Bowl-out woe for unlucky Norfolk in Knockout Trophy quarter-final

Ben France: unbeaten 57 was in vain. Picture: Phil Morley

Ben France: unbeaten 57 was in vain. Picture: Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Norfolk bowed out of the Unicorns Knock-out Trophy in heartbreaking fashion yesterday when they were beaten in a sudden-death bowl-out.

Their quarter-final match against Staffordshire at Longton was ruined by the wet weather, with an attempt to squeeze in a short game at the end of the day ending in failure.

With no reserve date for the fixture the only way to decide the winner then was cricket's version of football's penalty shoot-out, with bowlers from both sides handed the task of trying to hit an unguarded set of stumps.

It was hardly an ideal way to settle a game of cricket, but was better than a toss of the coin, and Norfolk edged in front 3-2 as Ashley Watson and Ben France, twice, hit the target.

But the hosts then got it back to 3-3 to take it to sudden-death before claiming the decisive strike to book their place in the semi-finals of the national competition.

It was the fourth successive year that Norfolk had bowed in an away fixture at this stage – and was a cruel blow after they had played some decent cricket in the play that was possible on a miserable day in the Potteries.

With persistent rain falling in the morning and early afternoon it soon became clear that a 50 over per side match was never going to happen.

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But later in the day the skies started to clear and play finally got under way, with Norfolk losing the toss and being put into bat in what was planned to be a 22 over per side match.

After losing Sam Arthurton early on the visitors quickly got into their stride, with France and Jordan Taylor putting on 55 for the second wicket and France and Garry Park 62 for the third. But with Norfolk on 134-4 after 18 overs, and France going well on 57, the rain then returned and the umpires had no choice but to invite both sides to prepare for the dreaded bowl-out.