Bexhill pipped in thriller

Ashar Zaidi took four wickets for Bexhill in their narrow defeat away to Three Bridges on Saturday
Ashar Zaidi took four wickets for Bexhill in their narrow defeat away to Three Bridges on Saturday

Bexhill Cricket Club will have to wait a little longer to secure its Sussex Premier League status.

Bexhill were edged out by one wicket away to Three Bridges in a key battle at the bottom on Saturday when a victory would have ensured the visitors beat the drop.

With two games remaining and 60 points still up for grabs, Bexhill occupy the final safe spot of third-bottom and enjoy a 34-point advantage over second-bottom Bridges.

Bridges won the toss and took the gamble of fielding first. Although Bexhill openers Tim Hambridge and Shawn Johnson were slightly unsettled by the pace and bounce of Abidine Sakande, they got runs on the board with Johnson in particular hitting anything loose.

Bexhill got off to a bit of a flyer with an opening partnership of 49 until the in-form Matt Blandford produced a superb full and straight spell from the bottom end. He dismissed the top three batsmen, including Hambridge (16) and Johnson (39), to make it 70-3.

The visitors suffered another big setback just three runs later when Ashar Zaidi fell for 10 to a late cut off Oliver Blandford that carried to Joe Ludlow at third man.

Johnathan Haffenden chanced his arm for a quick 21, while Cameron Burgon was patient at number seven until top edging a sweep trying to attack Michael Rose.

Bexhill looked in a spot of bother at 117-7 and 133-8 before Dean Crawford and Liam Bryant (16 not out) put together a very handy ninth wicket partnership of 37. Crawford played some powerful strokes, but once he was out for 39, Bexhill declared on 180-9 after 48 overs.

Bridges started well in reply with Ben Speake and Bradley Gayler hitting boundaries from the off. Speake fell for 27 with the score 53 and Gayler also went for 27 some 33 runs later, both bowled by Joe Cox (2-41).

Conor Golding looked to be positive against the spin of Zaidi only to be stumped by Jack Richardson and Dominic Keats went for a duck after a top edged pull shot off Bryant (2-21 off 10 overs) was caught on the boundary by Crawford.

With George Garton falling in similar fashion to Keats, but this time to a stunning catch by Haffenden, Bridges were in a spot of trouble at 119-5 having been 111-2.

Rob Stacey and Ludlow put on 35 for the sixth wicket until the latter edged Zaidi to slip for a well-made 59, as did Oliver Blandford before another run had been added, leaving Bridges 154-7.

Sakande was caught behind off Zaidi (4-43 off 21) to make it 167-8 and the returning Crawford bowled Rose two runs later to leave Bexhill on the brink of victory.

But Bridges scored the 15 more runs they needed with Stacey hitting a straight six and then a four to win the game with five overs to spare, finishing 28 not out.

Standings (all played 17 matches): 1 Roffey 353pts, 2 Preston Nomads 328, 3 East Grinstead 316, 4 Horsham 288, 5 Eastbourne 286, 6 Brighton & Hove 266, 7 Cuckfield 251, 8 BEXHILL 234, 9 Three Bridges 200, 10 HASTINGS PRIORY 184.