Alton crashed to a 141-run defeat against St Cross Symondians in their opening Southern Premier Cricket League Premier Division match of the season on Saturday.

With a new season springs new hope and it is with this that Alton travelled down the A31 to Winchester to face league favourites St Cross at the Green Jackets ground, after a solid pre-season and buoyed by the returning Bash Walters from South Africa.

Walters rejoins Tom Varney in the Alton attack and Zack Gadsby, who spent the 2023 season with Hampshire Academy and the off season plying his trade for Melbourne University in Cricket Victoria's grade competition. Two first-team debutants made their bow at St Cross, with Aarav Rajnikanth at the top of the order, joining from Sutton, and Ben Rolfs, the leg-spinning all rounder from Melbourne University.

Alton were met with a damp, used pitch and were surprised when the home team won the toss and elected to bat. The St Cross openers were watchful and punished anything loose as they built a solid 83-run opening stand on the slow pitch. Rolfs (two for 52) took the first two wickets to leave St Cross on 108 for two. Varney bowled well with no luck but it was the return of Walters that made the next breakthrough. Hampshire's Felix Organ mistimed a drive to be caught by Gadsby and Charlie Gwynn then chipped back to Walters. The left-arm spin of Tom South ripped through the remaining wickets as he finished with career-best figures of six for 22. St Cross did very well to continually chip away and build a formidable total of 216 all out on a pitch that would not be easy to chase on.

Alton's reply couldn't have got off to a worse start with Dan Harris and Rajnikanth both caught attempting drives. Sam Ruffell followed when one spat off a length, leaving the Lords Wandsworth graduate helpless as he was caught and bowled. Alton were reeling at 14 for three, with Matt Hanworth taking all three wickets. Captain Scott Myers and Rolfs set about a rebuild before the former was removed by a viciously turning ball by Gwynn for ten. Alton were back in trouble at 33 for four. South joined Rolfs and they chipped away, adding 33 for the fifth wicket before Haworth was brought back in the attack and continued where he left off to consistently trouble the batters. Hanworth removed South for 16 to reduce the Brewers to 66 for five. Hanworth then took the next four Alton wickets for the cost of four runs, including a hat-trick. Five wickets in Hanworth’s last eight balls removed any hope Alton had. Having watched four wickets fall in the previous over, Rolfs (21) was the final wicket to fall as he top edged a sweep. Haworth finished with an incredible eight for 21 to almost single-handedly bowl Alton out for 75.

Alton will look to bounce back on Saturday against reigning champions Burridge at the Jubilee Cricket Ground.