Norfolk Alliance round-up: Two-horse race opening up in Premier Division
Fakenham and Sprowston edged away from the chasing pack thanks to important home victories.
The Premier Division leaders and their nearest challengers finally opened up some daylight by inflicting defeats on the two teams directly below them in the standings. And now they'll be keen to kick on from the impressive wins to turn what has looked like a six-way dogfight for glory into a two-horse race for silverware in the coming weeks.
Table-topping Fakenham had already beaten Brooke but knew they were going to have to perform outstandingly to complete a double over the surprise package, fourth. Their cause wasn't made any easier by Matt Collinge's 66 pushing the visitors to 235-7.
Yet from the moment South African overseas star Chad Bowes smashed a six and two fours from his first three deliveries it looked like Keegan Monahan-Fairlie's side meant business. Bowes and Luke Findlay (27) put on 109 before the latter was finally sent packing having plundered 119. Harry Blackiston's 49 helped get the pace-setters across the line.
Sprowston remain hot on their heels, just eight points adrift, after seeing off Old Buckenham, the team directly below them. Andy Lawrence hit 68 not out in the away club's 247-6. Not to be outshone, Tim Hales (75) and Frankie Sutton (87) ensured the second-placed outfit's lead over the Bucks now stands at a more healthy-looking 18 points.
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Elsewhere in the top-flight, Ed Landymore's terrific 111, well supported by Will Denny's 61, saw promoted Stow, eighth, claim a winning draw during a crucial game towards the bottom against basement boys Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers. They are 13 points better off than A&B who are tied on 89 with ninth-placed Swardeston A.
In Division One, Mattishall claimed derby honours by thumping Dereham by 158 runs. Gordon Chetwood (105), Jay Eastoe-Smith (68) and Jason Cole (68) flexed their muscles while their rivals slumped to 163 all out, chasing 321-6.
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Lowestoft, second, failed to take advantage of leaders' North Runcton's inactivity by losing to Horsford A. That defeat leaves the Suffolk outfit eight points off the pace having played a game more.
Coe takes six wickets to top bowling charts
Three bowlers failed to share the headlines despite claiming excellent five-fors.
Matt Hauschneider (Old Buckenham A, Division Two, for the loss of 40 runs), Will Minchin (Brooke A, Three, 59) and Liam Conroy (Thetford, Two, 15) took five wickets each for their sides. But Tom Coe went one better to ensure it was his name which topped the individual charts in the lower tiers.
The Division Six operator claimed six victims and went for 40, during Bradfield A's fixture against Bradenham's second-string. However, even that hugely impressive haul – as well as Lauren Hemp's 97 with the bat – was not enough to clinch a victory. They had to make do with a winning draw with neither side able to take all 10 wickets.
In Division Two, Norwich A brought some much-needed league-based joy to their club by ensuring they remain at the top of the table. While the senior side flounder among the elite in the East Anglian Premier League, the same cannot be said for the city outfit who look to be locked in a battle with Hethersett & Tas Valley for the title.
Mark Tipping (66) and Martin Greiller (77) were the key men with the bat as their side made light work of winless Great Melton. H&TV failed to claim their own maximum 25 points on Saturday. But 22 was a decent return from a home clash against Fakenham A. Harrison Futter hit 70 for the defeated side while Ian Bryce's 53 was the best the victors had to offer individually.
While Coe was the best bowler, the equivalent batsman's honour for the weekend went to Andy Horobin. He smashed 119 for bottom tier Diss A.
In Division Four, Dexter Smith (93) and Matt Hudson (64), carried their bats as Sheringham beat Rocklands by 10 wickets.