Chasing trio close gap on Swardeston

Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League: A nerve-shredding day in the EAPL ended with the top four separated by just 12 points as the title race was thrown wide open.

As leaders Swardeston contrived to transform a winning position into defeat against fellow contenders Cambridge Granta, there were narrow victories for Vauxhall Mallards and Great Witchingham to keep all four clubs firmly in the hunt for honours.

Granta chose to bat first at The Common but they needed a determined 42 from opener Jonny Atkinson to hold the innings together. On a turning wicket, Swardeston's spinners excelled as George Walker took four for 35, Richard Sims claimed three for 26 and Jaden Hatwell also chipped in with two wickets to bowl Granta out for 126 in the 51st over.

The Swardeston reply suffered a disastrous start as skipper Mark Thomas was run out first ball by a direct hit from Lewys Hill. Swardeston's batsmen also struggled against the turning ball, but Hatwell appeared to have guided them to victory as hit 57 to take them to 113 for six, just 14 short of their target.

Hatwell was then controversially adjudged lbw and the Swardeston innings unravelled, with Walker and Michael Eccles following soon afterwards. With six needed, Will Rist was caught in the deep to hand Granta victory and lift them to within three points of Swardeston.

Mallards are also just three points behind the leaders after an unbroken ninth wicket stand of 31 rescued a two-wicket win at Burwell.

The hosts opted to bat first and a fifth wicket partnership of 120 between Glenn Goosen (54) and Daniel Jones (68) helped them post 255 for nine. Mallards' Norfolk Under-19 bowler Adam Todd (five for 54) bagged his first five-wicket haul in the EAPL.

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Both Mallards openers departed early, but Richard Goodenough joined Gerrie Snyman to recover the situation with a stand of 101. Goodenough was dismissed for 39, but Snyman hammered his way to a third league century of the summer, firing 114 from 112 balls with 16 fours and three sixes.

He was out with 54 still needed and the match appeared to be slipping away from Mallards as they lost two further wickets. But skipper Paul Bradshaw (24no) and Martin Addison (15no) guided the visitors home with 14 balls to spare.

Ryan McCone edged back in front of the leading wicket-taker charts after his third five-wicket haul of the season in Witchingham's two-wicket win at home to Clacton.

The New Zealander took five for 41 – taking his season's tally to 48 – and skipper James Spelman claimed three for 29 as the visitors were hurried out for 142.

Five of Witchingham's top six were out cheaply as they struggled in reply, with Spelman (42) staving off a total collapse. Shaun Arthurton (34) led the lower order resistance, before Jonathan Spelman (24no) saw the Witches to victory in the 58th over.

Bottom side Norwich closed the gap on Clacton to 17 points after dominating their draw at Halstead.

Harry Bush fired his first league century of the season, with 116no from 114 balls, including 16 fours and a six, while Chris Borrett added 54 as the visitors declared on 246 for three from 50 overs.

After the Halstead openers put on 67, Norwich skipper Paul Wiseman removed them both in quick succession and although the visitors chipped away, the hosts resisted to reach 175 for six at the close.

Norwich's hopes of survival have been boosted by an eight-point penalty handed out to Clacton in relation to their home match against Mallards last month. The league found that the match had been played on a sub-standard pitch after Clacton had failed to cover it overnight.

Horsford were overtaken in the table by Bury St Edmunds after falling to a 55-run defeat in Suffolk.

Bury recovered from 90 for five to register 197 for seven, with Horsford skipper Chris Brown taking three for 44.

It was a case of the walking wounded in Horsford's reply as opener Matthew Warnes had to retire hurt after being struck on the hand by Essex bowler Chris Wright, while Reece O'Connell required a runner as he made 35.

Chris Spenceley tried to avert defeat with a defiant 37 and Warnes returned to help him at the fall of the ninth wicket.

But with eight balls remaining, Spenceley became Tom Huggins' fifth victim as Horsford were all out for 142.