Chichester shouldn’t have played - but at least they’re safe

Chichester guaranteed survival in cricket’s Sussex Premier League despite losing at Roffey.

In their penultimate match of the season Chichester knew a fourth consecutive win to make sure they could not be relegated. But in the event, they didn’t even need that.

Despite good covers at Roffey, rain had taken its toll. Chichester arrived to find a pitch totally saturated at one end and damp at the other – and seemingly little prospect of play.

Captain Mark Bamford was astounded the pitch was deemed fit when he able to insert a finger 2cm into the wicket and one of his team-mates left an impression of the sole of his trainers after walking on the pitch.

Bamford asked Roffey to bat and they started very slowly. However, early wickets failed to fall as Josh Fleming (35) and Chris Webb (44) batted with patience. But Roffey lost a number of wickets and found themselves 145 for six.

Aaron Jeal had an old-fashioned slog and reached 35, which enabled the home side to close on 201 for nine. That might suggest there was no real problem with the wicket, but the boundaries at Roffey are so small the score was more like 140 at a normal ground.

The pitch was drying and Chichester believed they would have had a fair chance of victory. Bamford (26) and Jes Goode (46) played well in difficult conditions to take the score to 59, but the introduction of spinner Luke Barnard changed the game.

Barnard’s first ball to Bamford turned about three feet as a chunk of the wicket was dislodged by the ball. This continued and Chichester had no real hope as he claimed four for 40.

Bamford said: “League regulations require that pitches do not exhibit excessive turn or seam movement and the damp nature of the pitch prevented this standard from being met. The bowling of Barnard showed why the decision to play appeared a strange one.

“Premier League cricket should be played in good conditions.”

Dave Leaver hit a late 31 and Justin Scott 20, but Chichester closed on 146 all out and gained ten points from the game.

Word reached Chichester when they were fielding that Three Bridges had lost to Brighton. This meant the seventh Roffey wicket that fell resulted in Chichester gaining enough points to ensure finishing above Three Bridges.

Pulborough were the only other side who could send Chichester down and rumours reached them that Pulborough had won – but only when they got home were they able to confirm they were safe.

Chichester host Brighton in the final game on Saturday, but their thoughts are moving towards preparations for next year as they must strengthen for 2012.