Tight at the top: Horsham CC and Roffey continue battle for Sussex Premier glory

Horsham won and Roffey drew in their latest Sussex Premier League outings to keep it tight at the top of the table - while Roffey's run in a national competition has ended.

HORSHAM BOUNCE BACK TO SECOND

Horsham bounced back to winning ways with another strong, confident performance, with both bat and ball, at their Cricketfield Road HQ last Saturday – thrashing reigning champions Preston Nomads by 158 runs, the visitors getting little more than half of Horsham’s score.

In five of their six home games this season Horsham have bowled out the opposition, going on to win on each occasion: an exceptional achievement on Horsham’s excellent batting surface, the latest win moving them up to second, just 3 points behind the leaders, near neighbour Roffey.

Nick Oxley at the crease for Horsham CC | Picture: Martin Denyer

Batting first after winning the toss, Horsham created a sound platform, and from 92-1, number 3 Joe Willis made 88, scoring rapidly in partnership with skipper Nick Oxley (80). Then, following his 99 at Middleton last week, 17 year old Ollie Haines got into the 90s again, falling a vexing 4 runs short of an elusive ton, but his 75 ball innings, including 10 fours and 4 sixes, enabled Horsham to declare on 325-5, giving them three extra overs to get Nomads out.

Early wickets left Nomads struggling at 37-4. Ollie Gatting and Baalaaj Khan staged a partial recovery, but once they were out for 28 and 44, respectively there was insufficient further resistance, Ben Williams hollowing out the middle and lower order with four wickets, Ben Lister finishing with 3-38, and the remaining spoils being shared by Sam Martin-Jenkins, Oxley and Will Beer as Nomads crashed to 167 all out with more than 18 overs to spare.

Delighted Horsham Cricket Manager Ben Williams told the County Times: “It is fantastic to see Ollie and Joe batting like long established players, with Nick Oxley leading from the front in good form, too. We’re in a great position with plenty of self-belief, but we’ve got two tough games coming up – at East Grinstead, then a home match against Roffey – we respect both of them, but the way we’re playing we’ve proved that we’re capable of winning whether we bat or bowl first.”

Ollie Haines said: “It feels really good to be gettting some more runs. This was a brilliant win for us as we continue to push for the top spot. Its great to be in form – it was certainly frustrating to be dismissed in the 90s again, but I’m feeling that I belong in the side and my confidence is increasing.”

18 year old Joe Willis added: “That win summed up the way we’ve played this season when we’ve done well, both being able to take all ten wickets and the batters getting a score. Even when we lose an early wicket there’s no panic, and its really satisfying to make match winning contributions. The team spirit and banter that we have creates a really positive atmosphere.”

ROFFEY ESCAPE WITH A DRAW AT EASTBOURNE

Roffey had to be content with a draw at the Saffrons last Saturday, where struggling Eastbourne ran them mighty close after rattling up a demanding score and then taking late wickets in a push to distance themselves from Hastings and Brighton in the relegation zone. But, the 15 points from the draw enable Roffey to remain top, with Horsham breathing down their necks, just 3 points behind, one ahead of third-placed East Grinstead, who lost at Three Bridges.

After inserting Eastbourne, Roffey began well with two quick wickets from Jas Bassan, but the seasiders re-grouped with 31 from opener Matthew Pope, 61 from Joe Pocklington, and, especially, a watchful127 from Scott Lenham from the legendary Sussex dynasty – between them, grandfather Les, father Neil and brother Archie having played almost 700 matches across the formats for the county.

Without George Fleming, James Pearce and Rohit Jagota, Roffey’s bowling resources were stretched, enabling Eastbourne to post 281, finally succumbing off the final ball of Roffey’s 58 over allocation, Bassan finishing his marathon spell with 6-89, ably supported by Will Fenwick’s 3-36.

Roffey began their reply well, with a 77 run first wicket partnership, but while in form Theo Rivers carried on to reach 82, after Mike Norris had departed for 38, only a relatively sedate 54 from Usman Khan gave Roffey any real chance of overtaking the target as Joe Pocklington and Jacob Smith shared 7 wickets between them, Smith’s final over of the match being a double wicket maiden, leaving Roffey clinging on at 225-9 at stumps.

Skipper Matt Davies told us: “It was disappointing – we lacked a cutting edge with the ball, Jas apart. Then, with the bat we managed to get ourselves into a good position with 10-15 overs to go but lost wickets at crucial stages. While we are disappointed, we still have six games left to have a real go at regaining the title.”

On Saturday Roffey welcome Three Bridges to the Crawley Road ground, before, on August 6th making the short trip to Horsham for what could be a decisive game in the very tight chase for glory.

ROFFEY BOW OUT OF THE BERTIE JOEL TROPHY

Roffey’s impressive debut run in The Conference Cup for the Bertie Joel Trophy – a tournament for senior sides in the Metropolitan and South East area – ended at the Quarter Final stage in defeat by Spencer (currently placed third in the Surrey Premiership) when Roffey visited them at Earlsfield, London SW18 last Sunday.

Batting first after winning the toss, Roffey, fielding a mixed first and second XI side without Rohit Jagota, Usman Khan and George Fleming, reached 75-1, but progress was measured, with subsequent wickets falling at regular intervals in the attempt to press on to a demanding total. Eight batsmen reached double figures, Ben Whelpton top-scoring with 36, but, in the face of tight bowling (Ollie Bocking finishing with 4-35), nobody was able to capitalise on the succession of promising starts, Roffey being bowled out for 182 three balls short of their 45 over ration.

With Spencer requiring a shade over a modest 4 runs an over Roffey needed to take early wickets, and, at 45-3 an upset was on the cards. But, despite Will Fenwick taking 2 wickets in consecutive balls, a 50 from Wliiam De Cani, and an unbeaten 79 from Tim Young containing 12 boundaries, enabled Spencer to win by 6 wickets with almost 7 overs unused.

Spencer is a big club – they fielded a total of 14 sides on Sunday, and 10 on Saturday, so there is no shame in bowing out at their hands, disappointed Roffey skipper Matt Davies saying: “This was always going to be a tough day for us given our poor availability, however we were certainly in the game at 45-3, but unfortunately we couldn’t convert that into pressure. It’s been a really beneficial tournament for our younger players and we’re pleased with how it’s gone.”