Mickleburgh steps up for county bow

DAVID CUFFLEY Norfolk give a Minor Counties Championship debut to 17-year-old Jaik Mickleburgh as they begin their Eastern Division campaign against Cambridgeshire.The Horsford all-rounder and Essex academy player gets a middle-order slot for the three-day match starting at March tomorrow (11am).

DAVID CUFFLEY

Norfolk give a Minor Counties Championship debut to 17-year-old Jaik Mickleburgh as they begin their Eastern Division campaign against Cambridgeshire.

The Horsford all-rounder and Essex academy player gets a middle-order slot for the three-day match starting at March tomorrow (11am).

Mickleburgh, from Bungay, played for Topcroft from the age of seven and was selected for Norfolk


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Under-11s at the age of nine. He was the Norfolk Alliance young player of the year in 2005 before moving to Horsford last year, where he established himself in their East Anglian Premier League side and took a starring role in their Norfolk 20/20 Cup success.

He was called into the Norfolk senior side for the MCCA Knockout Trophy games against Suffolk and Staffordshire in May and is preferred to Matthew Wilkinson for the No 6 spot against Cambs.

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Skipper Paul Bradshaw said: "Jaik has shown enough in two one-day games to give him a chance to earn an extended run in the side. We see a lot of potential in him.

"By his own admission, Matt has not been in a great deal of form. His three-day record is pretty good, but Jaik's the man in form."

There is also a recall for 22-year-old left-arm spinner Ashley Watson, of Norwich, who made the last of his seven championship appearances in 2004.

With opening bowler Ian Slegg ruled out by a back injury, Norfolk have settled on a twin spin option with Watson alongside the prolific Chris Brown, who bagged an eight-wicket haul in Horsford's EAPL victory over Fakenham last week.

Brown took 35 championship wickets last year and is just eight short of 200 for Norfolk after making his debut in 2001.

Said Bradshaw: "Ian Slegg pulled up with a bad back at the weekend and has decided that he won't be fit to bowl for three days.

"Ashley Watson is one person who is taking wickets regularly, he can contribute with the bat as well and is good in the field. We don't know what the wicket is going to be like, but having two spinners should mean we can keep it tight.."

Bradshaw, who missed most of last season with a hamstring injury, has been struggling with a similar problem this summer but bowled 12 overs for Vauxhall Mallards against Godmanchester in the EAPL last Saturday and is confident he is fit for the rigours of a three-day game.

He said: "I'm okay. I was about 85 pc last week and after another week I should be there. Chris Borrett has been bowling quite a lot, so that gives us another seam bowling option."

Cambs have been a bogey side for Norfolk in the longer version of the Minor Counties game. Norfolk have not beaten them in the championship, in its two-day and three-day forms, since 1985.

They looked certain to end that barren run at Manor Park last year when, with Carl Rogers skippering the side in the absence of the injured Bradshaw, they were 50 without loss chasing a target of 180, before rain on the final day wrecked their chances.

But 22 years of hurt are not uppermost in Bradshaw's mind.

He said: "I suppose it's difficult to say why that's happened. Negative captaincy on their part has been one of the reasons put forward in the past.

"We haven't had a great deal of luck. The rain came last year. But we're not really bothered about the local rivalry. It's all about getting off to a positive start in the championship."

After finishing third in the division in 2005 and fourth last year, Norfolk are confident of challenging for honours.

Said Bradshaw: "If you look at our side on paper we are strong all the way down, we have a lot of batting and a lot of variety in the bowling."

And there should be more bowling options for the second Eastern Division game against Cumberland, starting at Netherfield on Sunday, July 9.

"Martin Addison has just come back from a hernia operation and we hope he will be available for Netherfield and if Sleggy is back too, there will be a bit of competition for places," said Bradshaw.

Cambs, under new skipper Damian Brandy, have a string of players missing and had to delay naming their line-up. Peter Swanepoel has a broken bone in his ankle and Nick Ferraby has a broken finger, while Tom Harvey, Tom Westley and Simon Kellett are unavailable.

Making their debuts are 18-year-old Alex Fullarton, a slow left-arm bowler from Cambridge Granta, and former Leicestershire fast bowler David Brignall.

Norfolk: C Amos, C J Rogers, J M Spelman, T R Ward, C R Borrett, J C Mickleburgh, C Brown, L T S Newton (wicket-keeper), A M Watson, P J Bradshaw (capt), M P Eccles.

n Norfolk's Minor Counties Championship fixtures - June 24-26: Cambs (March). July 9-11: Cumberland (Netherfield). July 22-24: Northumberland (Manor Park). July 29-31: Bucks (Manor Park). August 5-7: Lincs (Manor Park). August 19-21: Staffs (Walsall). Sept 9-11: Championship final.

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