CRICKET: Precarious Champions
Hastings & St Leonards Priory completed their eleventh and twelfth victories of the summer over the past two Saturdays to win the Sussex League Division 2 title and secure promotion back to the ECB Premier League. Precariously placed after early batting collapses in each game – against St James’s Montefiore at Horntye, then away at Ifield –Priory gave their supporters plenty to worry about. But sterling innings lower down the order, coupled with tight control from their dependable bowling attack, squeezed them home twice.
Batting first against St James’s, Priory were swiftly reduced to 22 for four, but Ricardo de Nobrega battled to a top score of 52, and late partnerships hoisted the eventual total to 170. The visitors may have still fancied their chances, but against the combined pace and spin attack of John Morgan, Adam Barton, Jed O’Brien and Elliott Hooper, they were always behind the clock and lost wickets regularly, only a last wicket stand of 30 reducing the final margin to 17 runs.
Against Ifield Priory put their already relegated opponents in to bat and may have expected a quick demolition. Ifield’s ‘overseas’ batsman Prasansana Jayamanne had other ideas, scoring 72 runs in a total score of 163 for nine off the regulation 45 overs. And when in reply Priory’s top three run-scorers – de Nobrega, Hooper and Jake Woolley – were back in the pavilion with only 28 on the board, a shock upset looked on the cards. It was perhaps fortunate that a short interruption for rain reduced the target (under Duckworth/Lewis calculations) to 153. In any event Joe Billings (26), Tom Gillespie (with a cracking captain’s innings of 61 from 55 balls) and Greg Devlin, kept them well ahead of the run rate, and they eventually won with three wickets to spare; long-serving Morgan fittingly hitting the winning run.
• Footnote: congratulations to Priory player of the year, Elliott Hooper, who after several appearances for Sussex second eleven in recent seasons, was given his full county debut in a match against Middlesex last month.
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