Norfolk end festival with battling win
Norfolk capped an entertaining festival with a hard-fought eight-wicket win against Suffolk at Manor Park yesterday.
After thrilling finishes against Cumberland and Bedfordshire, this match was decidedly more pedestrian as Suffolk adopted a defensive approach on the final day.
They added just 43 runs in a morning session which bordered on the tedious – until a moment of controversy just before the break livened up proceedings.
Having finally broken a stubborn sixth wicket partnership, Norfolk skipper George Walker struck again in the final over of the session as his Suffolk counterpart Justin Bishop fended to leg slip. Bishop departed, furiously claiming that the over had started after the 1.20pm cut off point – and although Suffolk continued to dig in after the break, their resistance was eventually broken by Norfolk's persistence.
A victory target of 91 proved no problem for the hosts as James Spelman added 46no to his first innings 138.
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Walker, who claimed five wickets in the Suffolk second innings, admitted he was surprised by the visitors' tactics: 'I thought they might have tried to get a few more runs – with the time they batted, if they had been a fraction more positive it could have been a harder total that they set us,' he said. 'As it happened they were just blocking and we thought if we bowled accurately enough we would get the breakthrough and that's exactly what happened.'
Of the lunchtime fracas, he said: 'I think the Suffolk players assumed the clock had gone over when there was actually just time to start the over. The umpires only need to be in position before 20 past and I think they were. With that playing on his mind I managed to get him out and he wasn't best pleased.
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'They weren't happy with the umpires and there were a few words flying about but that's cricket – he was frustrated at getting out and we were delighted.'
Any perception that Norfolk would soon mop up the five remaining wickets at the start of the final day were soon dismissed as Bishop and James Finch dead-batted the Norfolk spinners for more than 40 overs.
Norfolk tried Spelman's leg spin, but it was when Walker brought himself back on that the deadlock was finally broken, with Finch trapped lbw.
Even after their captain's dismissal, Suffolk refused to budge and the new ball failed to yield a wicket.
The eighth wicket stand of 42 between Tom Huggins and Tom Rash was ended when Brown claimed his 350th Championship wicket with a simple bat-pad catch to Ward.
Walker then gained two lbw decisions to end the Suffolk vigil and complete his five-wicket haul, while Brown finished with match figures of nine for 87.
Spelman put the Norfolk run chase in motion with successive fours off the back foot, followed by a sumptuous on-drive in the next over.
Matthew Warnes was dropped when he smacked a full toss straight at midwicket, before flicking a four through the on-side as Norfolk went into the final 17 overs needing 48 with all their wickets intact.
Warnes missed a straight delivery and had few arguments about the lbw decision, but Suffolk were infuriated again moments later as Spelman survived an appeal.
Sam Arthurton was also adjudged lbw, but Trevor Ward shrugged off any jitters, and with eight needed from four overs he hammered a four and six to win the game in style.
A draw and two wins from the festival have revived Norfolk after a sluggish start to the campaign and Walker added: 'It's been a blinding festival. Apart from an hour lost on Monday night we've had pretty much nine full days, it's been fantastic.'
Had Norfolk closed out victory in tight finishes against Northumberland and Cumberland they would now be looking at a title challenge, but Walker said: 'It's ifs and buts – if we had won one of those games we might then have lost last week. I don't really like looking at it that way.'
The campaign finishes with a trip to Slough to face Buckinghamshire, starting on August 21.