Swardeston claim fourth successive title despite defeat
- Credit: Archant
Swardeston were crowned Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League champions for a record-breaking fourth successive time at the weekend, despite suffering a comprehensive defeat in their final fixture.
Mark Thomas' side, who went into the weekend with a 21-point advantage over their nearest rivals, went down by 96 runs at Copdock and Ipswichian after turning in a below-par batting performance.
That meant they needed second-placed Vauxhall Mallards to slip up at Frinton to secure the title, and that's exactly what happened, with the Essex side claiming a six-wicket victory that secured runners-up position, a mere eight points behind the champions.
An exciting final day was going Swardeston's way from the moment Mallards slid to 84-8 after being put into bat – but there were plenty of twists and turns before the celebrations could begin.
While their rivals were struggling the leaders were also on the back foot, with Copdock openers Jaik Mickleburgh (73) and Sam Webb-Snowling (40) putting on 88 for the first wicket as the Suffolk side reached 236-9.
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It was a tough, although hardly daunting, target but proved well beyond the Swardeston batsmen. A battling 33 from Essex starlet Callum Taylor proved to be the top score as they were bowled out for just 140, with Matthew Wareing taking 6-29.
The title focus then switched to Frinton, where Mallards had made a decent recovery to at least give themselves something to defend. With captain Paul Bradshaw leading the way with an excellent unbeaten 62 the visitors clawed their way up to 153, meaning the win they required was by no means out of the question. But in the end it was not to be, with the hosts getting home by six wickets, despite Bradshaw's 3-19.
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The defeat saw Mallards slip to fourth in the table, two points behind Cambridge Granta, who rounded off their campaign with a win against Bury St Edmunds.
The batting performance of the day came at Burwell, where Great Witchingham openers James Spelman and Sam Arthurton both scored centuries in an impressive seven-wicket win.
A total of 297-9 had appeared to have put the hosts in control but that all changed as Spelman (129 not out) and Arthurton (118) scored 46 boundaries between them to put on 218 for the first wicket. It was plain sailing after that, with Brenton McDonald's earlier figures of 5-75 also an important factor in the win.
It was also a dramatic day at the foot of the table, with Woolpit pulling off a great escape act at Saffron Walden's expense.
The Suffolk outfit, who started the day well adrift, needed two results involving Norfolk clubs to go their way to survive. And that's exactly what transpired as they finished the day two points ahead of their relegation rivals.
Woolpit declared on 190-9 at Postwick to give themselves as much time as possible to bowl Norwich out and then skittled them out for 65, with only Oly Higenbottam (15) making double figures.
Michael Rippon led the way by taking 7-26, while Sam Pointer (4-50) was Norwich's top bowler earlier in the day.
It was an even tougher day for the batsmen at Manor Park after a rain-delayed start. After being inserted in bowler friendly conditions Saffron Walden were skittled out for a paltry 69, with the in-form Ben France taking 4-29.
The visitors were then fighting for their EAPL lives and, to their credit, came close to pulling off the win they needed to stay up. But in the end Horsford sneaked home by two wickets, with Tim Alexander the top scorer with just 18.