Chichester and Stirlands' promotion dreams go to the wire
It's down to the final week. Both Chichester and Stirlands can end the 2016 cricket season with promotion - but both have work to do in their final games this weekend.
Here are the reports from their latest matches...
Chichester v Portslade
Sussex League division three
Chichester came up agonisingly short in the quest for a vital win - but are still in with a shout of promotion on this weekend’s final day.
Priory began the day 12 points behind opponents Portslade, who occupied the final promotion place. Chichester captain Johnny Heaven asked the visitors to bat first.
An early wicket brightened the mood but Joel Crook (40) and Ian Wainwright set about building a formidable total.
Their 72-run partnership for the second wicket was broken by Rob Carver, who removed Crook. That triggered a flurry of wickets which left Portslade on 118 for five.
Wainwright and captain Paul Glover pushed the score towards 150. Wainwright departed for 56 but Glover kept the score ticking over.
An unlikely bowling hero for Chichester came in the shape of Ben Caldera who took two late wickets to derail Portslade’s charge.
This forced a declaration from Portslade in the final over to leave the score 193 for nine. Matt Geffen was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with three wickets to take him past 50 wickets for the season.
Both sides had eight bonus points secured but Chichester’s chase made the worst possible start as both openers fell cheaply with just ten on the board.
Mark Bamford, despite not having picked up a bat for more than a year, quickly began accumulating runs. He found support from Jolyon Dannatt (17) and Caldera (30) and Chichester were well placed on 161 for four.
But Caldera and then Bamford (91) departed in quick succession. A series of rash shots, aided by good pressure from Portslade, saw wickets tumbling.
Matt Bennsion (21no) rotated the strike and ran well but was running out of partners. Chichester were in danger of losing.
Last man Geffen blocked the final couple of balls to prevent defeat and the match ended in a draw. Chichester closed on 190 for nine, four away from victory.
As other results came in, a glimmer of hope began to appear with Chichester still in with a realistic chance of promotion.
They sit fourth but can still take one of the two promotion places. Chichester are away to already-relegated Crawley but will be relying on others too in their pursuit of glory.
Stirlands v Slinfold
Sussex League division four
Stirlands are one win from promotion after a thrilling victory in a low-scoring affair against Slinfold.
Home captain George Coles, in his final game of the season, won the toss and decided to bat.
This seemed to backfire as Leo Wilkinson-Beal was trapped lbw by Slinfold’s overseas player Akeem Jordan.
This set the tone for the innings as the home side’s top order all got in before falling cheaply.
The only exception was Coles who, ably assisted by George Briance, looked to transform the innings from the precarious position of 47 for four.
An error of judgement by Briance resulted in him being stumped and the home side were 92 for five.
Cole’s magnificent innings came to an end, misjudging a lofted drive off his opposite number Guy Thorne to be caught in the deep for a well-crafted 59.
A last-wicket stand between veterans Mike Clowes and David Briance pushed the score to 141 and a potentially-vital four points.
Defending a low total, early wickets are key, and after several overs of sustained pressure, Ajinkya Deshpande got the breakthrough, finding the edge of Sean Overton’s bat to reduce Slinfold to six for one.
The next ball saw another edge well taken in the slip cordon. The hat-trick ball was well defended by Jordan as Stirlands looked to take control.
Jordan was in the mood to score runs, plundering 18 from one over.
Deshpande proved his hunger for wickets, removing Guy Thorne for nought to give Gubbins his second catch of the innings.
Briance took two wickets in his first three overs to leave Slinfold 47 for five.
Try as they might, the home side couldn’t remove Jordan. With the score on 66, Deshpande was able to induce a false shot from Jordan who was, after a bit of juggling, caught by Will Gubbins for a rapid 38, to the delight of the home side and supporters.
Slinfold showed great resolve to try to chase a low score, still with time on their side. A steady partnership of 29 for the ninth wicket edged the visitors closer to their target before Briance was rewarded for his excellent spell of spin bowling, picking up his fourth wicket.
Deshpande was brought back into the attack and bowled Luke Dunning to claim his sixth wicket and earn a 30-run win and 24 points.
With third-placed Rottingdean losing to West Chiltington, Slinfold were promoted and Stirlands were left 14 points clear of their rivals for the second promotion spot.
In the final fixture at bottom side Southwater, Stirlands know victory will guarantee promotion.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking sports news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
Share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!