Middleton’s clash with league leaders Arundel in Sussex division three west was a brilliant spectacle for Sussex League cricket.
The home side secured victory with one ball to spare, beating last season’s epic encounter which was also decided on the final delivery.
Middleton’s pre-season preparations have been hampered by poor weather so it was essential to start the new campaign well.
They won the toss and put Arundel into bat and Middleton captain Brandon Hanley and South African import Nikolai Smith made early inroads into a suspect Arundel batting line-up.
The first four wickets fell quickly, leaving the visitors 48 for four and with little hope of a comeback as the home side’s bowlers grew in confidence.
Yet Arundel showed grit and determination as they fought back. Captain Ally James (52) and promising youngster Keelan Shoulders (58) showed decent shot selection and patience can be rewarded on a slow and low early-season wicket. Manton and Chitty ensured Arundel completed their allotted overs, finishing on 206 for eight.
Pick of the bowlers was the medium-pacer Hanley and hard-working Smith, who took four and three wickets respectively. Tom Davies showed a lot of hard work had been done through the winter by picking up the wicket of James.
In Middleton’s reply the first wicket soon fell - Hansford went early to Shoulders. Wicketkeeper Burrows was promoted to opener and the selection proved a success as he and Towner put on 54 for the second wicket.
Small partnerships provided the perfect remedy for any loss of wicket.
Thompson (13) and Smith (11) provided good back-up for Towner, who used left-hand, right-hand combinations to good effect.
Chris Spedding came in with the home side needing to push on and his well-timed 34 turned the match on its head.
Towner played the anchor role for Middleton with a patient 81 before being bowled by Shoulders with two overs left.
Big-hitting Hanley and a newly-slimline Adam Rawstrone saw the hosts home with a ball to spare.
The promotion hopefuls felt they were never in danger of letting the game slip away and the effect of their new coach Rob Maier is beginning to show.
Captain Hanley said: “The team dug in and repaid all the hard work everyone put in behind the scenes to make this fixture happen. Our focus was on unity and we showed that, not just as a team but as a whole sports club.”