By Derren Howard
A memorable 240 from James Hockley and seven wickets for skipper Jacob Smith saw Eastbourne boost their title hopes against Brighton last Saturday.
Hockley’s 240, an Eastbourne Cricket Club and Sussex Premier League record, came from 172 balls and included 31 fours and 10 sixes on a boiling hot day at the Saffrons.
It eclipsed the previous highest score in the Sussex Premier of 209 not out set by Chris Liddle in 2012.
It is also said to be the first double ton scored by an Eastbourne first team player in a league match since Robin Hanley hit 204 not out.
It isn’t however Hockley’s highest total, as he once recorded 283 in the Kent League a few years ago.
“I never thought I’d get the chance to achieve a double hundred again,” said the 39 year-old. “I did it once before and to do it again was a fantastic feeling.
“I started off playing okay. I didn’t feel great to be honest but then I just felt more and more comfortable as the innings progressed. I felt in total control and every shot I wanted to play, seemed to come off for me. It’s a great feeling for a batsman but also a very rare one.
“To bring up the hundred is always a nice feeling and then I just kicked on from there. It felt very special and I’m pleased it helped us to win the match.”
The innings was all the more impressive as it was scorching hot at the Saffrons and Hockley admitted he strained his hamstring in the first 10 overs after scampering home for a quick single.
“The hamstring was a bit uncomfortable but I didn’t think it was too serious,” said the former Kent batsman. “I just carried on but towards the end I have to admit I was pretty tired. I was starting to cramp up a little, especially in the arms.
“I wanted to go unbeaten but to be honest when I was given out lbw it was a bit of a relief, I was very tired.”
Despite tiredness and a tight hamstring, Hockley was straight back in the field at first slip.
“Luckily I was in the slips so I didn’t have to run around too much. Also Jacob (Smith) bowled superbly well and we wrapped it up in around 30 overs, so it wasn’t too bad. I did however sleep very well that night.”
Hockley’s huge total on Saturday helped Eastbourne post 319-5 declared from 50 overs. Malcolm Johnson offered valuable support with a steady 42 while Sussex skipper Ben Brown, who played due to his omittance from the Sussex T20 side, scored just one - not that it mattered. Brighton fell well short of their target as they ended with 140 in the 37th over. Their opener Bryce Hounsome top scored with 55 before he became another of Smith’s victims. Smith accounted for all the top four batsmen and then claimed most of the tail as he finished with sublime figures of 7-48. The spin attacked continued and Joe Pocklington maintained his fine recent form with 3-36 from 10 overs.
The result saw Eastbourne leap frog Brighton into second place. Smith’s men are on 312 points behind leaders Roffey who have 327, with four matches remaining.
Eastbourne will host Roffey on the penultimate match of the season on August 25.