Norfolk’s title decider delicately poised going into final day

Andy Hanby followed up a fine half century by taking two early wickets on the second day of Norfolk'

Andy Hanby followed up a fine half century by taking two early wickets on the second day of Norfolk's crunch game against Staffordshire Picture: TIM FERLEY - Credit: Archant

Ryan Findlay scored a superb unbeaten century as Norfolk gave themselves an excellent chance of winning the Minor Counties East Division Championsip at Longton on Monday.

The Horsford all-rounder finished on 134 not out after an excellent seventh wicket stand of 122 with Andy Hanby (54) which lifted the visitors up to 312-8 in their first innings against title rivals Staffordshire for a lead of 28.

The hosts, who need to win the game to pip Norfolk to top spot, replied with 147-3 and will take a lead of 119 into what promises to be a fascinating final day.

Norfolk showed why they have come so far this season with another battling performance featuring a superb maiden century from Findlay and a first fifty in Minor Counties cricket for Hanby.

Norfolk resumed on 127-5 with the target of making sure they batted the full 90 overs. Ashley Watson and Findlay saw their side through the first 40 minutes before Watson was deceived by a good ball from Tim Maxfield to be bowled for 14 with the score on 151.

There were still 44 overs to go and Hanby was promoted up the order with the aim of batting for as long as possible. Both he and Findlay dug in and showed some resolute resistance to a buoyant Staffordshire attack. As time went on they started to wear down the bowlers with gutsy determination and put together a match changing partnership. Findlay brought up a fine fifty and Hanby was playing his part as the pair guided Norfolk to lunch on 234-6 with 10 overs remaining.

After the break both players came out with attacking intent and Hanby registered his half century before Findlay brought up his ton. When Hanby departed for 54 after facing 134 balls Findlay had started to put Staffordshire to the sword. He then struck a big six and two fours in one Maxfield over and made sure Norfolk would have a first innings lead. Stolworthy was bowled by spinner Paul Byrne before the Norfolk innings ended on 312-8. Findlay's magnificent innings spanned 189 balls and contained 19 fours and two sixes.

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Hanby could not be kept out of the action and with the final ball of the first over knocked Kadeer Ali's middle stump out of the ground. He then struck again to remove Alex Mellor and at 29-2 Norfolk were scenting blood but first innings hero Matthew Morris and Michael Hills had other ideas. They put together a good partnership of 103 until after a break for bad light when Watson trapped Hills leg before for a hard hitting 68. There followed two more breaks for bad light before the umpires eventually called a halt with Morris unbeaten on 61.

Play will start at 10am on Tuesday to make up for lost time.