Hastings target instant return to premier division

Key all-rounder Elliot Hooper is expected to be available all season to help Hastings Priory's promotion quest
Key all-rounder Elliot Hooper is expected to be available all season to help Hastings Priory's promotion quest

Hastings Priory are targeting an instant return to the 1st Central Sussex Cricket League Premier Division.

Having been relegated from the top flight last year, Priory are aiming to secure one of the two promotion places from Division Two this summer.

Priory coach Ian Gillespie said: “Obviously promotion is our aim. We’ll clearly be one of the favourites and we would like to think we’ve got a good chance of going back up.

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“We know we won’t have the same quality of teams to play against (as in the Premier Division), but I would suspect there will be five teams probably in the hunt for those two promotion places.

“It will be about playing good, consistent cricket and batting is going to be important because obviously it was a weakness last year. The key thing will be to make sure we get runs on the board.

“We’ve talked a lot in pre-season about giving ourselves a chance to show what we can do. Get ourselves in, assess the situation and play each ball on its merits rather than trying to get over the line before it’s there.”

Priory have managed to retain just about all of last year’s squad, although Harry Scowen is at university in Bath and probably won’t feature all summer and Joe Billings will be with Leeds MCCU until next month.

Josh Beeslee is likely to miss the first game or two with a shoulder injury, but key all-rounder Elliot Hooper will be available all season, which captain Tom Gillespie said is a ‘massive, massive boost’.

Priory also have an overseas player this season in the form of Ricardo De Nobrega, who will bat in the top three.

De Nobrega has been scoring heaps of runs in second grade cricket in Perth, Australia.

“He’s been to England a couple of times and he looks like a good player,” said Tom Gillespie. “If we get scores on the board, I’m backing our bowlers against most teams.

“I think we’re probably stronger than we were last year. Hopefully we’re a slightly more mature side than last year, and we can assess quickly what a good score is and do what needs to be done.”

Priory will begin their league campaign with a trip to newly-promoted Goring-by-Sea tomorrow (Saturday), buoyed by a 20-run victory at home to Linden Park in round one of the ECB Royal London National Club Championship on Sunday.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat, Priory did well to post 186-7 from their 40 overs on a typical early season pitch.

Greg Devlin top-scored with 51 at number five, and there were good contributions from John Morgan (38) and Jed O’Brien (28 not out) at seven and eight, as well as Tom Gillespie (21) at the top of the order.

Linden Park got off to something of a flyer in reply through Jayden Hoare (50) and Graeme Francis (33) as Priory bowled a bit too short with the new ball.

But spinners Jack Coleman (8-2-13-3) and O’Brien (8-2-22-1) bowled well and really turned the screw before Morgan (8-2-34-2) finished the job, Linden Park finishing on 166-7.

Priory side versus Goring (probable): De Nobrega, Gillespie, Hoadley, Woolley, Hooper, Devlin, Morgan, O’Brien, Barton, Pye, Coleman.