Norfolk bid to maintain sequence

If Norfolk are to continue their four-year cycle of MCCA Trophy success they will have to do it the hard way.

Having won the Minor Counties knock-out competition in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2009 it could be Norfolk's time again after their march to the quarter-finals.

But they will have to get through two gruelling road trips to do it, with the winners of tomorrow's tie against Northumberland in Jesmond drawn away to either Berkshire or Cornwall in the semi-finals.

The omens are good as Chris Brown's men have ended a malaise in the competition which went all the way back to their most recent final triumph, over Staffordshire at Chester-le-Street.

They won three of their four group matches to reach the knock-out stage, with the defeat coming in a thrilling big scoring shoot-out with Shropshire at Horsford.

And though they lost to Cambridgeshire in this week's opening three-day fixture at Wisbech they drew consolation from having dominated most of the match.

'It came down to just one bad session on the second evening against Cambridgeshire that stuffed us from being being 58 for 0 to 109 for 7,' said Brown. 'That's where we lost the game. But we didn't drop our heads. In the field the next day the lads worked really hard and bowled well, making Cambs wait quite a while to knock off the 144 they needed.

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'Now that's behind us and we get back into one day mode against Northumberland on Sunday.

'In the one day stuff this year we've played some really good cricket. The only game we lost, against Shropshire was only by five runs against what turned out to be the best team in the group, winning all their matches, so we really look forward to taking that form into Sunday.'

Having also won the MCCA Trophy in 1986 Norfolk are the most successful county in the competition's history with an unblemished record in five final. Brown, who has played in the last three of them, acknowledges that it has become a special part of Norfolk's heritage - though he is reluctant to place it's importance above that of the Minor Counties Championship.

'I think both have massive importance,' he said. 'I wouldn't say one's more important than the other.

'The finals we've played at Lord and the Riverside have been really special occasions. But the final of any national competition is special. During my 12 years here here we've only been involved in one championship final, against Herefordshire 2002, but we've been in three Trophy finals in my time, so it's a really special competition and the lads are well up for it for Sunday. We want to get to another one and if we play as we have done in our games so far we shouldn't be too far away.'

As if to underline Norfolk's four-year Trophy cycle, Brown adds: 'When we beat Wiltshire in the first game in April that was the first one day game we'd won since 2010. That was an area we identified in the winter that we needed to improve on and now we've progressed to the quarter-finals so we want to keep that going.'

Norfolk's line-up is unchanged from the last group match against Suffolk, which means the return of wicket-keeper Stephen Gray and batsman Sam Arthurton.

Northumberland have won the trophy only once, beating Dorset at Lord's in 2006, and have gone through a transformation since last facing Norfolk in the championship, also at Jesmond, a couple of seasons back.

'Their personnel has changed quite a bit but I know Jacques Du Toit, who played in the league for Cambridge Grant and Godmanchester and was also on the staff at Leicestershire,' said Brown.

'I know their new captain, Adam Cragg, who's a left handed batter and Nicky Phillips, who has played for them on and off for a number of years now. He's another off-spinner who has played first class cricket for Durham and Sussex, so they will be tough. You don't progress to the latter stages of a national competition without being a good side so it'll be another tough test for us, but one we're all looking forward to. We're raring to go.'

There is still a chance of an all-Eastern final as Cambridgeshire travel to Herefordshire tomorrow - with the winners to face Shropshire or Wales in the semi-finals.

Norfolk: JM Spelman, BJ France, SS Athurton, TR Ward, H Bush, SK Gray (wkt), PA Lambert, LW Caswell,C Brown (capt), PJ Bradshaw, MP Eccles.