Stirlands slip up against leaders

Stuart Hanks batting for Stirlands  Picture by Kate Shemilt C130877-2
Stuart Hanks batting for Stirlands Picture by Kate Shemilt C130877-2

Stirlands lost ground on Sussex League division-three west leaders Billingshurst after slipping to defeat in their top-of-the-table clash at Birdham.

The hosts lost the toss and were asked to bat. Stirlands would have batted anyway.

The opening pair of Sean Heather and Stuart Hanks started with business as usual. They put on 48 for the first wicket against the accurate bowling of overseas player Dhanushka Mitpolaarachchi.

Hanks was the first to go - brilliantly caught by Kelly Russell at short fine leg. In-form Will Gubbins joined Heather and they went about building another solid partnership.

With 75 on the board, Heather and Gubbins looked good and kept the scoreboard ticking over - however an unfortunate moment broke their partnership when Gubbins was unlucky to be adjudged lbw off Mitpolaarachchi.

This may have had a big influence on their innings, bringing to the crease middle-order batsmen at a crucial stage of the innings who had not really batted for the past six weeks.

Wickets fell and when Heather (52) was brilliantly caught by Mitpolaarachchi off his own bowling Stirlands were 98 for four and someone needed to get stuck in.

Unfortunately this did not happen and at 159 for eight Stirlands were fearing the worst.

Chris May and Ben Moores did a fantastic job to use up some overs and crucially get Stirlands to 180 before Heather declared with two balls of the innings remaining.

Stirlands knew if they were going to have a chance of bowling Billingshurst out they needed to get early wickets or build up some serious pressure on the batsmen.

Unfortunately neither happened: Scott Stratton and Mitpolaarachchi built a good partnership and although luck was on their side with a lot of shots landing just away from fielders, they had earned it from bowling so well.

Stratton (50) was dismissed with the score on 115 for two. Mitpolaarachchi (71) followed to the off-spin of Nick Hunt, who had him caught at third fly-slip.

Stirlands felt they had Burrows (40no) stumped when he had four on the board but it was not to be and Billingshurst passed the total with only three wickets down and 15 overs to spare.

Stirlands took nine points and Billingshurst 26 - and Stirlands now have 32 points to make up if they want to secure promotion this season.