Mallards set up grand finale

Gibbs Denley EAPL: In a season dominated by Swardeston and Vauxhall Mallards, it was perhaps inevitable that the two major forces of Norfolk cricket would go into next weekend's final matches vying for the league title.

In a season dominated by Swardeston and Vauxhall Mallards, it was perhaps inevitable that the two major forces of Norfolk cricket would go into next weekend's final matches vying for the league title.

Mallards, who were widely tipped to be championship contenders at the beginning of the season, have come back strongly after a sluggish start. Saturday's 23-run win over Godmanchester has left them 13 points behind season-long leaders Swardeston, who drew with Bury.

Although Godmanchester still have a mathematical chance of taking the title outside Norfolk, it looks like a straight battle between the two sides who have already contested the Carter Cup final this year and who will meet again in the Biss Trophy final on Sunday - the day after the destiny of the EAPL title is decided.

Both sides round off their league campaigns this Saturday with derby matches - Mallards are at Horsford, while Swardeston face Norwich at Ingham.

Mallards batted first at Brundall on Saturday and in-form opener Rob Purton (40) made a brisk start, scoring almost exclusively in an opening partnership of 41 with Carl Amos.

Trevor Ward kept the momentum going by hitting 69 and there was a welcome return to form for Norfolk wicketkeeper Luke Newton, who made 46 as Mallards reached 252 for eight.

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Godmanchester looked well placed to challenge that total as they got to 132 for one, before slumping to 180 for eight. Martin Addison was the architect of their downfall, taking four for 47, while Richard Moores and Purton chipped in with two wickets each.

A last wicket partnership of 22 threatened to scupper Mallards, but Rob Frylinck wrapped up the win, having Bevis Moynan caught by Ward as Godmanchester were bowled out for 229.

Zimbabwean duo Richard Sims (56) and Brian Murphy (54) both hit half-centuries for Swardeston as they took charge against Bury, posting 274 for nine from their 66 overs.

Bury reached 109 for one in reply, but Jaden Hatwell halted their hopes of victory as he took five wickets to reduce them to 166 for six. At that stage, Swardeston looked on course for a 30-point win which would have virtually sealed the title.

However, they were frustrated by an unbroken seventh wicket stand of 65 between Nick Lee and Andrew Tweedie, which saw Bury to 231 for six at the close.

Norwich dropped out of the reckoning after their 86-run defeat at Cambridge Granta.

Ashley Watson took five wickets as Granta posted a competitive 243 for six, with half-centuries from Tom Harvey and Jacques Du Toit.

Felix Flower (52) and Watson (26) gave the Norwich reply a good start, but the middle order crumbled and only Tom Vaughan (26) provided much resistance as the visitors were bowled out for 157.

Fakenham's hopes of survival are hanging by a thread as they escaped with a draw at home to Horsford, while the team above them, Clacton, were thrashed at Great Witchingham.

Fakenham batted first and their total of 209 for seven was based around an unbeaten 68 from Stephen Gray and Ian Slegg's 55no, while Horsford skipper Paul Newman collected a five-wicket haul.

Horsford stuttered to 94 for four in reply, but a fifth wicket stand of 105 between Matthew Warnes (69no) and Chris Brown (64) brought them back into the game. They ran out of time, however, finishing on 206 for five from their 52 overs.

They must now beat Clacton convincingly on the final day, as they trail the Essex club by 22 points.

Clacton were bowled out for 151 at Witchingham, with four wickets each for Stuart Evans and Carl Rogers.

Openers Rogers (68no) and James Spelman (47) added 129 to put Witchingham on course and Simon Chipperfield (21no) helped Rogers finish the job in the 47th over.