Swardeston’s heavy defeat throws EAPL title race wide open

Cricket action from the East Anglian Premier Cricket League between Norwich CC and Vauxhall Mallards

Cricket action from the East Anglian Premier Cricket League between Norwich CC and Vauxhall Mallards. Devon Conway bowling for Vauxhall Mallards.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Archant

The race for the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League title was thrown wide open on Saturday when leaders Swardeston slumped to a heavy defeat as all their rivals were picking up a bumper haul of points.

Vauxhall Mallards kept their outside hopes of glory alive by recording a superb 127-run victory at The Common – while Frinton and Cambridge Granta also won handsomely to pile the pressure on the defending champions with just two rounds of games to play.

Swardeston's morning advantage of 37 points over Frinton was cut to just 10, while Granta are now just 18 points adrift of top spot and Mallards 21.

Mark Thomas' side could yet seal a fourth successive triumph next weekend if they win at Great Witchingham while other results go their way - but another defeat at Walcis Park would most likely see them going into the final weekend with some ground to make up.

Mallards never looked back after posting a solid total of 260-6 at The Common, with Devon Conway leading the way with 107. His partnership of 129 for the third wicket with Troy Allan (46) helped the visitors to a position of strength, with England Under-19 all-rounder Callum Taylor doing his best to halt their progress with figures of 3-38.

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Swardeston's reply got off to a disastrous start, with four batsmen being dismissed for ducks as they slid to 11-4. Stephen Gray (50) and Mohammad Wajihuddin (47) led a brave fightback but once they had departed there was no way back for the home side, who were dismissed for 133. The consistent Paul Bradshaw did most of the damage with figures of 5-26 while Brett Stolworthy weighed in with 3-30.

The wins recorded by Frinton and Cambridge Granta provided a big boost for the two Norfolk sides on the fringes of the relegation zone.

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The teams on the wrong end of those results – Saffron Walden and Woolpit respectively – are now 31 points adrift at the foot of the table and it seems a reasonably fair bet that the battle to avoid the drop will be fought out between the two of them.

Norwich went into the weekend looking anxiously over their shoulders but they just about assured their safety with a thrilling five-run win over neighbours Horsford in a low-scoring game at Manor Park.

Ashley Watson's side appeared to be heading for an emphatic defeat when they were dismissed for just 100, with Ben France maintaining his purple patch with five wickets for 34 and Ryan Findlay (3-31) and Chris Brown (2-30) providing excellent support.

When the hosts reached 73-4 in reply it looked all over bar the shouting but from that position of strength they collapsed to 95 all out, with the skipper taking 5-37.

Horsford are now level on points with an in-form Bury St Edmunds in third from bottom position – but that 31 point advantage over the bottom two should leave them feeling reasonably – if not totally – secure.

Sam Arthurton's unbeaten 121 saw Great Witchingham home to a three-wicket victory against Copdock. The Witches finished on 271-7 chasing a total of 270-9 which was built around an innings of 102 from Essex's former Norfolk batsman Jaik Mickleburgh.

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