It’s so tight at the top in the Norfolk Alliance Premier

The race for honours in the top flight of the Norfolk Alliance is too close to call as the season approaches its halfway point.

With morning leaders Brooke suffering a surprise home defeat on Saturday, just nine points separate the top five sides, with Fakenham now topping a cluttered leaderboard.

On a day when rain had the occasional say, without ruining the programme, Fakenham did well to post 255 for nine against Old Buckenham, with South African Chad Bowes making 78 and Andy Lawrence taking 4-57. But they had to settle for a draw as their hosts finished on 231 for six (James Alexander 52). The result was enough to take Fakenham three points ahead of Brooke, whose excellent run of form in all competitions came to an abrupt halt when Swardeston A chased down a modest target of 193 for the loss of five wickets.

Richard Porter top scored with 70 for Brooke while Tahmid Islam contributed 54 for Swardeston before an unbroken sixth wicket stand of 94 between Ian Tufts (53 not out) and Ed Botwright (42 not out) saw them home.

Diss are now third after coming through a high-scoring game at Sprowston with 22 points. The hosts batted first, with Australian Harry Dalton scoring his second hundred of the season and finishing on 101 not out. An unbroken partnership of 87 between Dalton and Sam Hales (34 not out) saw the home side to 237-5 from 50 overs.

In reply Diss captain Phil Squire held his side's innings together well with 72 as they got home by four wickets.

Defending champions Downham slipped further off the pace when they were well beaten by Ashmanhaugh and Barton Wanderers, who had only won once before the weekend. Overseas star Graeme Cupido took 6-33 as the visitors were skittled out for 127, with Wanderers finishing on 129 for four.

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There were also a couple of eye-catching results in Division One, with Dereham and Garboldisham both having excellent days.

Dereham made it back-to-back wins after being bottom of the table a few weeks back when they recorded an impressive 64-run victory over Lowestoft, who were unbeaten before the weekend.

Duncan Hewitt's side made 259 for four, with the skipper contributing 108 and David Lake 60, and then dismissed their Suffolk opponents for 195 (Josh McAvoy 57) as Jake Anema took 4-41.

Garboldisham maintained their encouraging first half of the campaign by handing out a real drubbing to third-placed Acle. They secured an early win for the loss of just two wickets after bowling their visitors out for 86.

Ashley Watson returned amazing bowling figures on his return to action after a spell out through injury.

The Norfolk spinner, who damaged stomach muscles during the Minor Counties Championship encounter against Bedfordshire last month, turned out for Norwich A in their Division Two fixture at Saham Toney and certainly made his presence felt.

Norwich looked in trouble when they were dismissed for just 128, but their hosts had no answer to the guile of Watson, who took 7-8 in 12.4 overs to send them crashing to 93 all out.

It was much more clear-cut at Thetford, where fellow high-flyers Hethersett and Tas Valley compiled 244 for seven, with Jon Curtis making 95, and then dismissed the morning leaders for 81.

There are clear leaders in Division Four, with Swaffham now 36 points clear after a hard-fought three-wicket win over Sprowston A. The leaders finished on 204 for seven chasing 202 for eight.

Acle A shone with both bat and ball, piling up 256 for the loss of just three wickets before dismissing Great Melton A for 152. Rob Porter led the way with 145 while Jordan Betts finished just nine short of a century.

Division Four leaders Winterton were beaten for the first time this season. They could only make 183 for seven against Rocklands, who went on to win by four wickets.

Martham continue to shine in their first season of Alliance cricket, with a three-wicket win giving them a seven point advantage at the top of Division Five. Opponents Beccles A totalled 217 for seven, with Martham ending the day on 219 for seven (Jack Whatmough 97).

Another new team to the Alliance, Bircham, are also going well in Division Six. They lead the way by three points, despite having to settle for a draw against Horsford B on Saturday.

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