Norfolk’s Trophy run ends at Jesmond
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South African Jacques Du Toit ended Norfolk's four year cycle of success in the MCCA Trophy with a stunning reminder of his First Class pedigree.
Norfolk are the most successful of all Minor Counties in the knock-out competition, having won it five times with the last four – 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009 – following a pattern which suggested this should have been their year again.
That all seemed very plausible at Jesmond yesterday as Norfolk made a reasonable job of containing Northumberland – until former Leicestershire player Du Toit opened up in the final ten overs to lay the foundations of what turned into a 95-run quarter-final victory.
He finished five runs short of his century. But more importantly, with the help of a trio of half centuries from Daniel Young (56), Joe Coyne (55) and Ben Raine (52) he had lifted the home team's 50-overs total to 318-6, Ben France taking three for 44.
Suddenly the status of the task facing the Norfolk batsmen had been switched from 'challenging' to 'formidable'.
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After losing both openers, Ben France and James Spelman, early on they matched the pace set by Northumberland for much of their reply – but their hopes of getting there with a similarly big finish were undermined as, unlike the home team, they lost further key wickets every time they reached a point where they needed to kick on.
Their own former Leicestershire man, Trevor Ward, did his best to keep them in the hunt with an anchoring innings of 77, well supported by Sam Arthurton's 42. But while Stephen Gray weighed in with 31 to keep the scoreboard ticking over the wickets kept falling and Norfolk were all out for 223 with ten overs still to play, former Sussex spinner Nicky Phillips taking three for 38.
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Norfolk skipper Chris Brown had no complaints, saying: 'We were outplayed on the day and all credit to Northumberland. They deserved to win and they had Jacques du Toit to thank.
'With ten to 11 overs to go they were looking at a total of 250-260 which would have been really chaseable. But he accelerated as you can when you have wickets in hand and just took the game away from us. He played beautifully and didn't give a chance.
'A target of 318 was always going to be tough to chase and while we were always up with the run rate we kept losing wickets at the wrong times. If we'd gone into the last 10 or 12 overs maybe five or six down I think we'd have had a real squeak. But it wasn't to be.'
Norfolk return to action with another long trek this weekend, this time for their three-day championship fixture against Cumberland in Barrow-on-Furness.
MCCA Trophy quarter-finals:
Jesmond: Northumberland 318-6 (J Du Toit 95, D Young 56, B Raine 52, J Coyne 55, B France 3-44); Norfolk 223 (40 overs, T Ward 77, S Arthurton 42, S Gray 31, N Phillips 3-38). Northumberland won by 95 runs.
Falkland: Berkshire 247-6 (D Barnes 106, R Morris 58), Cornwall 186 (E Brock 5-49). Berkshire won by 61 runs.
Shifnall: Wales 190, Shropshire 193-8 (Omar Ali 67, A Jones 4-33). Shropshire won by 2 wickets.