Hailsham played host to Forest Row in what proved to be one of the most exciting games seen on the last day of a season.
With Forest Row sitting top of the table and Hailsham second all was to play for in what turned out to be an enthralling match. Hailsham needed victory to secure promotion ahead of Chiddingly and also had an outside chance of winning the league if they prevented Forest Row from gaining 16 points.
Hailsham won the toss and asked Forest Row to bat first on a flat looking pitch. Hailsham struggled to make early inroads with the Forest Row openers making a quick start. In the field a number of dropped catches proved costly and by the drinks break Hailsham had picked up just one wicket taken by Matt Smith (1-43) who bowled well without any luck. Forest Row batsmen Steve Wright (65) and Craig Sargent (51) were building a formidable partnership that was putting a major dent in Hailsham’s promotion bid. With the score 113-1 Hailsham desperately needed wickets to pull themselves back into the match. Captain Will Slemmings (1-8) took the crucial wicket of Wright who was batting aggressively but played one shot too many and gifted a straight forward catch back to Slemmings off his own bowling. This sparked a collapse in which Forest Row lost 9 wickets for just 68 runs.
Varun Khullar (5-64) once again showed his class with the ball ripping through the lower order, he was supported well by James McDonald (2-54) who bowled a fine spell of leg spin. Forest Row eventually crawled their way to 181 before being bowled out. At the half way stage all was to play for, Hailsham needed 182 for promotion and couldn’t lose more than 8 wickets if they wanted to win the league.
Hailsham’s chase started disastrously losing both David Anthony (0) and star batsman Matt Dawber (9) cheaply. Hailsham tried to rebuild with Darren Moore (67) keeping his cool under serious pressure being exerted by the Forest Row bowlers. However wickets kept falling at the other end McDonald (4) and Khullar (5) closely followed perishing to good bowling. It seemed at 50-4 Hailsham’s promotion bid was going up in flames but Jaz Walder (37) came to the crease and both he and Moore rescued Hailsham’s hopes.
Moore batted superbly punishing any bad balls on offer and Walder supported him well. Moore was eventually dismissed with 50 runs still needed and the pressure once again was back on Hailsham’s batsmen. Walder continued to play well however new batsman Paul McDonald (6) came and went. At this stage the score was 142-6 with 9 overs left, it was going to be an intriguing finish to the season. Forest Row needed 3 wickets to secure the league title and Hailsham still need 40 runs to secure promotion and had the opportunity to claim the league title themselves. Tom Hicks (5*) was next in and he and Walder started to scamper quick singles as the bowling was accurate and bad balls were hard to come by. Hailsham were slowly creeping towards their target of 182 but disaster struck when Walder went for a big shot looking to release the pressure and was bowled. It brought to an end a fine knock of 37. Andrew Anthony (0) came to the crease with 19 still needed however the Forest Row bowlers had their tails up and Anthony was bowled first ball. It left Hailsham on the edge of defeat facing another season in Division 3 after news that Chiddingly had gained full points against Uckfield. The score was now 164-8 with 5 overs remaining and with the game reaching its climax nerves on the side-lines were rising. Matt Smith (15*) made his way out to the crease and joined Hicks. Both kept their composure and ticked the score along with Smith who had only just started playing again after a 7 year break hitting the more aggressive shots whilst Hicks was happy to rotate the strike. With two overs to go Hailsham needed 7, Forest Row decided to bring the field up trying to prevent any singles. Hicks managed to chip the ball over the infield and managed to run three, this left four needed from 8 balls and Smith on strike. Smith only needed one ball finishing the game in style with a huge 6 that hit the pavilion roof. This sparked jubilant scenes as Hailsham players and spectators ran onto the pitch to celebrate their teams victory that not only guaranteed promotion but meant Hailsham ended up as Division 3 league winners by 1 point. It was a remarkable end to a great season for Hailsham and a proud day for everyone involved at the club.
The West Terrace Dental Practice man of the match went to Darren Moore for a composed and beautifully constructed 67 under massive pressure.
Director of cricket Rob Wilkinson said “This is one of the biggest days in the recent history of the club, after last year’s cup win and now the 1s moving up to division 2 as champions, it shows how the whole club is moving forward. The scenes at the end of the game showed how much the club means to a lot of people who had come out to watch the biggest match of the season. I am so proud of the 1st XI and the whole clubs achievements this season, the planning for next season has already started”.