Great Witchingham boost Swardeston’s title hopes

Swardeston against Woolpit in the EAPL league. Swardeston wicket keeper Stephen Gray catches the bal

Swardeston against Woolpit in the EAPL league. Swardeston wicket keeper Stephen Gray catches the ball from batsman Ben Shepperson, but it was not out. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

If Swardeston complete a successful defence of their EAPL title this weekend they should make sure they toast Great Witchingham's Spelman brothers when they break open the champagne.

The champions went into the penultimate round of games level on points with Cambridge Granta but trailing by virtue of having one more defeat.

All they could do was win – and hope that Granta slipped up.

And while they were doing their bit by beating Woolpit on the Common on Saturday in a game highlighted by a spectacular century from Stephen Gray, the wheels spectacularly came off Granta's title bandwagon against the Witches at Clare College.

It seemed they were all set for a routine victory when the Norfolk side were bowled out for 140, with only Sam Arthurton (52) and James Hale (31) offering any resistance.

But what came next was one of the most stunning – and significant –twists of the season as the table-toppers lost three wickets without a run on the board before being skittled for 49 in 23.4 overs.

All but one of the overs was bowled by the Spelman brothers, with James taking six wickets for 22 and Jonathan mopping up the other four for 16. Jonathan Atkinson (25) was the only Granta man to make double figures.

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Witchingham had not only won by 91 runs but denied Granta a single batting point, allowing Swardeston to establish a 20-point lead going into their last game at Vauxhall Mallards on Saturday, when Granta visit Saffron Walden.

Gray had a great day all round, the wicket-keeper taking three catches before dominating the Swardeston innings with an unbeaten 128 off 127 balls, with 20 boundaries.

Although Jonathan Sole took 4-62 and Michael Eccles 3-57 for the home side Woolpit turned 98-5 into a useful 247-9 with a stand of 78 for the sixth wicket between Ben Shepperson (37) and Julian Crudell (43) and another of 61 for the ninth wicket between Matt Collinge (19) and number ten Alister Stwaert (40no) .

Swardeston reached their target in 47.4 overs with Gray's main support coming from Lewis Denmark (28) and Jason Reynolds (36).

Mallards gave a reminder that they pose a potential last-day banana skin for their neighbours by winning by five wickets at Copdock, where veterans Paul Bradshaw and Steve Goldsmith took three wickets each as the hosts were bowled out for 160, James East scoring 59.

Openers David Turner (47) and Robbie Bridgestock (59) took Mallards to 92 in reply before Goldsmith hit 27 to help finish the job.

Horsford's strong end to the season continued as they thrashed Clacton by eight wickets.

Luke Caswell was the star man, taking 6-41 as the hosts were dismissed for 135 – after reaching 51 for the first wicket – then making an unbeaten 50 as he steered Horsford home, putting on 95 for the second wicket with Nathan Perry-Warnes (59).

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