Injury to Negi compounds Priory woes 

18 JUNE:
Match drawn

Hastings & St Leonards Priory 195 
East Grinstead 182 for 9

25 JUNE:
Lost by seven wickets

Hastings & St Leonards 248 for 9
Three Bridges 254 for 3 

A home defeat by Three Bridges last Saturday has left Hastings & St Leonards Priory adrift in the Sussex Cricket League table, 23 and 24 points respectively behind Eastbourne and Brighton & Hove. 

A young and immature team was always likely to suffer some bad days at Premier level, and with injuries to key bowlers compounding a lack of batting quality, they are finding it hard to match more experienced opponents at this level. It was the sixth defeat in seven matches since victory over Horsham on the opening day of the season back in early May. There is no lack of fight in the makeshift dressing room at Claremont, however, and some sterling individual performances are keeping morale from sagging too low.

Priory captain Tom Gillespie rues dismissal at Claremont

Prime performer has been John Morgan, giving vintage displays with both bat and ball. On 18 June, away against league leaders East Grinstead, Priory lost two wickets in the first 13 balls and, despite a patient innings of 64 from Jake Woolley, had stumbled on to 103 for six and 139 for eight before an excellent knock from Ryan Hoadley (63 from 81 balls) managed to hoist the eventual total to 195. Then Morgan, opening the bowling with Abhay Negi and wheeling away unchanged throughout the home side’s innings, took six wickets for 82 off 27 overs as the home side finished 14 runs short of their target with just one wicket left. The result was a creditable draw, and might well have been a victory but for some dropped catches and a cautious decision on the part of the East Grinstead number 11 to defend the last over rather than hitting out. 

Last Saturday, arriving at the crease after 18 overs with the score at 49 for five, Morgan swatted the first ball he received to the cover boundary and thereafter dominated the Three Bridges attack. Aided by a flat pitch, fast outfield and variable bowling, and ably supported by Iden McCleave (35) and Seaver Cowley (34), he hit 107 off 108 balls. 

Unable to defend

Priory’s resulting total of 248 was their highest of the season, but they were unable to defend it. Morgan was for once unable to make any significant impact, missing his bowling partner Abnay Negi. The visiting batsmen rapidly took command, the openers sharing a partnership of 154 before being parted, and they cruised on to victory by seven wickets with 11 overs to spare. 

Indian all-rounder Negi arrived as Priory’s ‘overseas’ recruit this season with a considerable reputation, not just in India but also in English conditions. Last year, playing in Lancashire for Fulwood and Broughton in the Northern Premier League, he scored 610 runs at an average of 32 and took 47 wickets at under 17. For Priory, he bowled fast and accurately in the team’s opening matches, giving the team a more threatening seam attack alongside Morgan than it has had for some years, though he has never been able to get set as batsman, scoring just 20 runs in six innings. Then he suffered a broken bone in his left forearm while batting. Having missed the home game against Eastbourne on 11 June, he returned valiantly for the encounter with East Grinstead and managed to bowl 13 overs, but was subsequently advised to keep his arm in a sling in order to ensure a proper recovery. He was watching disconsolately from the boundary last Saturday as his team-mates suffered in the field.

Earlier in the campaign, young spinner Harvey Faulkner was also sidelined by a strain in his back. Returning to the ranks in June he has looked a very promising prospect, delivering with more verve and confidence than last year, and was rewarded with a return of five wickets for 18 in a match against Preston Nomads. Bowling at Claremont, the flat pitch and short boundaries over long on and long off aren’t helpful, but he will no doubt have other good days.

Next up for Priory are tough away fixtures at Roffey and at Horsham, second and third respectively in the league table. Negi may be able to return to the attack but cannot be expected to bat in a more than perfunctory capacity with a damaged left arm. Captain Tom Gillespie, whose own form with the bat has been patchy, will be hoping for more heroics from Morgan but also some more reliable run-getting throughout the team. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. You can also support local journalism by becoming a friend of HIP. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.