Priory Coach Ian Gillespie reflects on a successful season
The pre-season aim at Hastings & St Leonards Priory was to build on the 2019 promotion by holding our own in the Premier League. We’ve done that. And the achievement has been all the more pleasing, as the late run of victories which secured our status was achieved without either former Sussex pro and top scorer Harry Finch or our leading wicket-taker of 2019, Jed O’Brien.
There was a stark contrast between our successes in the 50-over format where we won five games, had one rained off and lost three, including one from a winning position against league champions Preston Nomads, and the ‘declaration’ game format which proved a much tougher challenge: no wins, two draws and seven defeats. One reason for the disparity could be that our bowling was better suited to containment than wicket-taking. But this was certainly allied to increasing confidence throughout the team as the wins multiplied at the back end of the season.
The team spirit and togetherness at Priory has never been in question, and this strong desire to do well for each other was evident throughout the season both on and off the pitch. But for me there were a number of key improvements and a number of player performances that mean we can look forward to 2022 with increased confidence.
CREDIT: Hastings & St Leonards Priory
Targets for improvement coming into the season were threefold: the fielding, both individually and as a unit; re-building an effective bowling attack having lost Elliott Hooper and Adam Pye to new challenges over the winter; and developing greater resilience in the batting by helping batters overcome the fear of failure which too often inhibited their potential.
The team is not blessed with many naturally gifted fielders, but hard work on the practice ground and an improved drive to function as a unit gave the bowlers the support they needed and made it difficult on occasion for the opposition batsmen to settle. Captain Tom Gillespie, now Priory’s longest serving leader, was instrumental in managing sometimes limited resources to excellent effect. Fortunately both wicket-keepers, Jake Woolley and Harry Scowen are Premier League standard, with the former demonstrating exceptional glove-work in the second half of the season.
On the bowling side, one of the most pleasing aspects was seeing the improvement made by Adam Page, who took a big step forward as the season progressed, delivering with passion and control. Similarly, season debutant Harvey Faulkner showed the ability to take wickets and grew in confidence. But perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the bowling attack was the resurgence of Adam Barton. At the back end of the season he showed the pace, aggression and control that saw him earn a first-class five-wicket haul and a Sussex County debut a few years ago. In the final four games especially, Adam set the tone for the fielding session with hostile, penetrative opening bowling.
Batting progress was slower. All batsmen showed glimpses of their potential but too often a lack of confidence led to poor choices or a lack of positivity and purpose. This was still evident in the home victory over Brighton when a seemingly straightforward target of 102 was reached with only one wicket to spare. However, the victory at Cuckfield where Gillespie, Will Hutchings and John Morgan batted exceptionally well and the final win over Eastbourne headed by excellent innings from Scowen and Jake Woolley demonstrated what could be achieved. These could be watershed moments going forward. Another pleasing aspect of the batting was the emergence of Faulkner and Dylan Woolley, Jake’s younger brother, as a potential opening pair solving a problematic area for the club this year.
Sri Lankan, Dilshan De Zoysa, proved a talented overseas player and will need to be replaced by an all-rounder of similar stature. Ideally, I would also like to see the team attract another high quality seamer and a top order batter. But equally important will be keeping veteran all-rounder and player of the year, John Morgan, fit and available.
The second XI narrowly missed out on promotion and have reached the Sussex Trophy final at Hove on Sunday (19th September), with exciting youngsters Iden McCleave, Ethan Turner and Seaver Cowley contributing significantly. Any of these could have a breakthrough season next year reflecting the opportunities available to young local cricketers at Priory who are talented and committed.
All in all, it was the wettest season in recent memory – but eventually the sun came out in abundance on the field of play for the Priory boys.
FOUR WINS OUT OF FOUR
Hastings & St Leonards Priory 214-7;
On 4th September at Horntye the cricketers of Hastings & St Leonards Priory retained their Sussex Premier League status for 2022 with a fourth successive victory. A solid batting display by the home side featuring half-centuries by Jake Woolley and Harry Scowen set up a defensible total of 214 runs from 50 overs; visitors Eastbourne crumpled in the face of their varied bowling attack headed by left-arm pace bowler Adam Barton (3 for 26 in 9 overs) and spinner Dilshan De Zoysa (3 for 40 in 10) to fall short by 46 runs.
The victory not only kept Priory above their relegated rivals Cuckfield and Haywards Heath but also lifted them above Brighton & Hove to finish a very creditable seventh in the final league table.
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