Brooke’s dream start to Alliance season continues

Brooke's dream start to the season continued as they took advantage of a surprise slip from Fakenham to claim top spot in the Premier Division of the Norfolk Alliance.

The newly promoted villagers saw off defending champions Downham on Saturday while the morning leaders were being well and truly hammered at Diss. As a result they are now 11 points clear at the top, with Fakenham level in second alongside a fast improving Sprowston, who saw off Stow at the weekend to record a third successive win.

Australian player-coach Mike Jones again played a key role as Brooke made it five wins on the spin by dismissing Downham for 218 and then surviving one or two scares to get home.

Jones top scored with 88 to take his league tally for the season up to 477 in six games, while Ed Sturman (47) provided useful support as Brooke got home by three wickets.

Downham's talented young New Zealander Nick Kelly took 4-47, after earlier falling just 10 short of a century.

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Fakenham were on the back foot from the moment the in-form Diss batting line-up posted 261-9, with Simon Cooper making 75 and Phil Squire 60. It was a testing target – and the visitors never looked like reaching it as they were bowled out for just 144, with Robbie West taking 5-37, to taste league defeat for the first time this season.

Sprowston dismissed Stow for 200, with Harry Dalton and Rob Purton both taking three wickets, before going on to secure victory by five wickets as Purton made a half century.

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Cromer got their campaign back on track after suffering four straight defeats when they beat visitors Ashmanaugh & Barton Wanderers by five wickets after restricting them to 189-9, while Swardeston A (207-8) held on for a draw at Old Buckenham (228-7).

There are also new leaders in Division One, with North Runcton taking over at the top following a hard-fought 11-run win over Dereham. The West Norfolk side eventually bowled out their opponents for 167 (Jack Major 5-57) after making a modest 178-9. Lowestoft slipped to second after an exciting draw against Mattishall, who made 219-9 and had the morning leaders on 203-9 when stumps were drawn. Just three points separate the top three, with Acle making up ground as they got past Topcroft's challenging total of 288-6 for the loss of five wickets with Geoff Handley making 92.

There was a one-sided game at Beccles, who piled up 251-4 (Alex Wright 90) and then bowled Horsford A out for just 64.

The top-of-the-table clash in Division Two between Norwich A and Hethersett and Tas Valley produced runs galore and plenty of thrills – but no positive result.

Valley did well to post a competitive total of 252-8 and the leaders got close before settling for a draw on 246-9.

Saham Toney took advantage of the stalemate to move up to second in the table, six points behind Norwich, courtesy of a six-wicket victory over Bradenham, whose total of 221-5 wasn't enough.

Their star man was Nathan King who was still there at the end, unbeaten on 135.

Division Three leaders Swaffham failed to win for the first time this season. Jasper Payne led the way with 82 not out as they settled for a draw against North Runcton A. A target of 237-9 proved too big a challenge but they remain 25 points clear at the top.

Winterton maintained their excellent start in Division Four with a crushing 207-run win over Old Catton. They piled up 284-6 with Louie Stronach making a brilliant 152, before skittling the opposition out for just 77. Ben Utting was the star man with the ball, taking 5-48.

In the same section Simon Martin (126) and Will Defoe (108 not out) both reached three figures for Rocklands but it was not enough as Mundford overhauled their total of 267-4.

Martham put together one of the biggest totals of the season so far in Division Five – but it wasn't enough to secure victory. The Alliance new-boys made a massive 354-7, only for opponents Hethersett & Tas Valley A to hang on for a draw with seven wickets down.

Bircham are the new leaders in Division Six, despite being held to a draw in a game they dominated. They made 274-4, with Will Pillinger scoring 102, but couldn't get the final man as Topcroft A finished on 133-9.

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