Swardeston closing in on fourth straight EAPL title

Great Witchingham v Swardeston (fielding). Picture: Ian Burt

Great Witchingham v Swardeston (fielding). Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Swardeston moved to within touching distance of a fourth successive Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League title on Saturday when they pulled off a thrilling 16-run win at Great Witchingham.

While the defending champions were showing their battling qualities to emerge triumphant from a low-scoring fixture at Walcis Park, closest challengers Frinton and Cambridge Granta were both sliding to defeat against sides in the bottom half of the table.

The only team who can realistically catch Swardeston now are Vauxhall Mallards, who remain 21 points adrift with one match left to play after a narrow win of their own over Burwell.

But the ball is very much in the leaders' court and even if Mallards were to pick up a maximum haul at Frinton next Saturday they would need just 10 points from their final match at Copdock to secure the silverware.

Stephen Gray was the star man as Swardeston were asked to bat first against the Witches on an overcast morning. Runs were hard to come by but the wicketkeeper-batsman grafted his way to what proved to be a crucial 63, with Essex youngster Callum Taylor adding 36 as the visitors reached 159 in the 53rd over.

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An impressive bowling display from Witchingham, which saw James Spelman take 4-46, appeared to have put the hosts in control but their batsmen also struggled in the face of a fired-up home Swardeston attack. Some determined batting down the order from Will Rogers (31) took them close, but not close enough, and they were all out for 143 in the 51st over, with Michael Eccles weighing in with 5-60.

A good day for Swardeston became even better when news of defeats for Frinton and Granta against Bury St Edmunds and Saffron Walden respectively filtered through, with only Mallards' thrilling win at Burwell preventing it from being a perfect one.

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In another tight match Paul Bradshaw's team successfully defended a below-par total of 135, getting home by 20 runs as Bradshaw, Adam Todd and Zarshan Arshad all took three wickets. Brett Stolworthy had earlier helped give the visitors something to defend with a gritty innings of 36 in 104 balls.

At the other end of the table Horsford confirmed their EAPL status – and how – with a stunning eight-wicket win over Woolpit, who now look doomed to relegation.

Ryan Findlay's side bowled out the hosts for just 44, with an in-form Ben France posting the superb figures of 7-16 from 15 overs, before finishing the job in business-like fashion.

Norwich, all but safe even before Woolpit's defeat, lost by three wickets to Copdock after being restricted to 172, with Jason Blake making 47 and Sanjay Mishra 42.

There was an important final day fixture in the Dipple and Conway Norfolk Alliance, with Norwich A gettng the win they needed to clinch the Division Two title.

They moved up from third to first after dismissing Saham Toney for 105 and then getting home with eight wickets to spare.

Norwich finished 11 points ahead of Thetford, who are also promoted, with Hethersett and Tas Valley missing out.

Alliance results and tables – see page 47

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