Swardeston cricketers poised for a dream date at Lord’s
- Credit: Archant
Swardeston's cricketers will be aiming to shine on the hallowed turf of Lord's on Monday - and winning a game at the home of cricket is only one of their targets as the season draws to a close.
Joe Gatting's side take on Cheshire side Nantwich in the final of the Royal London Club Championship looking to take the first step towards completing what would be unique double at national level.
The village club have also reached Finals Day of the Vitality Twenty20 competition, with another exciting challenge coming up at Derby on Sunday week, and the message coming out of the club is crystal clear. While both occasions will clearly be ones to relish, there is a steely determination in the squad to come home with the silverware in both competitions - and make it two big celebrations in the space of seven days.
Club chairman Stuart Bartram said: "This has been an incredible season in my first year in the role.
"I have been a member of Swardeston for almost 40 years and I guess like many would never have believed we would have the opportunity to grace the hallowed turf at Lord's.
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"Huge congratulations go to Joe Gatting and the players. There have been some very hard matches along the way and tough selection decisions but they have done the club proud.
"Reaching two national finals in the same season is a fantastic achievement and we all have our fingers crossed that the next week sees Swardeston complete a unique club cricket double."
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A coach carrying 50 supporters will be leaving Swardeston Common at 7am on Monday in good time for an 11am start. Many others are travelling down independently for what promises to be a fantastic occasion.
The Swardeston flag will be flying on the Lord's pavilion and there will be a live stream broadcast of the game, with ball-by-ball commentary.
Swardeston have had to win seven matches to reach Monday's final, which is being played at Lord's for the first time in over 10 years.
The venue for the game means this is undoubtedly the biggest game in the club's history, although they are no strangers to national success.
Swardeston won the ECB National Club T20 competition in 2010 and 2016 and were runners-up last year. They were also runners-up in the National Club Championship in 2016, losing to South Northumberland in the final at County Ground in Northampton.
The club will also be running a supporters coach to Derby for the Vitality Twenty20 finals on Sunday week. Those interested in reserving a seat (£15) should email firstname.lastname@example.org and make the subject line Derby.
Swardeston, a village with a population of well under 1,000, can trace the history of their cricket club back over 150 years.
The club now runs four Saturday sides, two Sunday teams and has a thriving youth section with teams at Under-19, Under-15, Under-13, Under-11 and Under-9 level. 2014 saw a girls' and women's section introduced and in 2018 were both indoor and outdoor Norfolk champions.
Swardeston were a founding member of the Read Brothers East Anglian Premier League in 1999 and have celebrated seven title-winning seasons, including five successive championships from 2012-2016. The remaining three teams play in the Cecil Amey Opticians Norfolk Cricket Alliance.
The club runs weekly youth training nights during the summer term which attract more than 80 youngsters to the club's two grounds. The 2019 All Stars programme saw more than 70 five to eight-year-olds attending the club's eight-week programme.
Road to final: round 1 - Swardeston 239-7, Fakenham 174, round 2 - Swardeston 279-6, Bourne 207,
round 3 - Cambridge 210, Swardeston 216-6, round 4 - Swardeston 216-2, Chelmsford 213-9, round 5 -
Finchley 183, Swardeston 225-8, quarter-final - Bexley 129 Swardeston 261-9, semi-final - Swardeston 259-7, Ealing 227.
Swardeston team: Jordan Taylor, Callum Taylor, Stephen Gray (WK),Joe Gatting (captain), Peter Lambert, Lewis Denmark, Alfie Cooper, Richard Sims, Matthew Taylor, Mark Thomas, Tom Oxley. 12th man: Toby Duncan.
Swardeston's Lewis Denmark would settle for a repeat of his previous performance against Nantwich when the two sides meet at Lord's on Monday.
Denmark played a knock he will never forget last September, smashing 122 in just 56 balls to light up the finals day of another national competition, the Vitality Twenty 20, at the County Ground in Derby.
That was the key innings as Swardeston made it through to the final at the Cheshire side's expense - and although the subsequent defeat at the hands of Hanging Heaton took some of the shine off the achievement it remains a knock the batsmen will never forget.
"Obviously it would have felt a lot sweeter had we won the competiton, but it's probably the best I have ever hit the ball," he said. "It was just one of those days when everything seemed to come off the middle and I kept finding the gaps. When everything clicks like that it's a special feeling.
"Now we're facing Nantwich again at Lord's - and there has been a bit of friendly banter between me and one of their bowlers on social media about the game. He has been saying it will be different this time around - we'll just have to wait and see about that!"
Denmark can't wait for his first opportunity to play at the home of cricket, after two less than memorable visits as a spectator.
"I went down for the Ashes this summer and also attended a Middlesex game on a Cricket Board visit, when we were due to do some coaching on the pitch during the interval," he recalled. "On each occasion it rained all day and there was no play. There haven't been many complete wash-outs at Lord's in recent years and I managed to pick both of them!
"Joe (Gatting) has obviously played there before but with Freddie Ruffell (who played there when studying at Harrow) away it will be a first for the rest of the lads.
"It's about going out there and enjoying the occasion - but obviously there is a game of cricket to be won and that will be our target. We have also reached finals day of the Twenty20 again and it would be great for the club if we could be the first team to win both competitions in the same season. But whatever happens it is going to be a great occasion for everyone connected with the club, not just the players."