Stirlands are back on track thanks to centurion twins

Sean Heather and Will Gubbins mark a milestone during their huge Stirlands stand  Picture by Paul Paxford /
Sean Heather and Will Gubbins mark a milestone during their huge Stirlands stand Picture by Paul Paxford /

Putting the disappointment of the defeat to Billingshurst behind them, Stirlands hammered fourth-placed Steyning in Sussex division three west to avenge their ten-wicket defeat at their hands on the opening day.

On a baking afternoon with a beautiful batting track and lightning-quick outfield at their mercy, Steyning won the toss and surprisingly decided to bowl first.

The decision ranked alongside those of Nasser Hussain at Brisbane in 2002 and Ricky Ponting at Edgbaston in 2005 as Stirlands racked up 317 for one declared from 49 overs.

The innings was given a fine start by the Stirlands openers Sean Heather and Stuart Hanks as they put on 60 for the first wicket inside nine overs. Hanks played with his usual abandon, cover-driving Sri Lankan Don Ramesh Subasinghe over the top of the covers before the bowler got his revenge by bowling him for 21.

Will Gubbins joined Heather and the pair capitalised on the excellent start. They kept the run-rate ticking over at more than five an over, putting away anything loose, and not allowing any bowler to settle.

Subasinghe returned for a fiery second spell but he left easy pickings for the Stirlands pair.

Captain Heather continued to flay the ragged Steyning attack to all parts of the ground, bringing up his fifth league 100 of the season with a reverse sweep for four, much to the delight of the patrons.

Heather cut loose towards the end of the innings, with James Johnson dispatched for three consecutive sixes, and Heather finished 169 not out from 144 balls, with 17 fours and six sixes.

Gubbins batted in his usual controlled and sedate manner before accelerating to register his second league ton for Stirlands, finishing 110 not out.

The pair added an unbroken 257 for the second wicket in 41.3 overs, a record league partnership for Stirlands, leaving Stirlands the luxury of declaring early, giving themselves 51 overs to bowl Steyning out. It was the first time since records began that Stirlands had two centurions in the same league innings.

Stirlands were without leading wicket-taker Struan Cameron, but their hunt for wickets got off to the best possible start as Ant Ender trapped Jamie Carter lbw first ball.

Overseas man Anthony Butler found some extra nip to nick other opener Lee Mottershead to Heather at second slip, leaving Steyning 16 for two, before he picked up his second wicket as Matthew Sewell drove to Will Gubbins at extra cover. Steyning were 28 for three.

Buckley and Shellford rebuilt the innings but Chris May made the important breakthrough as Buckley gloved behind to keeper Hanks for 58, leaving Steyning 98 for four.

With senior pro Nick Hunt holding up an end with some tight off-spin, Ender returned and his pace and bounce was too much for the Steyning batsmen as he ripped through the middle order, picking up four consecutive wickets, three of which were caught by Hanks, who finished with four catches in the innings.

With only one more wicket required, May picked it up - that of the stubborn Hywel Jones for 42, caught by Heather, and Steyning were all out for 162, Stirlands winning by 155 runs. Ender finished with figures of five for 36, with Butler (2-31) and May (2-43) picking up the other wickets.

Stirlands received the maximum quota of 30 points, and are now 30 behind Billingshurst. They travel to third-from-bottom Wisborough Green on Saturday.