Priory Batsmen Find It Tough At The Top

Hastings & St Leonards Priory 150; Roffey 151 for 2

The cricketers of Hastings & St Leonards Priory, back in the Sussex Premier League for the first season since 2018, have been finding the going tough. After their initial match against East Grinstead was rained off, they managed a tight victory over Middleton on 15th May, but that has been followed by three defeats, and they stand ninth out of ten in the league table.

It’s fair to record that captain Tom Gillespie has lost the toss in all four completed games. But it’s not difficult to pinpoint the prime reason for their struggles: failures of the top order batting.

Against Middleton, Gillespie and ex-Sussex County batsman Harry Finch shared an opening stand of 33. Finch went on to make 65, and useful contributions from Sri Lankan debutant Dilshan De Zoysa and Ryan Hoadley pushed the team score to 114 before the third wicket fell, providing a base for the middle and late orders to reach a defensible total of 200.

In subsequent matches that base has not been laid. Finch has been dismissed cheaply three times, and early wickets have tumbled with him. Against Three Bridges on 22nd May, Priory lost three for 17 and subsided to 126 all out to lose by seven wickets. Against Preston Nomads a week later, facing a not insuperable target of 206, it was three for 27, the eventual score of 167 reached by dint of 37 from Harry Scowen and a brave 45 not out from John Morgan. 

Against Roffey last Saturday, invited to bat first, the line-up was shuffled, William Hutchings opening with Gillespie, Finch coming in at three. But there was no dividend: all three were back in the hutch, as Aussie commentators put it, with just 12 runs on the board, and despite a fighting innings of 53 from De Soyza, the eventual total of 150 was well short of adequate. The hosts themselves lost a couple of early wickets to Morgan’s bowling, and Jed O’Brien started with an economical spell, but once Rahit Jagota came to the crease – he has helped himself to big scores against Priory attacks of the past – the issue was quickly resolved. He powered to 84 not out off just 56 deliveries, and Roffey raced to an eight wicket victory in less than 28 overs.

Priory should certainly not despair. The limited over rules that applied in the first five matches will now be modified to a more traditional format that will allow longer spells to be bowled by spinners – to the general advantage of the Hastings team in recent seasons. The next three matches are each against sides in the bottom half of the table. Two will be at home – Haywards Heath are the visitors tomorrow (Saturday 12th June), Cuckfield on 26th June – with an away fixture against Brighton & Hove sandwiched between. 

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