Norfolk skipper Chris Brown is already ‘excited’ for next season following 2016 progress
- Credit: Tim Ferley
Norfolk captain Chris Brown is already looking forward to seeing what 2017 will bring for the county squad – after a season of clear progression.
Narrowly edging into fourth place ahead of Cambrigeshire on 73 points is Norfolk's best Unicorns Minor Counties Championship finish since 2013, when also finishing fourth.
It represents a marked improvement on seventh place in the past two campaigns, added to a fourth successive season of reaching the quarter-finals of the Unicorns Knockout Trophy.
'In one-day cricket we played some real good stuff in the group to get through to the quarter-finals against Staffordshire but unfortunately we lost in a bowl-out and I didn't think that was a true reflection of how we had played,' the Norfolk skipper said.
'It was good to get out of the group and then we were in a good position (134 for four in the 18th over) at Staffs but the rain came down and you can't control that.
'And in the Championship we finished joint fourth and played some really good cricket.
'We integrated some young players into the side such as Jordan Taylor, Jimmy Hale and Brett Stolworthy so they've now all had a good taste of Minor Counties cricket.
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'Two games stand out for me, the first game of the Manor Park festival against Bucks (winning by 239 runs) was outstanding, as was beating last year's champions Cumberland at Sedbergh School in the last game.'
Hale topped Norfolk's Championship batting averages for the second season in a row but James Spelman was top run scorer, with 419 in six matches, including a high score of 158.
'James Spelman's first two knocks of the festival were outstanding,' Brown continued. 'Having not played one-day cricket this season, so to score 131 against Bucks and then 158 against Lincolnshire was really good.
'Jordan Taylor's 100 at Cumberland against the reigning champions was very good, Ben France has been reliable and chipped in regularly and Garry Park's 100 in a losing cause at Staffordshire also; Garry played really well that day.'
It was Brown topping the bowling charts though – almost doubling his productivity on last season.
The skipper took 38 wickets at an average of 15.34, which means he is still in the running to win the Frank Edwards Trophy for topping the national MCCA bowling averages.
Tom Nugent of Western Division champions Berkshire currently leads the way with an average of 13.71 but still has the national final against Eastern Division champions Lincolnshire to play before his final average is settled.
'Tim Sheppard (local physiotherapist) got me a cortisone injection just before the first game of the festival, the Saturday before the Bucks game and I think that helped,' the off-spinner said.
'I'd said after the Championship game at Staffordshire that the ball was coming out of the hand nicely and I just looked to continue in the same vein from there. I think it's my best return since 2005, so I'm really pleased.'
With Brown targeting first innings runs as an area for improvement for next season, the long-serving bowler is already looking forward to his 17th season as a Norfolk player.
'I think the main area we came up short was in scoring first innings runs. In the last game of the season we played well to get a decent total but other than the first game of the festival, it's our first innings runs that let us down a bit,' he added.
'We've got a solid group of players that make themselves available for games as much as they can.
'Ben Coote performed well on debut, so he's one of the players coming through, and hopefully we'll have Adam Todd back once he's back to full fitness as well.
'So I'm already excited about 2017.'
For this season's full averages, and the final Championship table, see today's EDP or Norwich Evening News.