AUSTRALIAN Seb Gallagher’s first league hundred of the season came as Middleton’s hopes of promotion were blown out the water by local rivals Pagham, in what can only be described as a thrashing on home soil.
There was an air of inevitability about the toss, Pagham having no choice but to bat second and hope to scrape a draw. But cricket is a strange game, and once again the experienced Middleton side lost their nerve in the third local derby loss of the year.
Middleton batted first on a very flat track, and after dismissing two generations of the Hansford family, Pagham had the home side a 40-2.
A partnership of 137 runs from overseas Gallagher and Ed Towner put the home side back in the ascendancy. Yet after the partnership was broken, Middleton went about losing four wickets in 20 runs.
A cameo from young supremo Tobias Macer, 35, and veteran spinner Brandon Hanley, ten, pushed the home side to an early declaration of 235 off 49 overs.
Early wickets tumbled as Middleton aimed for an early finish. At 39-3, the visitors looked perilously close to falling for an embarrassing total yet Wayne Green and Will Rolls started to build foundations for an exciting finish.
As Middleton continued to bowl boundary balls, Pagham kept edging their way closer to the target. Green fell four short of his hundred which ended the match-changing 124-run partnership with Rolls, 33.
Tom Davis and Sean Rebbetts bowled well but it was too late, the damage had been caused in previous overs and the dream was over. Jake Stockdale’s 44 not out carved the final runs through cover for the victory and Middleton will stay in division three west for another year.
Middleton captain Brandon Hanley said: “The boys are very down about the result. I felt the declaration was perfect. When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.”