Hastings & St Leonards Priory star Elliot Hooper revealed he was ‘over the moon’ to be selected for his maiden first class appearance for Sussex in their County Championship game against Middlesex.
Hooper, 23, who joined Sussex’s ranks as a teenager, has been impressing for both Hastings 1st XI and Sussex’s second team this season, earning his shot at a first team county game for the first time.
After the first of four days of, Hooper revealed that he was ‘proud of himself’ for achieving the long-term goal of being selected for the first team at Sussex, and is hopeful that continued hard work will ‘keep the rewards coming’.
He said: “Obviously I’m absolutely over the moon. Being here since I was 14 when I first got into Sussex and then going the whole way through, this is ultimately what you work towards at the end of the day, so I’m over the moon.
“I found out I was in the squad on Friday and then found out I was going to play.
“Jason Gillespie said to me ‘be ready to play, we’re going to have a look at the pitch,’ and then rang me saying ‘it looks like you’re in but we’re going to have another look in the morning’ and then he told me I was in.”
Hooper added: “I’m quite proud of myself, and obviously with all the hard work I’ve put in over the years, it makes it all worth it. Mum and dad were obviously here, loving it, so it was amazing.
“I’ve just got to do what I can do and just try and retain my place. I’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully the rewards will keep coming.”
Hooper, who recently graduated from Loughborough University, revealed he has only ever played club cricket for local side Hastings, and is hopeful that repeated positive performances for them played their part in his selection for Sussex, and can continue to do so.
Regarding his form in The 1st Central Sussex Cricket League Division 2, he said: “I hope they do look at it sometimes.
“If they look at it they’ll see that I’m going alright, but we’re not in the Prem at the moment. I think it’s more in the twos, and doing alright in there.
“That’s the only place I’ve ever played club cricket, down at Hastings, and that’s how I got into it. Dad was a swimmer, grandad played a lot back in his day, but I literally did every single sport back when I was little.”
Hastings currently sit top of Division 2, hoping to seal promotion in the remaining two games, and Hooper admitted it would be ‘perfect’ if he could guide his side up to the Premier Division.
He said: “We’re about 30 points clear at the moment, so about 30 more points in the next two games would hopefully secure us. To get us back up, that’d be perfect.”
The debutant took 1-65 from 20.5 overs in Middlesex’s second innings as Sussex triumphed by seven wickets on the third day. Hooper was not needed in the first innings as Ollie Robinson took 8-34 to dismiss the visitors for just 75. Hooper then hit 20 as Sussex scored 309.
Hooper was not needed in the successful run chase.
Hooper said after the first day’s play: “Getting a player like Dawid Malan for my first wicket was a great moment and it helped get us back in control a bit.
“There’s a lot of cricket to be played but we’re in a good position.”
Hastings skipper Tom Gillespie said: “Els completely deserves it, he is a laid back and confident guy but has worked hard through sussex youth cricket and with the MCCU set up at Loughborough.
“If he’s bowling well and scoring useful runs of course he can become a regular and he could get chances in all formats because of the way he plays.”