Norfolk seal another win to stay on course for Minor Counties East title
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk kept their nerve at Manor Park on Tuesday to seal a narrow victory over Buckinghamshire and maintain their position at the top of the Minor Counties East Division going into the final game.
Ashley Watson's side completed a third successive win at the Festival of Cricket - but there were plenty of scares along the way as they finished eight down.
The stage is now set for a enthralling end to the Championship season, with Norfolk heading to second placed Staffordshire on September 1 with a 10 point lead under their belts and needing to avoid defeat to claim the title.
It was far from a straightforward end to the game with the Norfolk faithful on tenterhooks until Andy Hanby struck the winning run which was greeted with loud cheers of relief from all parts of the ground.
Norfolk resumed on the final day needing a further 152 runs for victory with nine wickets remaining. They started positively with Sam Arthurton and skipper Ashley Watson adding 32 before Watson attempted a reverse sweep and was bowled by Connor Haddow for eight. Things went from bad to worse when Jason Reynolds was bowled by the same bowler next ball and there was a feeling of trepidation around the ground as professional Tom New joined Arthurton at the wicket.
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Arthurton went to his half century with a six but departed not long after for 54 when caught close in by Alex Woodland to give Haddow his third wicket. Stephan Marillier had just driven Stephen Croft for four when he missed a straight full toss to be bowled by Croft for six with the score on 81 and half the Norfolk batsmen back in the pavilion.
Norfolk still wanted a further 82 but New had settled in well and supported by Will Rogers the pair put on 35 before Rogers was bowled by Haddow for 12. All rounder Ryan Findlay entered the fray and helped to negotiate Norfolk to lunch.
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After the break Findlay came out in determined fashion and struck five fours and a six to take Norfolk in sight of the winning line. He fell to a catch by Dan Marles off Masoor Khan for 32 with the score on 157, leaving just six required. When Brett Stolworthy was trapped LBW to give Haddow his fifth wicket one run later the tension was building.
Hanby joined New, who was playing a true professional's innings, and the pair played sensibly to see Norfolk home, with New unbeaten on a patient 30 from 101 deliveries.
It was a good team performance with a number of players stepping up to the plate but Norfolk know that in order to bring the title back home for the first time since 2002 they will have to step up another gear at Longton.
This was the first time that Norfolk had recorded three straight wins in the Festival and was testimony to the tremendous progress the team have made this season. They began the campaign wanting to achieve a top five finish to go into the top division next year when the new structure comes into play. With that objective reached their sights are now firmly set on winning the title.