Hastings relishing top flight return

Hastings Priory's cricketers are relishing the challenge of life back in the Sussex Premier League.

Saturday, 7th May 2016, 9:27 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 10:01 pm
Jed O'Brien bowling for Hastings Priory against Hartley Country Club in the ECB National Club Championship. Picture by Simon Newstead (SUS-160424-163313002)

Priory will begin their 2016 league today (Saturday) at home to a Worthing side which was promoted with them from Division Two last summer. Play will start from 12.30pm at Horntye Park.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said coach Ian Gillespie. “I think we’re in a very competitive division and I think we’re in as good a place as we could wish to be going into it.”

Gillespie is referring to the excellent form Priory have shown in pre-season. Victory over Mayfield in a friendly was followed by comprehensive wins against Hartley Country Club in the ECB National Club Championship and Seaford in the Gray-Nicolls Sussex T20 Cup.

“We’ve carried on from where we left off at the end of last season; looking pretty purposeful and playing some good cricket,” he continued. “There’s been some encouraging signs from the bowling, batting and fielding that we’re probably in good shape.”

As with most promoted sides at most levels in most sports, the first objective for Priory this year will be to consolidate their Premier League status.

“You never put a ceiling on potential, but the first thing we want to do obviously is to stay up,” Gillespie went on. “We’ve got to play each game according to the conditions and the opposition, and try to make the right decisions and play the best cricket we can.

“When we went down two years ago we played good cricket at times, but couldn’t win the games. If you can get a couple of wins under your belt, that buys you a lot of time, and you’ve got the confidence and belief that you can win.”

Led by Jed O’Brien’s 54 league wickets, Priory’s potent bowling attack was key to their success last summer, albeit at a lower level. And the early signs are encouraging for this year too after Priory bowled out Hartley for 102 at Horntye Park 12 days ago.

“If we stay fit, I think our bowling attack is balanced and in good order,” added Gillespie. “In Elliot (Hooper) we’ve got a proven wicket-taker in the Premier League, Jed had a fantastic season last year, Adam Barton’s come on leaps and bounds and is genuinely quick, and John Morgan’s a very experienced seamer.

“The concern is that we can get runs on the board or we can chase down a total when it’s set. We’ve got promising players who did well in the division below, but haven’t got too many 50s, 80s, 100s to their name in the Premier League.

“They’ve all batted very well around Harry (Finch) and George (Campbell), but it’s whether they can do it on their own. I don’t think there’s any reason to suggest they can’t, but at the moment it’s not been proven. Certainly I think it will be a team effort with the bat and hopefully one or two of the players can come to the fore.”

Joe Billings is unavailable tomorrow and Priory are waiting to discover whether or not fellow top order batsman Finch is required by Sussex.

Priory, who will have a father and son coach/captain combination this season with Tom Gillespie having taken over as skipper, will also be in action tomorrow. They will travel to Tunbridge Wells in round two of the National Club Championship, 1pm start.

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