Fakenham in the driving seat as final pair thwart rivals Sprowston
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
Fakenham remain strong favourites to take the Premier Division title after securing a hard-fought losing draw at their nearest rivals.
After posting a respectable total of 193 Sprowston had the leaders clinging on at the end, but their plucky opponents saw the game out, finishing on 142-9 to deny their rivals a bumper haul of points.
Sprowston's innings was built around 62 from Tim Hales while in reply Chad Bowes scored 22 in the first six overs before being dismissed by Andy Hanby. At 73-3 Fakenham were well set but wickets fell regularly and it was soon 112-9 with 12 overs remaining. The last pair of Daniel Hubbard and Yin Lo then stood firm in a tense finale, with Sprowston failing to get the final wicket for a third week in a row.
They did make up some ground but Fakenham are 23 points clear with just two fixtures left to play, meaning a win in either of them should be enough.
At the other end of the table Ashmanaugh and Barton Wanderers gave themselves a chance of avoiding the drop as they turned in one of their best performances of the season to beat Brooke. Luke Caswell's side made 185 and then bowled their hosts out for 124 to move to within 23 points of third from bottom Swardeston A, who were held to a draw by Cromer after piling up 327-6.
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Stow remain in trouble, just 10 points above Wanderers, after being dismissed for 137 chasing Old Buckenham's 200-7 while champions Downham's disappointing campaign continued at Diss.
The home side's total of 207 was more than enough, with Duncan Lamchester's side being bowled out for just 93 as Chris Cooper took 4-40.
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There was a thrilling match at the top of Division One, with Acle getting home by two runs against North Runcton to keep alive their hopes of promotion.
Runcton, dismissed for 199 when chasing 201, are now just 16 points ahead of the side who beat them, while Lowestoft are 11 points adrift after losing by 50 runs to Great Witchingham A.
But with a game in hand on their rivals the west Norfolk side remain in a strong position.
Garboldisham moved to within touching distance of promotion thanks to a convincing win. Opponents Dereham could make only 184, with skipper Duncan Hewitt left high and dry on 99 not out, and Garboldisham then got home by eight wickets, with Kieran Pask following up his 5-35 with 81.
Thetford took advantage of a rare off day for Division Two promotion rivals Hethersett and Tas Valley to boost their chances of going up.
It was far from plain sailing after they had bowled out Bradenham for just 126, but Thetford eventually sneaked home with just one wicket to spare, thanks largely to Ryan Conroy's unbeaten 79, to close the gap on the side in second place to a mere six points.
Valley looked well placed for victory themselves at the halfway stage after dismissing Saham Toney for 129, but a poor batting display saw them finish a full 44 runs short. Leaders Norwich A also had a frustrating day as Old Buckenham A held on for a draw with nine down, but are now 22 points clear with two games to play.
There are new leaders in Division One, with Vauxhall Mallards A taking over at the top after beating Brooke A in the section's match of the day. It was a surprisingly one-sided affair, with Mallards coasting home by seven wickets (Carl Amos 91 not out), after restricting their visitors to 146.
Division Four champions Winterton suffered only their second defeat of the season when they could make only 182-9 against Sheringham, who went on to clinch a four-wicket success.
In Division Five leaders Martham saw their advantage cut to 13 points by Ashmanaugh and Barton Wanderers A, who dismissed the new boys for 126 and then eased to a seven-wicket triumph. There was another fine performance from 15-year-old leg spinner Cameron Marrable, who followed up his 6-34 the previous week by taking 6-19. In reply Sam Allen scored 57 and fellow opener and captain Bernie Everett batted through for a determined 52 not out to see his side home.
Tom Bailey, who is just 12, scored an unbeaten 52 for Swardeston CEYMS against Lowestoft A.
Bircham, another side who joined the Alliance this season, clinched the Division Six title by beating struggling Great Witchingham and Aldborough by six wickets.