Skipper Smith plays down title talk as cricketers rise up to third

Eastbourne skipper Jacob Smith
Eastbourne skipper Jacob Smith

A steady but sure improvement throughout the season has seen Eastbourne cricketers quietly move themselves into title contention.

Eastbourne’s thrilling final ball victory at Cuckfield last Saturday was their fifth win of the campaign and lifted them up to third in the Sussex Premier League.

Roffey top the table on 254 points, with Brighton and Hove second on 245 and Eastbourne on 222 after 11 matches.

Tomorrow (Saturday, 12 noon) Eastbourne welcome bottom of the table Ifield to the Saffrons and another victory would maintain the pressure on the top two.

“We are not get carried away,” said skipper Jacob Smith. “We are on a decent run of form and obviously it’s very pleasing to be up in third place. We have seven matches remaining and the last three are against Horsham, Roffey and East Grinstead. They are probably three of the hardest matches in the division.

“If we can go into those games still in contention, then who knows what can happen? If we perform well, it’s possible we could leap frog them in the table. But we have a long way to go until that point. Our next few games may look winnable but there are no easy matches in this division. Each team, no matter where they are in the table, has good players who are capable of taking the match away from you.”

Joe Pocklington played a huge role in Eastbourne’s victory last Saturday. Smith’s men were in a whole heap of trouble at 88-7 until Pocklington, with great support from tail enders Ethan Guest, David Twine and Henry Crocombe, fired 80 from 73 balls as Eastbourne ended on 302-9.

“We were in a bit of shock at the end of the innings,” admitted Smith. “At seven down with just 80 on the board, I was thinking this is not going to be our day. I was already thinking that we need to forget this one and go again next week.

“But Joe’s knock was excellent and it lifted everyone. We played some loose shots at the top of the order on what was a pretty decent pitch. Joe made it look easy. He did the basics well and then received support around him. He was out to a flying catch on the boundary. It was a great catch and I’m sure he would have made a deserved century if it wasn’t for that.

“We found a way to win” added Smith. “Everyone has been contributing and since I have been captain, this is the best team spirit I have known. We now feel as though we belong in the Premier and not just a newly-promoted side.

“It’s easy to over-complicate the game sometimes but if we stick to doing basics well, I’m sure we will be fine.”

Last week’s key man Pocklington is absent for Ifield but Sussex player Delray Rawlins is expected to feature.