The final day of the Sussex Cricket League season began with Stirlands and Chichester Priory Park both still having hopes of promotion.
One made it - one didn’t. Read the reports below...
Southwater v Stirlands
Stirlands clinched promotion in the most dramatic way possible - when they were on the way home.
They had drawn at Southwater and needed Rottingdean to lose to Seaford to ensure they finished second.
And that’s just what Rottingdean did - to a six off the last ball.
On an overcast day with heavy rain approaching, Stirlands travelled to Southwater knowing victory would secure promotion.
Stand-in captain Torquil Deacon won the toss and chose to bat, hoping scoreboard pressure against the league’s bottom side would prove decisive.
The Stirlands top order couldn’t adapt to the variable bounce from the green wicket and the visitors quickly found themselves precariously placed on 30 for three.
However, as has happened several times this season, the middle order steadied the ship and went about rebuilding the innings, with captain Deacon taking the anchor role, allowing Ajinkya Deshpande, Dan Mugford abd Ed Clarke to play positively.
A ninth-wicket stand of 52 between Ned Renwick and Dan Beal took the visitors to 185 before a declaration after 51 overs.
Stirlands were hopeful of taking the ten wickets they required – however they hadn’t taken into account the positive strokeplay of Southwater’s captain, Alex Harding.
He was determined to try to win the game for his side to give them maximum chance of survival in the county league, scoring a well-constructed 52 before being caught by David Briance after sharing an opening stand of 94.
Wickets and runs continued to come, but Southwater were in the accendancy in miserable conditions.
With just 12 runs required, the umpires had to give in to the rain and play was abandoned.
Stirlands knew promotion was then out of their hands, while results hadn’t gone for Southwater who were relegated to the Invitation League.
As the Stirlands players and supporters headed home, news came filtering through that Seaford had managed to beat Rottingdean with a six from the final ball of the season to win by one wicket – and secure promotion for Stirlands to the delight of everyone in the club.
It means next season will bring a division-three campaign including derbies with Chichester and Pagham.
Crawley v Chichester
The final day saw both the division-three title and second promotion place up for grabs - but it ended with Chichester missing out on the prized places.
Chichester needed to beat bottom side Crawley and rely on results elsewhere, this on a day when heavy rain was forecast.
Chichester were asked to bat first. Several balls bounced erratically or lost pace after pitching.
Given the unpredictable wicket, Peter Lamb’s innings was all the more extraordinary. He batted with patience to anchor the innings and his score of 79 was far and away the highest of the day – other than Lamb, only George Stephens (18) and Rob Carver (21no) reached double figures for the visitors.
Chichester declared after just 42 overs on 161 for nine. Kasif Naveed took five wickets.
Knowing rain could fall at any time, Chichester needed quick wickets and that’s exactly what they got. The ever reliable Matt Geffen took 5-20 to finish the year with 56 league wickets.
Crawley captain Raswan Hussain (35) offered some resistance but the rest of his team failed to show the same kind of commitment.
Chichester polished off the last of the Crawley batsmen to dismiss them for just 58 to earn a 103-run victory and 30 crucial points. Minutes later the heavens opened.
All attention turned to the other key games at Portslade and Burgess Hill.
Burgess Hill had lost to Mayfield but Portslade had won. Portslade were confirmed as champions with 359 points, Mayfield got the same number of points but ended up second once the tie-breaking procedure was implemented. Chichester had to settle for a share of third on 347.
In hindsight, you could point the finger at certain incidents that cost Chichester across the year. The tied game on the opening day of the season against Crowhurst Park and the narrow failure to score the extra four runs needed to beat Portslade last week were among them.
On reflection the final table probably reflects where Chichester are at the moment. The batting was a weak point but the majority of the batsmen are still young and will improve.
Chichester will probably start the 2017 season with the strongest bowling line-up in division three and will be feared and respected.
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