Brad Neal hauled Basingstoke & North Hants out of the mire by lashing a boundary-strewn 93 not out off 58 balls at May’s Bounty – but finished on the losing side as visitors Sarisbury Athletic won by six wickets.

Skittled for 40 by Camberley and then 92 by Alton in their two pre-season warm-up matches, Basingstoke collapsed again in their opening Southern Premier Division 1 match, tumbling from 52-1 to 90-7, initially against the left-arm spin of Sam Hill (2-31) and later Jordan Wright, who finished with 4-64.

Neal decided that attack was the best form of defence and launched four sixes and 14 fours, lifting the ‘Stoke score to a competitive 215.

He added 32 with Matt Donaldson before finding a reliable last wicket partner in Jake Fincken (15), the pair putting on 75.

Finckden (2-46) removed Sarisbury openers Cam Grierson (20) and Elliott Smith (11) to leave the visitors 36-2 and when Donaldson whipped out danger man Josh Hill, Basingstoke sniffed a possible victory.

But a near century stand between Sam Floyd (62 not out) and Ricky Rawlins (47) turned the tide and from 154-3 the visitors were in charge.

Nathan Feltham hits a long ball – as Basingstoke found out, the former Paultons player hoisting three sixes and three fours in a quick-fire 40 not out which carried Sarisbury home with six overs to spare.

Basingstoke seconds lost their Division 3 opener by seven wickets to Paultons, who chased down 205-6, with almost 20 overs to spare.

Basingstoke’s total revolved around Callum Coombs (78 not out), supported by openers Richard Vinn (36) and Greg Donaldson (27).

But the Stoke bowlers were unable to contain young Australian Callum Barton, who peppered the Whitemoor Lane boundary, 42 of his 44 runs off 19 balls breaching the rope.

Paul Longland (71) and Ben Rogers (38 not out) completed the formalities for Paultons, for whom left-arm spinner Andrew Denney earlier took 3-23.