It was third time lucky for Bexhill’s cricketers as they picked up their first win of the Sussex Premier League season on Saturday.
A half-century from Malcolm Johnson and Dean Crawford’s six wickets helped Bexhill see off Billingshurst by 79 runs to end their two-match losing start to the league campaign.
After winning the toss and choosing to bat at The Polegrove, Bexhill battled their way to 202-9 before declaring an over before the end of their 58-over allocation.
It was tough going early on for the home batsmen. Bexhill found themselves 1-1 in the fourth over after Tim Hambridge was caught at slip off the bowling of Sussex professional Chris Liddle and when fellow opening batsman Shawn Johnson was caught behind off Andy Barr, Bexhill were 21-2.
Malcolm Johnson was the cornerstone of the innings, though, and several other batsmen made useful contributions around him as Bexhill passed 200 for the second week running.
Neil Blatchly, promoted from the seconds to replace the injured James Walker, made 13 until being third man out with 42 on the board. Malcolm Johnson and Cameron Burgon put on 62 for the fourth wicket to take the total into three figures before Burgon was trapped lbw for 26.
Malcolm Johnson was bowled by Ben Williams 22 runs later for a season’s best 61 off 94 balls with 10 fours and a six. Bexhill lost Liam Bryant soon afterwards to sit 131-6 and at that stage Billingshurst would’ve been fancying their chances.
Bexhill captain Johnathan Haffenden (27) and Crawford (16) - both of whom were just shy of fifties in the previous weekend’s defeat at Horsham - made handy runs until falling within three runs of each other, both to Williams.
Williams promptly claimed his fourth victim to leave Bexhill 169-9, but an unbroken last wicket partnership of 33 between Josh Beeslee (25 not out) and Joe Cox (5 not out) gave Bexhill a real lift going in to tea.
Bexhill came out after the interval and blew away Billingshurst’s top order. Both opening batsmen were back in the pavilion with only two on the board thanks to Crawford and Shawn Johnson, and when Crawford picked up his second wicket, the visitors were reeling at 7-3 and never truly recovered.
Dhanushka Mitipolaarachchi hit 20 off 22 balls until being caught by Bryant off Crawford and Shawn Johnson then trapped Jay Hartard lbw to leave Billingshurst in huge trouble at 31-5.
Joe Cox got in on the act by claiming the next two wickets, the first of them caught behind by Burgon and the second lbw, and the game was virtually up with Billingshurst 58-7.
Liddle (47) and Shane West (21) put up some resistance by adding 44 for the eighth wicket before Crawford brought about the demise of both to make it five wickets for him and leave Billingshurst 103-9.
Although Barr clubbed an unbeaten 17 off 12 balls, Crawford fittingly finished the game off by having last man Williams caught by Malcolm Johnson. Billingshurst were all out for 123 and Crawford ended with 6-26 off 13.1 overs. Shawn Johnson took 2-34 and Joe Cox 2-15.
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