Promotion for Horley 2nd XI, while Hofmann shines on his 1st XI debut

Horley 2nd XI won promotion back to the Surrey County League 2nd XI Premier Division, while the 1st and 3rd XIs had to be content with top-five finishes.
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Horley 1st XI finished a respectable fifth in their first season in Surrey Championship Division Five after losing by 68 runs at Ashford.

Horley skipper Charlie Robins lost the toss and Ashford elected to bat. Ashford got off to a watchful start due to some tight bowling and fielding from a much-changed Horley team, with several colts making their 1st team debut. One of those was Will Hofmann, who had an excellent match, taking 4-52. He started off with a double breakthrough with the score on 80, removing Fahim Mir (37) and Wendel Sebastian in consecutive balls, however unfortunately didn’t find his hat trick.

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Hofmann wasn’t finished there, claiming the scalp of both overseas players, Praveen Jakhar (39) with the score on 87 and then Rajesh Sharma after a run-a-ball 29, with a dropped catch denying Hofmann his five-for.

The Horley 2nd XI which beat Staines to clinch promotionThe Horley 2nd XI which beat Staines to clinch promotion
The Horley 2nd XI which beat Staines to clinch promotion

So, Ashford were 139-4 after 37 overs and Jamie Tilt (51) wrestled back momentum for them before getting run out by Ben Davies. Cameos from Yasiru Akalanka (23) and Gurpal Hundal (22) gave Ashford the upper hand going into their bowling innings, lifting their total to 244-9 from their 50 overs.

Horley sent out a new opening pair in the form of Adam Stephenson (39) and Aryan Patel, but Patel fell to his first ball, caught off Aftab Afridi (2-38).

Afridi claimed Regan Derham two balls later to get Ashford off to the perfect start. Stephenson was joined by Davies (48) and they took the attack to bowlers in an attempt to get ahead of the run chase. Both were looking comfortable at the crease, picking up runs with relative ease, until Rajesh Sharma (3-25) came into the attack.

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With the score on 91 after 19 overs, he had Davies caught at backward point to change the tide of the game and in his next over, claimed the wicket of Will Taylor and saw Stephenson run out to break the back of the Horley chase.

Luke Smith (25) was attempting to rebuild but wickets were falling at the other end thanks to Sharma and another run out. Smith fell lbw to returning opening bowler Gurpal Hundal (2-29) to leave Horley 141-8.

Hofmann (20 not out) and another debutant, Aidan Spalding (23), were not about to make it easy for the bowlers, taking advantage of the fielders coming into some more aggressive positions. Hundal claimed Spalding’s wicket and then Navjot Sindhu (1-35) finished off the innings to seal promotion for the home team.

Horley 2nd XI smashed Staines and Laleham in a promotion winner-takes-all decider, beating them by eight wickets at Horley Row to secure second spot in Surrey County League 2nd XI Division One and set up a return to the Premier Division after their relegation two years ago.

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Staines opted to bat but were soon regretting that as opening bowlers Chris Cosham and Guy Derham bowled superb, tight lines, resulting in the visitors being in all kinds of trouble at 17-5 at the end of the 15th over. Cosham took 3-8 from nine overs and Derham 2-6 from six, then Ben Stewart joined in, taking the sixth wicket with just 19 on the board.

No recovery ever came as Stewart (3-9) and Trevor Stevens (2-6) finished off Staines for just 49.

Horley’s reply had a few shaky moments as openers Jordan Robins and Toby Davie went for seven and eight respectively, but Ant Puttick’s 19 at number three helped to see them home after just 10.4 of the possible 40 overs, enabling the promotion party to start early.

Horley finished the season 31 points clear of Staines and only five behind champions Roehampton. Having dropped down from the Premier division in 2021, and after just missing out on promotion last season, it is a deserved success for the 2nd XI and they should be capable of thriving at the next level.

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Horley 3rd XI ended up fourth in Sussex League Division 11 West (North), 12 points off the second promotion spot after a last-day defeat by champions Crawley.

With Horley’s usual home at Copthorne unavailable, they had to stage the match at Staplefield and unfortunately a minefield of a pitch led to a low-scoring game, and Horley had the worst of the conditions after losing the toss.

They were bowled out for just 72 in 30 overs. Opener Rob Rigby made a heroic 40 from 78 balls, hitting five fours and a six. He was hit on the body by the ball several times, as the bounce was entirely unpredictable, but he battled on to provide some crucial backbone to the Horley innings.

No one else got out of single figures, but Horley still felt the total might be defendable in the conditions.

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Despite the pitch being dryer than at the start of the game, Crawley struggled too and when opening bowlers Alex Field (3-15 from seven overs) and Sam Terry (1-12 from seven overs) reduced them to 15-4, Horley’s hopes were raised. The second wicket came through an outstanding diving catch by wicket keeper Dirk Douglas off Field, while Dave Bunn held another catch off him.

Waqqas Malik and Ibrahim Malik put Crawley back in the driving seat with a 37-run stand for the fifth wicket, before Max Davie had the former caught by Douglas. Crawley struggled on to 71-5 and it looked like the game was up. Darren Croft then trapped two batters lbw in the 26th over to make it 71-7, only for Faisal Rehman to hit the winning runs in the next over.

Horley were disappointed to miss out on promotion after starting the season superbly. Bad luck with the weather, and player availability problems in the 1st and 2nd XIs which impacted on selection in the last month, meant they ended up one win short.