Norfolk hope to get Minor Counties Championship campaign moving
Skipper George Walker admits Norfolk's Minor Counties season is still waiting to get off the ground as they prepare to face Lincolnshire in their second three-day game.
Four one-day fixtures in the MCCA Knockout Trophy failed to produce a result – with two games completely washed out – and the opening Championship match against Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds was effectively ruined by a blank first day.
The Eastern Division game against Lincolnshire, starting at Cleethorpes tomorrow (11am), offers another chance for some meaningful action, weather permitting.
'With the first day washout against Suffolk it almost feels like it's our first game,' said Walker, leading a side that shows three changes from the drawn match at Bury.
Opening batsman Carl Rogers and Swardeston's Peter Lambert are not available, but there is a welcome return for the in-form Shaun Arthurton and Harry Bush, and with Horsford all-rounder Luke Caswell also unavailable, his place goes to clubmate and opening bowler Michael Warnes.
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Who opens the batting with James Spelman is one issue to be decided. Wicketkeeper-batsman Stephen Gray, in prime form for Swardeston, is listed at No 2 on the teamsheet, but the job could go to Bush if Norfolk bat second and Gray has had a long stint behind the stumps.
Whatever the order, Walker feels he has a batting line-up in excellent shape.
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'Spellers keeps churning out the runs as always, and Stephen Gray has joined Swardeston which has been good for him and for us,' he said.
'He's batting really well but he's been a bit light on runs for Norfolk so he's keen to make amends for that.
'Sam has played a lot of second team cricket for Essex and is definitely the man in form at the moment, in the East Anglian Premier League as well.
'Harry's played a lot of cricket for Leeds/Bradford University and he's batting well, so we certainly have two good players to come in, and his availability is looking pretty good for most of the season.'
The vastly experienced Trevor Ward and Vauxhall Mallards' Ali Shearer – fresh from a spectacular t20 century at Brundall 10 days ago - complete the top six, and there is a five-man bowling attack.
The weather is set to play a part once again, however, after heavy rain in Lincolnshire yesterday and more expected tomorrow.
'I tend not to pay too much attention to the weather forecast but knowing our luck we'll get some rain at some stage,' said Walker.
'That's why we've played an extra seamer because we think it might be a touch green with all the rain we've had. Michael Warnes has recovered from injury so he comes back into the side.'
This season's scheduled one-day game against Lincolnshire at Woodhall Spa was washed out and the two sides did not meet in the three-day Championship last season.
Lincolnshire won by eight wickets during the festival at Manor Park two years ago, but Norfolk triumphed by nine wickets at Sleaford in 2009 when Walker and fellow spinner Chris Brown took 18 wickets between them.
Norfolk's last visit to Cleethorpes was in 2006 when they lost the three-day game by six wickets.
'We played Lincolnshire in a one-day game last year which we lost, unfortunately, but we've had some good games against them in the past and we won at Sleaford three years ago when Brownie and I got a few wickets,' said Walker.
'The teams are fairly evenly matched but there is no love lost between us, that's for sure. I think we get on better with Suffolk but it all makes for good fun.
Lincolnshire – D J Birch (capt), Vikram Atri, Akhil Patel, C J Louth, M P Dowman, J R Cheer, L R Andrews, B W Houston, O E Burford (wicket-keeper), A B Shepherd, J E P Darke.
Norfolk - J M Spelman (Great Witchingham), S K Gray (Swardeston, wicket-keeper), S S Arthurton (Great Witchingham),
T R Ward (Leicester Ivanhoe), H Bush (Leicester Ivanhoe), A E Shearer (Vauxhall Mallards), G W Walker (Swardeston, capt), C Brown (Horsford), M W Warnes (Horsford), M P Eccles (Swardeston), K J Bunting (North Runcton).