‘A serious player’ – South African all-rounder Matt De Villiers is latest in an impressive series of Hambledon CC overseas imports
Simon Milenko (2007) and Blake Dean (2009) both went on to play in the Australian Big Bash League after a summer on the south coast.
Another Australian, Michael Johnson, was signed by Worcestershire in 2013 after appearing for the Dons 12 months earlier.
And South African Nono Pongolo has gone on to win T20 tournaments since his season in the Southern Premier League in 2014.
Most recently, Pongolo was part of a Jozi Stars squad which won the Manzani Super League in 2018 alongside the likes of Dan Christian, Dane Vilas, Simon Harmer, Rassie van der Dussen and Kagiso Rabada.
Now, Hambledon have managed to find another ‘serious player’ in South African all-rounder Matt De Villiers.
After six rounds of games, De Villiers is the leading runscorer across all four divisions of the Southern Premier League with 403. Amid the flurry of runs, he has also taken 10 league wickets.
The 21-year-old compiled five half-centuries and a century in his opening six league and cup games – 89, 67, 63 not out, 100, 52 not out and 53. Had Hambledon been given a larger total to chase by Andover last weekend, De Villiers might well have reached another half-century – he was 31 not out as the Dons reached their 144 victory target in the Division 2 fixture with only two wickets down.
‘We were actually looking for an (overseas) bowler,’ Hambledon skipper Spencer Le Clercq told The News. ‘We have lots of batting.
‘When we saw Matt’s CV, we thought it must be too good to be true. What swung it for us was that we could see he could bowl as well. You can’t go wrong with an all-rounder.
‘He bowls right arm off spin, around the wicket – he always goes around the wicket.
‘He’s been fantastic for us, he’s a serious player. He’s a very smart cricketer, he doesn’t bat for himself, he bats for the team. He’s a serious match-winner.
‘He’s been coaching our colts and juniors four or five times a week, and he’s been delivering on the pitch.’
Hambledon are on a sensational winning run. Including last summer’s SPL Division 3 title triumph, they have won 16 of their last 17 completed league fixtures, and are seeking back-to-back promotions.
In 2021, their points-per-game average of 20.36 was better than any other SPL club across all four divisions. This year, their 18.3 average is the second highest – after Portsmouth & Southsea’s 20.3 – but that is only because the Dons had 20 points deducted before the season had begun due to an administrative error.
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Remarkably, the club’s 2nd XI boast a near identical record over the same period to the first team. They have won 17 of their last 18 completed fixtures, including all six in the Hampshire League Division 3 North this season. They, too, are aiming for back-to-back promotions.
The 1st XI were playing in the second tier of the SPL when Le Clercq made his debut for the club. Since then, they suffered one relegation due to the state of their pitch and another due to bad results.
Le Clercq is now targeting a return to Division 1 cricket. ‘That’s the goal,’ he declared. ‘If not this year, then in the next year or two. I think we’ve got good enough players and we’ve got good youngsters coming through.
‘Last year the average age of the 1st XI was around 21 and a half, that’s crazy.’
While De Villiers is top of the SPL run charts across all four divisions, Dons opener Dan McGovern is in third place.
McGovern joined the club ahead of the 2021 season after moving to the area with work, having previously played in the Northamptonshire League.
He made an instant impact, hitting 449 SPL fourth tiers – the third highest in the division behind Langley’s Jack Budd and Dons colleague Henry Glanfield.
Glanfield and teenage bowler James Restall return for this weekend’s game against Hartley Wintney as Hambledon aim for a seventh straight league win of 2022.
Leading Southern Premier League runscorers: Matt De Villiers (Hambledon) 403, Tom Morton (South Wilts) 381, Dan McGovern (Hambledon) 350, Dineth Thimodya (Ventnor) 345, Chris Stone (Havant) 338, Ben Duggan (Portsmouth) 319, Jack Davies (Portsmouth & Southsea) 310, Jack Stearman (South Wilts) 300.
Leading Southern Premier League wicket-takers: Josh Croom (South Wilts) 21, Richard Jerry (Havant) 16, Brighton Magochi (Totton & Eling) 16, Ben Smith (Fair Oak) 16, James Hartshorn (Lymington) 14, Dan Stancliffe (Burridge) 14, Liam Carty (Calmore) 14.