‘We are going there looking for a win’ - Norfolk skipper ahead of title decider
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk have exceeded the pre-season expectations of their captain Ash Watson by going into the final round of Minor Counties Championship Eastern Division matches in pole position to reach next month's final.
Norfolk head to Longton on Sunday for a shoot-out with Staffordshire, who are 10 points behind them.
Staffordshire need to win, but a draw will be enough for Watson's side to reach their first championship final since 2002 when they shared the title with Herefordshire.
Slow left-armer Watson was appointed captain this season following the retirement of long-serving Chris Brown and his ambitions were a place in T20 Finals Day for a second year running and a top-five finish in the Championship to secure First Division status in next season's restructured competition.
But Norfolk have followed a rain-affected draw in the championship opener against Cambridgeshire with four straight wins including three in a row in the recent Festival of Cricket at Horsford.
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The first of those home wins came against Lincolnshire, Eastern Division champions for the previous three seasons, and gave Watson belief his side had the potential to progress to the final at Banbury (September 15-18) where Berkshire, who are going for a fourth straight title, await.
"My first target this year was to get through to T20 Finals Day but that didn't happen," Watson said.
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"In the Championship our first target was to be in the top five because of the changes to the structure next season. We wanted to be in the top division so that next year we could work towards pushing for the Championship.
"But we won at Cumberland and we then went and beat Lincolnshire and we had a great opportunity to win all three games at the Festival and be top going into the last game."
Having got themselves into that position, Watson could be forgiven for adopting a cautious approach this weekend, but he insists that Norfolk are going to Longton to win.
"It's make or break for both teams. A draw would be good enough for us but we are going there looking for a win," Watson said.
Norfolk's success has been achieved with a team of homegrown players, the majority of them products of the county's age grade system in which Brown is a key part as a coach. The one exception is former Leicestershire wicketkeeper/batsman Tom New, Norfolk's professional.
One of Norfolk's youth products is Charlie Rogers, a 19-year-old leg-spinner, who will make his first appearance of the season in place of Matthew Plater, who is unavailable due to work commitments.
Staffordshire will select from a squad of 12 on matchday morning
Norfolk: SS Arthurton, JD Reynolds, TJ New (wicket-keeper), WE Rogers, SJ Marillier, RJ Findlay, AM Watson (captain), CW Rogers, BW Stolworthy, AJ Hanby, W Means.