Calmore Sports made the perfect start to the Southern Premier League Division One 2021 campaign with a dominant victory over the reigning SPCL Covid Cup champions St Cross Symondians Second XI, sinking the Winchester-based side by five wickets with more than five overs to spare.

Skipper Mark Lavelle gave a first ‘proper’ league debut to 18-year-old keeper Max Bailey (who did play in the Covid Cup last season), the son of veteran keeper Stuart and become the second son of a player that played in our inaugural SPCL game in 1990 to make a start following Steve and Dave Brandes, who debuted in 2003.  Max is the fourth son/father to play in the top league (Adam and Liam Carty 2018/2019 and Keith and George Woodhall 1991/2013 the others).

There was also a full Calmore debut for highly rated all-rounder Shawn Johnson, who joined the club from Sussex League side Bexhill during the winter.

Maybe a little surprisingly, the visitors won the toss and elected to bat first on the fresh Loperwood wicket but soon found themselves 14-3 in the eighth over as the metronomic Steve Wright got through the defences of former Hampshire opener Jason Laney without scoring at the end of his first over before Yannick de Mezieres Lepervanche trapped Steven Hirst lbw and then Matt Taylor threw down the stumps to send George Acheson-Gray back to the pavilion for a 13-ball duck.

Wright (1-11 off 8) and Yannick (1-9 off 6) had tied the St Cross batting line-up down so much that it took them until the 13th over to reach 20 and well beyond their half way stage before they had clocked up 50.

The visitors recovered slightly with Swann (22) and O’Connor (24) but superb spells from the captain, in his 200th first XI league game, claimed 3-18 from his eight while 2020’s Covid Cup leading bowler Ben Perry returned 2-27 as St Cross were held to just 121-9 in their full 40 overs – the last two batsmen resisting the Calmore onslaught to deny us the extra bonus point.

Openers Matt Taylor and Ben Johns made a solid start but both were dismissed for 12 which left us 39-2 but a stoic innings from Sam Moss allowed new signing Johnson to attack and take the game beyond the visitors.  He hit three fours and a huge six into the road in his 31-ball 26, dominating the 53 run stand.

Jimmy Manning (10) and Bailey went in successive balls to give the result a slightly less dominant feel but Lavelle knocked off the remaining six runs needed to give his side a 21-point opening day success.

The effectiveness of Moss’ innings should not be underestimated though.  He might have been on just five from his first 50 balls before hitting Orchard for four but he remained unbeaten with 37 not out from 101 balls and saw his side home, shoring up an end.

Since the start of 2015, Mark Lavelle’s side have only won two of their opening five SPCL league games prior to Saturday’s game – and they came in 2016 and 2017, when we went on to win SPCL2 and SPCL1 respectively.  Is this a sign?