Lindfield 176 (43.4 overs)
Hastings & St Leonards Priory 178 for 7 (36.1 overs) 

Hastings & St Leonards Priory enjoyed a day of success on a number of fronts last Saturday. At Horntye Park they bowled visitors Lindfield  out for 176, and despite losing a late flurry of wickets, won comfortably enough by a three-wicket margin with nearly nine overs to spare. Meanwhile over in West Sussex promotion rivals Billingshurst and Bognor Regis, due to face off against each other, had to sit out a frustrating afternoon watching the rain; and nearest challengers Haywards Heath suffered a surprise two-wicket defeat by lowly Goring-on-Sea. 

Priory now have a cushion of 25 points over Bognor and 26 over Heath. One more win, plus the odd bonus point, from their last two games should be enough to confirm them as divisional champions and uncork the champagne to celebrate return to the Sussex Premier League after just one season slumming it below:

The match at Horntye tomorrow (Saturday) against Hassocks side St James’s Montefiore, who have lost only twice all summer and are still in with a shout of promotion themselves, is likely to be testing. However, the last match of the season on Saturday 31st August takes Priory to Ifield, relegated along with them from the Premier last season and already certain to be relegated again to Division 3 after only one victory all season amidst 13 defeats. 

Back on 10th August the Hastings side had travelled to Burgess Hill. Batting first on a pitch that gave the bowlers help throughout, they started solidly enough with Ricardo de Nobrega scoring a rapid 20, and Joe Billings (29) and Tom Gillespie (39) adding 45 for the second wicket. But star batsman Elliot Hooper failed for once, and they looked in some trouble at 127 for six. The dependable Jake Woolley (45 not out) and veteran George Campbell (49) changed their fortunes with a stand of 80, and with some closing blows from John Morgan they reached 233 from their 45 overs.

In reply Burgess Hill could not cope with Priory’s combined speed and spin attack and collapsed to 41 all out, no batsman making double figures. Morgan helped himself with 3 for 10, Jed O’Brien with 4 for 13, and Hooper 2 for 7.

Last Saturday the game may look on paper not so one-sided, but Hastings held the upper hand throughout. When Lindfield batted, Morgan and Adam Page took early wickets, the spin twins Hooper and O’Brien squeezed the run rate down, then Adam Barton returned to demolish the tail.  The visitors’ total looked inadequate, and so it proved. De Nobrega departed early this time, but Billings (34), Hooper (62) and Woolley (37) kept the scoreboard moving, and though a complacent 167 for three became a nervous 174 for seven, Priory got themselves over the line.

There have been plenty of eye-catching performances through the season. The tall and stylish Hooper, who has been called up several times to play for Sussex County 2nd XI, has undoubtedly been the star, scoring 608 runs in confident vein at an average of over 50, and taking 35 wickets. John Morgan, veteran fast bowler as well as club chairman, has enjoyed his finest season in years, also claiming 35 wickets at an average of 12.29 and chipping in some useful runs. Australian recruit de Nobrega has scored two centuries in an aggregate of over 600 runs as opener.

But sufficient runs have also flowed from all the other principal batsmen – Billings, Woolley, Gillespie, Ryan Hoadley and Greg Devlin – to post competitive totals in almost all the games this season; while O’Brien and Barton have turned in excellent bowling performances in partnering Hooper and Morgan. It’s been a great team showing.

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