a wet week Andover skipper Matt Hooper, knew whoever bowled first had an increased chance of victory. Hooper lost the toss and New Milton elected to bowl first.

From the first ball of the innings, openers Andrew Duckworth and Sam Ashman, were looking to survive rather than score. Andover progressed to 10 before young star Sam Ashman was caught behind from a ball that he couldn’t do much with.

It was the first failure for Ashman who has taken to first XI cricket like a duck to water. Matt Knight, who has been in brilliant form, joined Duckworth and things were still hard work. This pair added another 13 before Duckworth was bowled for 20. Andover then went from 27-2 to 31-5.

Charlie Ayers, the returning Glyn Treagus and Knight all fell within quick succession and Andover were in all sorts of trouble.

This brought young batsman Nathan Birks and Brandon Smith together and both did well to survive the onslaught from the New Milton bowlers. This pair batted brilliantly in the conditions and both took their opportunities to score when they arose.

The partnership was worth 45 but Briks was next to fall when he was bowled by New Miltons overseas legspinner for a well made 26.

Hooper joined Smith and again the Andover batters were looking to rebuild. Smith fell a couple of overs later being bowled by a slower ball for 18. Babu Veettil and Hooper also fell in quick succession and Andover went from 76-6 to 81-9. Andover were all out for 90.

It was left to last pair Rowan Duckworth and Mike Adams to add as many as they could to the total.

They were able to take the score to 90 until the final wicket fell with Adams being bowled by the spinner.

Right up until the final wicket to fall the New Milton bowlers were still able to exact movement from the pitch and this gave the Andover bowlers hope that they could still win this match.

Two balls into the New Milton innings, Veettil caught the edge and it was well taken low down at slip by Hooper and New Milton were 0-1.

Two overs later this became 4-2 with the same pair, Veettil and Hooper, again teaming up with Veettil bowling another each and Hooper taking another good catch.

It seemed that one end was easier to bat on and New Milton progressed to 19 before Veettil got his, and Andover’s third, which was superbly taken by wicketkeeper Knight from an under-edge.

New Milton added another 10 runs and Veettil got his fourth wicket which was caught by Ashman at mid-on. Veettil completed his eight overs getting four wickets for 13 runs. Duckworth and Ayers replaced Veettil and Adams and it was Ayers picked up the next wicket and New Milton were 31-5.

Andover were now on top and were expecting more wickets to fall.

To New Milton’s credit the batsman dug in and put all the risky shots away. Hooper rotated his bowlers, introducing himself and bringing Adams back but the New Milton batters survived. With the score on 63 Andover put down a tough chance off Hooper which may have seen a different result. Unfortunately for Andover this was as close as they got to another breakthrough with the pitch seeming to lose its spice as the ball got older and as the day drew on. New Milton passed the Andover total in the 33rd over and Andover only took two points from the game. Luckily for Andover, the teams around them in the relegation places, St Cross and Sarisbury, both lost although Sarisbury moved above Andover as they picked up more bonus points in their defeat. Andover travel to Calmore on Saturday hoping to get a victory to give themselves some breathing space down at the bottom.

Andover know they will be in for a tough match as Calmore progressed to the National Village cup final, to be played at Lords, last weekend.