An eagerly anticipated game between ECB National Club champions Bexley and Kent League Premier Division Hayes lived up to expectations in a match that ebbed and flowed.

When the two teams met at Hayes for a friendly before the start of the season, Hayes claimed the bragging rights with a nine run victory in a high scoring match. However, whilst Bexley came into the game as joint leaders, Hayes still awaited their first league win of the season. Last season, Bexley started slowly after winning the league in the previous season, and Hayes have done likewise in this campaign.

Alex Blake, the Kent CCC one day specialist, won the toss for Hayes and asked Bexley to bat first. Will MacVicar and Stuart Eddicott took the new ball and gave little away as the opening batsmen, Aiden Griggs and Shaun Evans, had to work hard. When Evans succumbed to Eddicott, Bexley’s overseas player Hugo Burdon came in and showed his class with a very eye catching 32 before being bowled by an excellent Andrew Eddicott delivery.

Griggs continued, scoring a crucial 33, before being pinned LBW by Blake. That left Bexley in peril, especially when Ben Aldred perished soon after. However, vice-captain Matt Stiddard remained calm and marshalled the lower order brilliantly. He went on to score a superb 91 not out, as Bexley plundered thirty-five runs from the last three overs with sixteen coming from the final one.

That set Hayes a target of 230 to win, and they couldn’t have got off to a worse start. Bexley captain Adam Riley surprised the visitors by tossing the new ball to left arm spinner Freddie Foster and he trapped the dangerous Gareth Severin LBW with the first delivery of the innings. Jas Singh then had both Miguel Barbosa and Tom Gallagher caught by Harry Turner at slip, either side of Ahmed Jamal scattering MacVicar’s stumps.

Blake and Rory Low then came together at 23 for 4 and after both had escaped plays and misses, they built a partnership that gave Hayes hope. They put on 112 for the fifth wicket and they were slightly ahead of the required run rate at the mid-innings drink break. Shortly after the resumption, the game swung back into Bexley’s favour when Blake clipped Foster in the air straight to Stiddard at short midwicket for a fine 64.

Liam Buttery joined Low and looked comfortable until he tried to beat Stiddard but fell short as the sharp throw left him high and dry for 20. Low continued to keep up with the run rate and with six overs remaining Hayes needed 31 with four wickets in hand.

Jamal then made the crucial breakthrough, when Low missed a straight ball and was out LBW for an impressive 83. Two leg byes followed in the over which finished as a wicket-maiden.

Evans sent Connor Byrne and Scott Gallagher back to the hutch in the next over leaving the Eddicott’s to try and save the day. Stuart Eddicott turned down long singles off the first two balls of the next over before missing a massive heave off a well pitched up fast delivery from Singh and Hayes were all out for 199.

Singh ended with 3 for 36, Evans 2 for 22, Foster 2 for 45 and Jamal 2 for 48. Although Riley finished wicket-less, his ten overs at a cost of just 30 were important in keeping the pressure on as Bexley won by 26 runs.

Lordswood’s defeat at St Lawrence and Highland Court means that Bexley and Tunbridge Wells share top place as the only two unbeaten sides while Hayes have dropped into bottom spot.