Rain leaves Norfolk with an uphill task

Norfolk's MCCA Knockout Trophy push stalled in yesterday's rain-affected draw against Suffolk at murky Manor Park.

Norfolk's MCCA Knockout Trophy push stalled in yesterday's rain-affected draw against Suffolk at murky Manor Park.

The umpires abandoned proceedings following a mid-afternoon inspection of the sodden outfield. Norfolk had limped along to 154 for nine with two overs of their innings remaining before the heavens opened.

A point apiece for the cross border neighbours leaves Norfolk locked in a three-way battle at the top of group two with Suffolk and Lincolnshire - having played a game more. Lincs' scheduled tie against Bedfordshire was washed out without a ball being bowled.

Paul Bradshaw's men must win at Staffordshire on Sunday in their final pool fixture and rely on slip-ups from their main rivals to clinch a semi-final spot.

“It's a big, big game now,” admitted Bradshaw, a frustrated spectator after failing to recover from his recent hamstring injury. “Although it's a case of relying on other teams now we're not completely out of the window.”

Norfolk were under the cosh from the start after fiery paceman Phil Edwards nipped out opening pair Carl Amos and Carl Rogers in the overcast conditions with only 11 on the scoreboard. Chris Borrett's big hitting cameo nudged the hosts through the 50 barrier before a slashing back foot drive was superbly caught by Andy Mawson at point.

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James Spelman and teenage debutant Jaik Mickleburgh sparked a fightback with a stirring 53-run fifth-wicket partnership. Spelman holed out in the deep looking to accelerate the run-rate after notching his second consecutive half century in the competition.

The Great Witchingham man's departure triggered a middle order collapse with four home wickets tumbling for 21.

Chris Brown launched Paul King over the long on boundary for a sublime six as Norfolk's tail started to wag before the weather intervened.

Bradshaw praised the in-form Spelman and exciting Essex academy prospect Mickleburgh for salvaging Norfolk's innings.

“James is a solid player,” he said. “He's ideal if we lose some early wickets because he's another guy who can bat through. He looks to be hitting it well down the ground and it's a vital role he plays for us at number three.

“Jake acquitted himself well on his full competitive county debut. He did the basics and has a big future. It's good for the county we have these younger lads. We want to try and get them into the side if good enough, but at the end of the day you must pick your best available.

“He hit a century for Essex academy and 140 for Horsford in the Carter Cup recently so he's putting pressure on the guys in the side. We left Matt Wilkinson out purely because we felt Jake was the man in form.”

The injured Bradshaw revealed he is also set to miss Norfolk's win-or-bust final day encounter.

“I won't be taking any risks - it could be another two weeks yet,” he said. “I bowled one ball on Saturday and felt it straight away. I need to get more treatment, do a lot of rehab, get the strength back and see where we are.

“I had hamstring problems last year, but it's a different injury - this one is on the outside of the thigh rather than the inside. The frustration is I got through pre-season and played football all year without a problem, then it just goes. It's depressing and I hate watching when I could be out there affecting the game. My main target is the three day matches. I'll see how it responds to treatment.”