EAPL title victory will top the lot - Swardeston captain Mark Thomas
Swardeston captain Mark Thomas believes if his side secure the EAPL title tomorrow it will be their sweetest league success yet.
Thomas' side need just one point to clinch the title when they face the only team who can mathematically catch them, Vauxhall Mallards, at The Common.
It would be Swardeston's third title and their first since 2008 and Thomas said: 'It would be nice to win it again and in some ways it will be the best of the lot because we've got a young team with a lot of new faces.
'On paper I'm not sure if we're the strongest team in the league, but we've all bonded together and had some good results.'
The title could even be Swardeston's before a ball is bowled tomorrow. If Thomas wins the toss and bats first, he would be denying Mallards the opportunity of a maximum points haul of 30 and the Brundall side's feint title hopes would be extinguished.
The Swardeston skipper is not even bothering with any pretence and when asked if he intended to bat first if he wins the toss, regardless of the conditions with an early start time of 10.30am, the answer was short and simple: 'Yes.'
For Mallards to win the title, they would need to bat first, lose no more than one wicket and then bowl Swardeston out for less than 150.
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Even if the title is all but assured, Swardeston are still keen to rubber-stamp their success with victory over their old rivals. Thomas added: 'We still want to win the game. It could happen that we are beaten and they get 30 points with us getting zero, but it's pretty unlikely and if it does happen then we don't deserve to win the league.'
Back in April before the season began, Thomas was adamant that a mid-table finish was a realistic goal for his side, following the departure of prolific all-rounder Jaden Hatwell and the limited availablity of Zimbabwe international Richard Sims. That aim has been blown out of the water as Swardeston have led the way for most of the season after taking over at the top in early June.
'I think we have generally over-performed,' said Thomas. 'We're a really young team and we've only used 16 players this year in the league and two of those have only played once, so we've had consistency and it's been a real team effort.
'None of the batsmen has got the 800-plus runs that Jaden used to get, but Stephen Gray has been a great asset for us and Michael Parlane has done well towards the end of the season. When we've been in trouble someone has stepped up for us.'
On the bowling front, Thomas has enjoyed his best ever year in the EAPL, having taken 45 wickets so far at an average of 11.47: 'I haven't bowled properly for two or three years, but this year I recognised that I would have to bowl a bit more,' he said. 'The body hurt for a while, but conditions have helped because they have been seamer friendly and I've had a bit of luck. But I've enjoyed it and hopefully I can carry on bowling as much for the next few years.'
There is a second Norfolk derby tomorrow as Great Witchingham host Horsford at Walcis Park.
Horsford are still hopeful of claiming runners-up spot, while a Witchingham win could see the quartet of Norfolk sides finish in the top four.
In the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division, it is all about the survival battle tomorrow, after Norwich secured the title last weekend.
Acle are already down, but Ashmanhaugh and Barton Wanderers have made a late charge for safety and now stand nine points adrift of Lowestoft. Wanderers travel to Diss, while Lowestoft host Acle. Stow, who need two points to ensure their survival, are at home to Sprowston, who similarly need five points.