ANDOVER Cricket Club captain Matt Hooper has heaped praise on his Southern Premier League Division One winning side after they were crowned unlikely champions.

The Lions clinched the crown on the final day with a stunning eightwicket victory at Portsmouth, despite starting the weekend in third place behind favourites Sarisbury and Hook and Newnham Basics.

However the front runners both had their games abandoned, allowing Andover to leapfrog their rivals with a maximum point victory over their South Coast opponents.

And skipper Hooper, who only returned to London Road this season after a spell with Plymouth, was left both shocked and delighted with the title win.

He said: “It was an amazing climax to what has been a great season for us.

“We knew we had to win and win quick, but I don’t think anyone thought we were actually going todo it. I don’t think anyone saw it coming, people were checking and double checking long into Saturday evening.

“I think a lot of people thought we were going to be relegation candidates when we lost our opening game to Liphook but we turned it around.

“We have only been top once this year so I guessed we timed it perfectly.”

The title win completes a brilliant turnaround for Andover, who looked likely to miss out on title glory back in July when their incredible six game winning run was halted by Sarisbury.

A win at home against Romsey briefly restored their title dreams, only for the Lions to suffer what looked like a killer blow in defeat to Hook the following week.

But back-to-back wins against Totton and then Rowledge gave Andover an outside chance of clinching the title on the final day of the season.

Hooper said: “I was really disappointed after the Sarisbury game because we didn’t play well.

“They are a good side but we saved our worst performance of the year for them.

“I think that took the pressure off us though and we started to really enjoy our cricket.

“When we lost to Hook the pressure was off us again and we played really well in those last few matches.

“It was great end to what has been a really enjoyable season, with a great group of lads.”

The Division One champions, who celebrated their title win “long into the night” according to Hooper, will now have a well deserved break before they prepare for life in the Premier Division next season.

  •  How Andover won the title

Andover went into the final day in third and needed a win and results to go their way to claim top spot.

Leaders Hook started the day on an average of 15.93, while second place Sarisbury started on 15.80.

But as their games were abandoned they received no points.

Andover scored 21 points from their win over Portsmouth so their averages changed and they ended up on 15.94, meaning they clinched the title by just 0.01 average points.