ANDOVER fell to their first defeat in nine games to league leaders Hambledon at a sun-baked London Road sports ground.

Fortunately for Nordlock-sponsored Andover, other results went their way to ensure they retained second place in the Southern Premier Cricket League.

Andover welcomed back Matt Knight behind the stumps and skipper John Nyumbu had no hesitation in batting first on a good-looking pitch and a boiling hot day.

READ MORE:  Andover a step closer to promotion with eighth consecutive win

Openers Sam Ashman (6) and Glyn Treagus (9) – both who have been in great form all season – struggled to impose themselves. Unfortunately, both fell early and Andover were 20-2.

Steve Williams (19) and Charlie Ayers (1) looked to rebuild but Ayers with the score on 35.

Nathan Birks (20), Andover’s most in-form batsman of recent weeks, joined Williams and this pair looked to rebuild the Andover innings. Williams was looking good having been promoted up the order, that was until he was harshly adjudged LBW not playing a shot.

Knight (34) joined Birks, who was just starting to look settled tried to flick one to leg and he fell caught at the wicket. Babu Veettil (4) came and went quickly and Andover were 77-6.

This was not a position they have been in a while having batted teams out of matches consistently in the last few weeks.

Matt Hooper (9) joined Knight as they rotated the strike well until Hooper was bowled with the score just past 100. Nyumbu (30) joined Knight and they took Andover to 130 until Knight was caught.

With the overs running out Nyumbu fell when looking to accelerate the scoring and it was left to Michael Adams (11*) and Richie Taylor (13) to finish the innings.

At the end of the 47th over, Taylor fell with the score on 177 and Andover had seemingly posted a below par total.

Hambledon, who had only lost one game all year, knew that the Andover bowlers would come out hard.

Veettil (40-0) and Adams (12-0) started well and unfortunately Marshall, was dropped early on off Veettil.

With a small total to play with Nyumbu (36-4) got himself on early and he was rewarded with the wicket, expertly stumped by keeper Knight. 

Hambledon were 35-1 but this brought overseas star Matt De Villiers to the crease who was only 43 runs away from breaking the Southern League run scoring record, a remarkable feat with three games to go.

Veettil was brought back into the attack and he thought he immediately had his man but his good-looking LBW shout was turned down.

This pair took Hambledon past a hundred and Nyumbu rotated his experienced bowling attack with Ayers (31-0) and Taylor (27-0) both unable to make the breakthrough despite bowling well.

Nyumbu turned to Hooper (27-1) and with the score on 115 he had Marshall caught brilliantly by Veettil at mid-off. Andover had an opening and Nyumbu was looking threatening every ball.

Nyumbu picked up three more wickets, one a brilliant catch behind by Matt Knight and Hambledon slumped to 129-5. De Villiers was still going strong passing a half-century and then Hooper also had a strong shout for LBW turned down with the score on 130.

The Hambledon batters ticked off the runs and Nyumbu was again forced to rotate his bowlers. Unfortunately for Andover the Hambledon batters navigated the challenges thrown at them and they went past the Andover total in the 40th over. 

With a heavy defeat Andover thought their push for promotion could be in trouble. That was until news filtered through that third-placed Romsey had lost at relegation threatened Fawley.

Andover remain a victory ahead of Romsey, who remain in third, which still gives them breathing space going into the final three games of the season.

Andover travel to Winchester on Saturday looking to get back to winning ways. Andover lose Steve Williams but welcome Max Souter into the side after a big hundred in Andover second XI.

SEE ALSO: Whitchurch tennis club’s plan for new floodlights rejected

Souter cracked 144 alongside Ben Black who scored 47 but Andover fell short in chasing a big Lymington total. Andover thirds also fell to defeat, despite Stuey Summers scoring his second century of the season.

Andover’s T20 cup run also came to a grinding halt at the quarter final stage with a young town side falling to an agonising defeat against Waterlooville.