Cricket returned to Loperwood Park on Saturday for the first time in 2017, as the 1st XI hosted Hook & Newham Basics on their return to SPL Division 1 following last season’s title success.

Thanks to an unusually dry winter, Loperwood Park was looking in pristine condition as last year’s Division 1 runners up Hook & NB arrived hopeful according to some reports of a fairly easy opening game to the season. The 1st XI welcomed Aussie import Jack Rutter who arrived late last week from Brighton, Melbourne to join the Calmore ranks for the season, but were missing 3 of last year’s title winning side in James Rose, Mike Cook & Matt Hardy.

Skipper Mark Lavelle won the toss and chose to bat first, and it was him and Goodrich who opened up the innings. Lavelle (7) was soon on his way back however, chopping one on to his own stumps off the bowling of Hobday. Johns joined Goodrich at the crease and the pair showed patience and class in equal measure waiting on any bad ball and punishing it duly, the pair had put on 47 before Johns (20) fell chipping one to cover. Perry joined Goodrich who was now well set and looking good and the pair began to build on the early foundation until Perry (9) fell in Jordan Hobday’s (2/24) last over nicking one behind much to his own frustration. Matt Taylor getting an opportunity to impress at number 5 joined Goodrich and yet again a partnership began to build, with spin on a both ends the runs began to dry up, at drinks a good platform of 90/3 was set for a big push on in the second half of the innings.

From drinks it was clear the acceleration was on, as Taylor picked up the only 6 of the match and Goodrich in particular was using his feet well against the spin, and at 107/3 with 20 overs remaining the hope of a score in excess of 200 was high in the Calmore camp. However, in true Calmore fashion a couple of quick wickets fell and it was both set batsman as Taylor (18) could only pick out the man in the deep and Goodrich (44) was outdone in the turn and flight and was caught at 1st slip reducing Calmore to 109/5. This brought Aussie Rutter to the crease with Paul Proudley who has shown good pre-season form with the bat, and the pair began to pull the innings back, with Rutter using his crease well against the spin and timing the ball superbly & Proudley nudging the ball around and punishing any loose bowling. After putting on 54, it was Proudley (23) who fell trying to find the boundary in the last 10 overs. West soon came and went and at 172/7 with 4 overs remaining Aussie Rutter was still there approaching his maiden Calmore 50 but sadly fell narrowly short on 45 as he looked to get Calmore to that total of 200. Pegler and Newton fell in the final over as Calmore were eventually bowled out for 189 with 1 ball of the innings remaining. Divecha the pick of the bowling for Hook picking up 5 wickets.

After a typically excellent Calmore tea, the Calmore boys set about defending a total they felt was around par. Wright and Proudley took the new ball and it was the latter who created the first chance but Ben Johns could only spill Thomson at backward point. This was to be the only real opportunity Calmore had in the opening 12 overs as Hook pushed past 50. The left arm spin of Rutter was introduced early and it was a decision that paid off straight away as he tempted Thane (21) into a false shot and took a simple catch off his own bowling to open a door for Calmore. He soon picked up his 2nd wicket dismissing Wilcox (9) plum LBW, and you just couldn’t keep him out of the game as with West operating at the other end and applying even more pressure on the Hook batsmen he finally forced Thomson (38) into another false shot as Rutter took an exceptional catch at long off on the run and diving to his left, much to the relief of Johns! This left the game in the balance as Hook were now 82/3 at the half way stage with skipper Matt Love and Jordan Hobday now at the crease, both players who on their day could win a game by themselves.

The Hook pair took the score past 100 and inched Hook closer to the required total, skipper Lavelle introduced himself into the attack and alongside Rutter the pair built huge pressure that finally told as Love (16) could only hit an attempted shot over the top straight into the hands of Liam Newton to give Lavelle his first wicket. Similar to the Calmore innings Hook then lost another quick wicket as Hobday edged behind to Pegler in Rutter’s final over to leave him with figures of 3/39 finishing off a good all round debut but more importantly leaving Hook reeling at 104/5 with the run rate now increasing. Liam Newton replaced Rutter and struck immediately dismissing J. Buckingham LBW and leaving Hook 117/6 and the game well and truly in Calmore’s hands.

A frustrating partnership then ensued as M. Buckingham & Franklin began to creep Hook closer to the required total and at 140/6 with 10 overs remaining the game was on a knife edge, West and Lavelle now operating, and Calmore desperate for a wicket, Goodrich dropped a tough chance off Lavelle but it wasn’t to cost too many as Lavelle finally got his man Buckingham (15) well caught by Taylor at short cover. The very next over, West picked up his 2nd wicket dismissing Franklin caught and bowled at the 2nd attempt and reducing Hook to 140/8. The Hook tail offered little resistance as Lavelle and West both picked up another wicket each, both finishing with figures of 3/18, and bringing Calmore home to a deserved opening day victory by a convincing 45 runs.

A huge win against a side many have tipped to go on and win the Division 1 crown this year, and a sign that the 1st XI mean business this year and on their day can cut their teeth with anyone in the league. Another tough test awaits next week with Basingstoke and a trip to Mays Bounty on the agenda.