Ash Neal began his role as interim captain of Basingstoke & North Hants with an impressive all-round performance as his side shattered Portsmouth’s 100 per cent start to the new Southern Premier League Division 1 season with a 78-run win at May’s Bounty.

The Bournemouth University business studies student will captain Basingstoke until late June, when he goes off travelling, writes Mike Vimpany.

He has taken over from Dan Belcher who, relieved of the pressure captaincy can often bring, top scored as Basingstoke racked up a match winning 236-9.

Neal, who played in Basingstoke’s woeful early season defeats by Sarisbury Athletic and Rowledge, hit 37 and later took 4-26 as Portsmouth were bowled out for 158.

His performance won the Basingstoke stand-in captain the Southern Premier League’s prestigious Cricketer of the Week award.

“After those two early losses, this was a great win for us against a strong Portsmouth outfit we fully expect to be right up there come the end of the season,” he said.

“So it was a good way to get our season up and running. It was a real team performance with both bat and ball.

“We were confident we had enough (236-9) on the board at tea, but on what was a good May’s Bounty deck we knew it could go either way, so we had to be disciplined with the ball. Bowling was supported by good fielding.”

With the top five batsmen all making runs, Basingstoke were guaranteed a competitive total.

Openers Belcher (42) and the evergreen Richard Vinn (21) began with a 73-run start which Ash Neal (37) and Joe Oates (25) nearly doubled.

Dan Wimble (4-52) created some inroads, but with Brad Neal making a quick fire 36 and Matt Donaldson (21) and Laurence Benge (20) making handy contributions, Basingstoke closed with a competitive 236-9.

Two early blows by Jake Fincken (2-41), aided by a tight seven-over spell by Brad Neal, kept the pressure firmly on Portsmouth, who lost wickets at regular intervals, four of them to Ash Neal, who finished with 4-26. Three wickets fell for nine runs at one point.

Portsmouth were effectively out of the contest at 107-7 (Ben Duggan 28) by the time Sujeeth Daini (34) and Ashan Silva (34) came together to lift the final score to 158 all out.

But there was no joy for Basingstoke seconds who suffered a third successive defeat when they were dismissed for 129 (Callum Coombs 48) and beaten by four wickets by previously winless Gosport Borough. Matt Thankachan took 4-18.