Norfolk's chance to kick-start campaign
CHRIS LAKEY Norfolk will be hoping to pick up the pieces from a difficult start to the season when the annual Minor Counties cricket Festival gets underway at Manor Park tomorrow.
Norfolk will be hoping to pick up the pieces from a difficult start to the season when the annual Minor Counties cricket Festival gets underway at Manor Park tomorrow.
A draw and a defeat in the Championship plus an early exit from the one-day competition was bad enough - but the loss of skipper Paul Bradshaw for the rest of the season through injury simply rubbed salt into the wounds.
But county chairman Keith Bray is confident that Norfolk can make amends - starting with a change of plan for the opening game against Staffordshire.
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“We are in the middle of a little bit of rebuilding and we are obviously missing Paul Bradshaw immensely,” said Bray. “As far as I am, concerned he is the best opening bowler in Minor Counties cricket, and while one man doesn't make a team I believe he is irreplaceable - and we have to go through the season knowing we have not got him.
“It means we are looking at things slightly differently by playing two specialists spinner in Chris Brown as well as George Walker because we feel that is the way we're going to take wickets.
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“Michael Eccles can take wickets and Ian Slegg is bowling really, really well this season so out attack is okay.
“We should be able to get runs with what we have got, and we've brought in Matt Wilkinson as an extra batter and as probably the finest fielder in the county.”
Walker and Wilkinson are recalled in place of Richard Moores and Martin Addison from the team beaten by Lincolnshire. Staffordshire field only four of the side that played at Manor Park in May - captain Richard Harvey, former Test batsman Kim Barnett, wicket-keeper Paul Goodwin and opening bowler Shaun Rashid.
Staffordshire have already won at Horsford this season, beating Norfolk by five runs in the MCCA Knockout Trophy in a match reduced to 20 overs per side because of wet weather. Two more defeats and a washout completed a fruitless one-day campaign, while Norfolk chalked up a draw against Suffolk and a six-wicket defeat by Lincolnshire in their first two Eastern Division three-day games.
Bray sees plenty of strength in this season's festival opponents - but believes Norfolk can cope.
“Staffs are a strong side but they have already suffered one heavy defeat this season,” he said. “You never quite know with Cambs, who are usually a good, strong side, while Herts you would hope to beat.”
The Manor Park pitch is looking a little weary under the constant sunshine and a little rain before tomorrow could do wonders, but the Festival setting is as top class as ever.
“We were up there yesterday and it looks magnificent,” said Bray. “Rain a little earlier in the week would have helped things because there isn't too much green around, but we are really looking forward to the Festival. David Browne has done a terrific job with promotions and there is something going on every day of the Festival”
The Staffordshire game is one of three championship matches during the festival, with Cambridgeshire the visitors from July 30 to August 1 and Hertfordshire providing the opposition from August 6 to 8.
Norfolk: C Amos, C J Rogers (capt), J M Spelman, T R Ward, C R Borrett, M O Wilkinson, C Brown, L T S Newton (wicket-keeper), G W Walker, I R Slegg, M P Eccles.
Staffordshire: K J Barnett, D J Wheeldon, A J Maiden, R P Harvey (capt), S M Seadon, P J Wilshaw, P S J Goodwin (wicket-keeper), C Barker, S Rashid, A Johnson, G M Swanwick.
Admission and parking are free to Norfolk members. For non-members, admission is £3.50 to adults, £2.50 for over-65s and £1.50 for under-19s. Parking is £3 for non-members.
Norfolk will host two additional matches during the three-week festival.
Norfolk's young hopefuls will face Huntingdonshire in the East of England Development Competition on Thursday, August 3 (11am).
And a Minor Counties East Anglian XI - comprising players mostly from Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire - will play an Indian Academy XI in a 50-over match on Friday, August 11 (noon).
Admission is free for both games.