Middleton marvels are top at the Bill

Middleton in the field in an earlier win against Findon
Middleton in the field in an earlier win against Findon

Middleton sit 34 points clear at the top of Sussex League division two after an enthralling victory away to newly-promoted Billingshurst.

Having won the toss on a wet wicket, Middleton captain Sean Heather invited the home side to bat.

Billingshurst had 11 runs on the board before opening bowler Adam Rawstrone dismissed Richard Brown for five and his opening partner David Rose followed for 14.

Overseas player Dhanushka Mitipolaarachchi and Mike Burroughs pushed the score on to 65 before Burroughs fell victim to spinner Rob Willway, making his first appearance of the season having been away at university.

Mitipolaarachchi was timing the ball nicely and looked at ease on a wicket that was tough to bat on.

His innings, which included two straight sixes, was ended on 46 when he chipped one back to Willway, who took an impressive diving catch.

When Shane West went for just two, Billingshurst found themselves 102 for five. Andy Barr (33) was the only batsman left who really troubled Middleton but when he fell to spin bowler James Rufey, Middleton went on to take the final five Billingshurst wickets for 55 runs.

This included a fine exhibition of spin bowling from Rob Willway, who finished with impressive figures of six for 60 off his 14 overs.

In pursuit of the 158 needed to win, Middleton got off to the worst possible start, losing opener Heather first ball of the innings, being trapped lbw to fast bowler Barr.

Keelan Shoulders, Ben Hansford and Willway all followed for single-figure scores leaving the team struggling on 18 for four.

Barbadian Jofra Archer joined opener Will Burrows at the crease and the pair weathered the storm perfectly, playing risk-free cricket.

Billingshurst spinner Mitipolaarachchi (3-25) was getting the most out of a turning wicket and made life uncomfortable for the Middleton pair. Burrows and Archer put on 76 for the fifth wicket, taking the score on to 94 before the left-handed Burrows went lbw to David Dunn for a patient 35.

Archer followed 22 runs later having made a vital 44 before being caught at cover off Mitipolaarachchi. George Holman (21*) and James Rufey (20*) saw the game home for Middleton with more than eight overs to spare with three wickets remaining.

Willway said: “It’s great to be back among the lads – there’s definitely a real hunger here at Middleton this year. Every player is pushing in the same direction and the results on the pitch so far is evidence of that.”

Middleton welcome Ifield to Sea Lane on Saturday, looking to extend their lead at the top.