Cricket: Smith edges Middleton closer to their prize

Nikolai Smith in action for Middleton againsat Steyning Picture by Kate Shemilt C121036-1
Nikolai Smith in action for Middleton againsat Steyning Picture by Kate Shemilt C121036-1

A five-wicket victory against Steyning ensured Middleton are one step closer to another Sussex League division three west title.

With only three games left they are in pole position - but the race could be decided by a last-day showdown on September 1.

On another glorious summer’s day, leaders Middleton won the toss and elected to bowl in an attempt to gain as many bonus points as possible. Steyning batted with patience and ease as the Middleton bowling attack lacked penetration and potency.

Despite losing an early wicket, Steyning never looked in any trouble. Wicketkeeper Dave Kennett scored a well-constructed 65, making Middleton regret dropping a simple catch early in his innings.

Opener Hywel Jones (37) and mid-order batsman Simon Burfiend (41) also enjoyed productive games with the bat.

Again Hanley was the pick of Middleton’s bowlers finishing with two for 67. Searle, Smith and Rob Maier also chipped in with a wicket each as Steyning ended on 208 for five.

Oddly the batting side never seemed to press on with their innings, maintaining a hesitant run rate throughout.

The home side donned their pads hoping to put aside a disappointing performance with the ball. Unusually, Middleton lost both openers Hansford and Burrows early, but Rob Maier (54) and Nikolai Smith (96*) put together one of the best partnerships Sea Lane has seen in recent years - contributing 111 for the third wicket.

A late burst from Chris Spedding (18) ensured Smith could lead his side to a five-wicket victory. It was another match-winning performance from Middleton’s overseas player who seems to be coming to the party just at the right time.

The Middleton batsmen all agree that in Matheesha Ranasinghe and Sam Grant, Steyning possess the best opening bowling attack in the league - their consistency posed a threat in both fixtures this season.

Credit has to be given to Steyning, who showed a good game of cricket can be played in a friendly and competitive manner without any of the histrionics that seems to have crept into modern-day club cricket.