Swardeston and Witchingham go to the wire
- Credit: Colin Finch
A straight four by Jeremy Elliott, from the penultimate ball of the match, gave EAPL leaders Swardeston an exciting two-wickets win over Horsford to maintain their 45 points advantage at the top.
But there was an even tighter finish at Great Witchingham, where Woolpit's last wicket fell in a scrambled attempt to tie the scores off the final ball.
The derby tussle at Manor Park was much closer than that at The Common in May, when Swardeston won at a canter by seven wickets.
Since then Horsford have won only twice while the champions arrived on a run of five successive wins. And having won the toss and been restricted to 213-8 from their 66 overs – Matthew Wilkinson top-scoring down the order with 63 – Horsford hopes of reversing the formbook did not look good, especially when Peter Lambert (52 off 57 balls) and Jordan Taylor (58) put on 87 for Swardeston's first wicket.
But, despite some useful middle-order contributions from Callum Taylor (25) and Jonathan Sole (17), the game started to slip away for the chasing side against the bowling of Luke Caswell (3-43) and Ryan Findlay (3-41).
When Darren Smith stumped Taylor off Caswell it left Swardeston on 182-7. And Caswell struck again with nine balls remaining, and 11 runs required, to trap George Walker leg before wicket.
Captain Mark Thomas edged Caswell's last ball for four to leave his team needing five off the last over, bowled by Horsford skipper Chris Brown. Elliott scored three off the first two, Thomas scrambled a bye off the third and after a dot fourth Elliott finally struck the winning boundary to finish on 17.
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Horsford's defeat still leaves them looking nervously over their shoulders, even though the three teams below them also lost. But they have the chance to end their fears over the next fortnight as they visit second bottom Bury on Saturday and host bottom club Sudbury the following weekend.
Great Witchingham, however, eased their worries with that thrilling single-run win over Woolpit.
Asked to bat, the Witches made 188-8 from 61 overs. Having lost their two Norfolk openers, James Spelman and Sam Arthurton, for single figures, a collection of useful innings from James Hale (26), Thomas Collishaw (28), Stephan Joubert (34), Shaun Arthurton (28) and Jonathan Spelman (21no) gave them a defendable total.
Woolpit, however, made a strong start with four of their top five – Andrew Northcote (a quick 27), Will Parker (a slow 32), Craig Rutterford (38) and Michael Jones (43) helping them to 171-5 before Kieran Bunting (4-34) ripped through their lower order.
It came down to their last wicket pair needing three off the last ball to win. But having made an easy first run they were well short going for the game-tieing second – James Hale adding the run out of Dudley Spiers to his 4-50 with the ball.
Vauxhall Mallards were beaten by six wickets before tea at Clacton, where Norfolk's Ben France took 4-25 in their all out total of 155 before scoring 45 in the successful run chase – sharing in a third wicket stand of 106 with David Bunn (65).
Rahul Dewan (59) once again top-scored for the Ducks, whose only other double-figure contributors were opener Sam Plater (21) and captain Paul Bradshaw (37).