Stephenson’s out to run Mallards ragged
Bradenham's Australian pace bowler Julian Stephenson is warming up for one of the biggest matches in the club's history in decidedly unusual fashion.Alliance Division Two side Bradenham travel to Brundall on Sunday to face the might of EAPL team Vauxhall Mallards in the semi-finals of the Carter Cup.
Bradenham's Australian pace bowler Julian Stephenson is warming up for one of the biggest matches in the club's history in decidedly unusual fashion.
Alliance Division Two side Bradenham travel to Brundall on Sunday to face the might of EAPL team Vauxhall Mallards in the semi-finals of the Carter Cup.
But Stephenson, who is coaching cricket at Wymondham College during his stay in the country, has been spending the week at the Pamplona Bull Running festival, where bulls are released to charge through the streets of the Spanish town towards a bullfighting ring.
Bradenham's Patrick Dewing joked: "We just hope he comes back in one piece - I thought he had just gone there as a tourist but apparently he is taking part in the running with the bulls!"
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The Australian's influence has been felt at Bradenham this year, as the club have risen to third in the league in addition to their cup exploits.
Dewing said: "He came over here as a bowler who could bat, but actually he's got more runs than we expected and although the weather hasn't really suited his bowling, on a hard, dry track he would be a real handful."
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Stephenson may well be needed to be at his best if Bradenham are to make an impression on Mallards, whose form has improved recently after a disappointing start.
They have won the trophy eight times and are the reigning champions, while Bradenham have never before got this far in the competition.
But after seeing off another EAPL side, Norwich, in the quarter-finals, Bradenham should not be overawed by facing Paul Bradshaw's team.
Dewing said: "If they have a bad day and we have a good one, you never know. It does not take much to swing a game of cricket. Realistically, though, we will have to be at our best and we can't afford mistakes.
"But we know, win or lose, that we have had a good season in the competition - we have beaten one team from our division and two from higher divisions. Because it is such a big job in front of us on Sunday, we haven't really allowed ourselves to think too much about reaching the final, but it would be an amazing achievement for the club if we did.
"In recent years, since the EAPL came in, you don't really think about getting to the final, whereas you go back 15 years and you entered thinking you had as good a chance as anyone."
The chief architects of Bradenham's amazing run this year have not been the likes of Stephenson, however, as the younger players have come to the fore in the competition.
Teenagers Rob Thurley and brothers Luke and Ryan Findlay have all played key roles and will get the chance to test themselves against Mallards on Sunday.
The Findlays had looked set to miss the game as Ryan was due to travel to Jersey with Norfolk Under-14s tomorrow night, but a swift re-arrange-ment of the family's flights means that they will be able to play at Brundall.
In the other semi-final, Diss are the latest club to try and scupper Swardeston's relentless march towards silverware on four fronts.
Mark Thomas' side lead the EAPL and are already in the finals of the Stan Biss Trophy and the Norfolk 20/20 Cup.
They are at home to Diss, who currently lie seventh in Alliance Division One.