Sway Cricket Club's Southern Premier League debut completes 20-year journey
NEXT season will see Sway Cricket Club ply their trade in the Southern Premier League (SPL), completing a remarkable rise from the lowest tier of the Hampshire Cricket League (HCL).
In 2002, 12-year-old Alex Hall made his Sway debut in the HCL division six. This May, he will walk out to open the batting wearing a Sway shirt in the Southern Premier League.
Until 2002, Sway’s home pitch was an open section of the New Forest adjacent to the Hare & Hounds pub, allowing the local livestock to do their worst on the outfield.
That all changed after Sway Parish Council created a purpose-built sporting facility in the heart of the village, which soon housed the local football, tennis and cricket clubs.
The improved facilities allowed Sway CC to extend their colts section and enter an extra team in the bottom tier.
The shift towards youth began to pay dividends – particularly in the case of John Grasham and Jack Walton, who proved crucial to the club for the next decade.
Off the pitch, new groundsman Andy Lee transformed the playing surface.
Results began to improve, and in 2004 the first team won promotion to regional division three.
By 2007, new first-team skipper Dave Marshall turned his focus on youth, and his approach led to another promotion.
With the junior section growing fast, the club formed a third team in 2008, followed by a fourth in 2010.
Back in the HCL, the club were now powering ahead. Under the leadership of big marine John Grasham, the first team won back-to-back promotions in 2009 and 2010 and found themselves in regional division one for the 2011 season.
Everyone at the club was delighted when skipper Pete Bennet led the seconds to the regional division four title in 2010 with a 100% record, ensuring the gap between Sway’s two sides did not grow too large.
Alex Hall took on the first team captaincy in 2014, with the team playing five divisions higher than when he and several of his teammates had started more than a decade earlier. He handed current skipper Tim Noble the reins after leading his team up to county division two.
At the start of the 2021 season, the target was set to do what had previously been seen as an impossible dream – bringing SPL cricket to Jubilee Field.
With a solid team spirit, the firsts topped the table from the start of the season, and the dream looked odds-on to become a reality.
After a heavy defeat in a rain-affected game, Sway hosted Parley on the penultimate week of the season, knowing a loss for either side meant they would fall out of promotion contention.
Sway would win by five wickets and secure promotion, while the seconds won the county division four title.
During this time, Sway’s junior section has gone from strength to strength. In 2001 the club won its first junior title, with the U11s league, before the U9s won back-to-back league titles a couple of years later.
Since then, every age level from U9s to U16s has picked up league and cup titles.
Sway CC’s first recorded match was in 1873, against (New) Milton CC; however, the story of the club’s first 100 years consists mostly of their forming and reforming.