Rowledge got their season off to the best possible start, winning comfortably by seven wickets at newly-promoted Hambledon in Division One of the Southern Premier Cricket League.
The home side won the toss and surprisingly batted on a damp, used wicket. Opening bowlers Richard Forbes and Max Martin produced tight spells and contained the hosts with control and movement with the new ball.
The medium pace and slow turn was perfect for the wicket and Hambledon found it difficult against superb fielding to ascertain any sort of dominance with the bat.
The first three batsmen fell for nine runs, with Forbes taking all the wickets as the pressure started to tell on the batting side. A dropped catch and a missed run out gave the hosts hope they could break the shackles, but when Henry Glanfield was bowled between the gate by the new Rowledge overseas player Connor Cook from Sydney, they were deep in trouble at 30 for four.
Introducing Ollie Baker and Cook to the attack proved a masterstroke from skipper Ben Wish as they ripped through Hambledon’s batting line-up.
Baker’s left-arm spin and Cook’s off spin controlled everything the batters could throw at them, and with a stunning run out by Olly Ryman and fine catches by Ben Davidson and Forbes the visitors were on a high.
Forbes finished with figures of three wickets for four runs, Cook took two for 16 and Baker took four for 22 as the hosts limped to 54 all out with poor shot selection and lack of patience on a difficult track that needed more time at the crease.
It was a spectacular display in the field by Rowledge with no match practice and little grass wicket training thanks to a soaking wet cricket square at the Recreation Ground.
The visitors fielded with enthusiasm and quality that would take some beating anywhere in the league.
The last thing Rowledge would have wanted chasing a low total was the early loss of wickets. Ricky Yates fell early leg before wicket to opening quick Curtis Dixon, and Martin was caught in the slips off the quick bowling of Justin Behrens. The visitors found themselves 23 for two and runs were hard to come by.
However, opener Jonty Seeborn looked in no trouble and dispatched the bowling to all parts of the ground. Ryman joined Seeborn at the crease, and the pair showed patience and intelligence to glide to within four runs of victory before Seeborn (23) fell stumped trying to finish the game off.
It was left to new overseas player Cook – who looked at a couple of sighters before producing a huge six over the pavilion and on to the road – to complete the demolition and take Rowledge to a seven-wicket win and 21 valuable points.
A thoroughly good team performance in the field proved key to securing the victory.
Rowledge will face sterner opposition today (Saturday) when they host last year’s runners-up Sarisbury.
Because of the continued bad weather over the past few weeks, Rowledge’s Village Cup tie against Valley End was moved to Rowledge on Sunday as per the competition’s rules.
However, the weather won once again and the game was decided on a coin toss in Starbucks car park.
Valley End won the toss and will go through to play a home tie against Blackheath.
Rowledge’s second team were meant to host Fair Oak, but the match was cancelled because of the wet conditions at the Recreation Ground.