Burgess Hill restored some pride as they beat table-topping Haywards Heath with a three wicket win and a true team performance in their final league game of 2017.
Tom Trowbridge invited Haywards Heath to bat and the prolific Johnny Phelps was in positive mood. Joe Maskell and Hugh Warmisham were bowling well but Phelps hit five boundaries and had just dispatched Maskell for two fours before he skied one to long-on. Ben Hopkins seemed to be set to take a straightforward catch but became unsighted at the crucial moment and spilled the chance. Phelps, (31) however did not make the best of his luck as he played and missed to the very next ball from Maskell and Luke Vick made a very sharp stumping. Trowbridge made regular changes to the attack and all bowlers created pressure and chances. Heath skipper Callum Smith had joined Chris Blunt and was given very little to punish. Young Martyn Box was introduced and it was he who accounted for Blunt, bowled for 22 and Heath were 62-2. It was Box’s first wicket for the first team. It was not long before he was in the action again as he took a smart catch in the covers to dismiss Smith for 2 off Peter Billinghay (3-27) who once again was enjoying playing against Heath. He immediately followed this up by bowling Ed Long for just 1 and Heath were 67-4. Just nine runs were added before he took his third wicket, trapping Stephen Gould LBW for 4. O’Keefe looked to take the attack back to Hill but the introduction of Andrew Ifill for another short spell was to be his undoing.Ifill found movement and lift and induced an edge from O’Keefe (18) who was taken low at first slip by Trowbridge. Heath were well aware that they needed only six points to be sure of promotion and dug in. Tim Upchurch (27) and Tashaffi Shams (8) put on a valuable 34 run partnership before Warmisham (2-35) returned to deservedly remove them, both being caught at by Kevin Ramsay. The tail continued to wag as Dave and Josh Woodfield put on a spirited 24 before Dave was run out by Martyn Box who kept his cool as a suicidal run was attempted. Ifill (2-20)wrapped up the innings on 160 as David Everett was caught behind without scoring. It was an excellent all-round performance in the field by Hill with all bowlers taking credit and a fine display of keeping from Vick. Hill knew that the relatively low total was not going to be an easy chase as the wicket was offering the bowlers help.
Hopkins opened with Trowbridge and the pair immediately were faced with movement from O’Keefe and Everett. Hopkins was determined to be positive but failed to clear long-off and he was caught by Upchurch for 5. Ramsay joined Trowbridge and the pair looked comfortable as they put on a 38 run partnership. Ramsay hit a huge six before misjudging a Phelps delivery and holing out to David Everett for 20. Kirk Proto never looked comfortable but fought hard. Trowbridge was relatively untroubled but Smith got one to turn an Trowbridge was trapped LBW for 21. Proto soon followed as he was trapped in front by a Everett for 7 to a ball that kept very low. Martyn Box was batting carefully but when he fell for 4 to a leading edge to Smith, Hill were 82-5. Tom Penfold then shared a 25 run partnership with Maskell. The latter was timing the ball sweetly as always before advancing down the wicket to Phelps to be comprehensively stumped by the grateful Woodfield for 14. Some composure was needed and it came in the form of Luke Vick who batted with determination and skill , matched by Penfold as the pair put on a crucial 37. The partnership was broken by Shams as Penfold was bowled for 24 . Ifill joined Vick and the pair calmly reduced the deficit before Ifill (11)hit true and straight for six and Hill won by seven wickets with nine balls to spare. The victory was not enough for Hill to escape the drop as other results went against them.
It was a frustrating season where a lack of a settled team and inconsistent individual performances proved telling. Kevin Ramsay’s 633 runs was a notable exception.