Andover gave themselves some breathing space in their hunt for promotion up the Southern Cricket League with a resounding victory against Fair Oak, a side they lost to earlier in the season.

It sets up a mouth-watering clash between the top two with Nordlock-sponsored Andover hosting Hambledon at London Road this Saturday.

Against Fair Oak, Andover welcomed back Richie Taylor in for Matt Knight with Harri Williams taking over the gloves.

READ MORE: Winning start for Andover Town in new campaign

Andover captain Johnny Nyumbu won the toss and had no hesitation in deciding to bat first on a fresh pitch and scorched outfield.

This decision was vindicated with Andover openers Sam Ashman (65) and Glyn Treagus (47) looking to get themselves set and used to a pitch that was varying in bounce.

This pair got better and better as Andover passed 100 without either looking in trouble.

With Andover looking to push the scoring rate up Treagus fell three runs before another deserved half-century.

Babu Veettil (11) was pushed up the order for some quick runs and he hit a big six before falling when going for another big shot.

Andover were 127-2 and the incoming batters were looking to take Andover to a big score.

Ashman fell for yet another well-rounded half century and he was quickly followed by Harri Williams (4) and Charlie Ayers (5).

Ashman is now level on runs with Ayers with both sitting over 500 runs and joint-third in the league runscoring charts.

With the score on 149-5 and only eight overs to go, the Andover innings could have gone either way.

After his match winning knock from last week, Nathan Birks (47*) continued where he left off and immediately imposed himself on a tiring bowling attack.

Steve Williams (26*) was at the other end and this pair ran hard between the wickets and mixed in some big shots to the boundary. Andover ended their 50 overs on a very impressive 217-5 and knew they had put themselves in pole position.

As always, Andover knew that they could not let the Fair Oak batters get off to a good start. As they have done all season, the Andover opening bowling pair of Veettil (12-0) and Michael Adams (20-3) started well and Fair Oak were quickly 1-1.

It was Adams that struck in his first over and he quickly followed this up with one well caught low down by Harri Williams with the score on 15.

Fair Oak started to rebuild whilst the Andover bowlers kept the scoring rate down. Taylor (11-1) replaced Veettil and with the score on 64 he picked up the third wicket well caught by a flying Veettil.

That was the breakthrough Andover need and 64-3 became 67-5.

Ayers (38-4) was brought on and he picked up wicket number four and five, both well caught by Nyumbu at slip from big spinning leg breaks.

Nyumbu (22-1) took over from Taylor and this pair teamed up with a diving Taylor taking the catch from Nyumbu at short fine leg.

Ayers continued to bowl well and he grabbed the seventh wicket to fall, expertly caught by a back-pedalling Matt Hooper at mid-on.

With the score on 92, Ayers picked up his fourth wicket and Fair Oak were up against it. Adams returned and after a small partnership he picked up his third wicket, again brilliantly caught by Willaims.

Hooper (10-1) replaced Nyumbu and, after a couple of boundaries, he bowled the Fair Oak captain around his legs and Fair Oak were bowled out for 123 in the 40th over.

Andover collected 21 points and with third-placed Romsey losing, it gives Andover some breathing space in second place in the table.

With the top two being promoted Andover host top placed Hambledon this Saturday (12:30pm start).

Andover will be looking to continue their eight-game unbeaten run and if they record a victory, they will be level on points with Hambledon.

SEE ALSO: Birks sees Andover home in nail-biter game

Whilst Andover first XI were winning, at London Road Andover second XI recorded a second victory in a row against Emsworth. Aidan Jansen starred with the ball picking up 4-16 in restricting Emsworth to 207.

Kelum Watta and Max Souter both collected half-centuries with the bat in a convincing eight wicket victory.

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