Young players have laid foundations for a strong future with Norfolk CCC in 2015
- Credit: Tim Ferley
After a campaign of mixed fortunes, Norfolk CCC skipper Chris Brown looks back on the 2015 season with David Freezer – and is hopeful of 2016 improvements.
At first look Norfolk CCC may not appear to have improved much on last season – but captain Chris Brown feels his young side have laid the foundations for a strong future.
Finishing seventh in the Unicorns Minor Counties Championship and being knocked out of the Knockout Trophy in the quarter-finals matched the achievements of 2014.
Things could so easily have been much different however.
Losing by just 19 runs at Lincolnshire in the one-day quarter-finals and rain enforced three-day draws left Brown and his team frustrated at times.
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Yet encouraging first seasons for some young players and a much more settled side are just two of the reasons the Norfolk skipper is already looking forward to next season.
'We said you needed to be available for at least four Championship games and the team environment has been absolutely first class – and that's the main reason we wanted to keep the same group of players who have been available,' said Brown, as he reflected on the club's three-day campaign.
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'If you look at the last game of the season, at Lincolnshire, when had it not rained on the last day and in effect they were 35-5, I'm absolutely convinced we would have won, and so did everyone else who made the trip to Cleethorpes.
'We took 12 points from that game and that win would have got us another 11 points and that would have moved us up to sixth, which would probably have been a more realistic reflection of how we had played.
'You can't control the weather but we had dominated with bat and ball, and in the field, we completely outplayed them, so that was a shame.'
In total, Norfolk won one and drew three of their six league matches.
The victory came at the beginning of the annual Norfolk Festival of Cricket at Manor Park, when Hertfordshire were beaten with three wickets to spare – as Sam Arthurton blasted his way to knocks of 172 and 96.
'During the festival, the game against Hertfordshire we played really well, but we did come a bit unstuck against Suffolk at Copdock when we lost in the last over by two wickets, but that could easily have gone the other way,' Brown continued.
'And then against Cambridgeshire we made a fantastic effort when Jimmy Hale made 86 not out, on a turning pitch, after they had set us a total of 320.
'To end up 18 runs short was a really good effort and I think this current group of players moving forward is really going to be the shape of the team for the county for the next five or 10 years.
'People like Adam Todd, who was new this year, Brett Stolworthy, Jordan Taylor and Jimmy Hale are the future for the team, so the signs are good.'
The one-day season saw a five-wicket defeat to Hertfordshire recovered by victories over Bedfordshire and Cambs to finish second in Group Two and progress to the knockout stages of the Unicorns Trophy.
'The first game we played, at Hertfordshire, we lost and we weren't at our best but we fought back well to qualify again for the quarter-finals – which makes it three years in a row we've reached that stage,' continued the Horsford off-spinner.
'It was a bit disappointing at Lincolnshire in the quarter-finals, on a really cold, wet day, not that it is an excuse, but the ball was wet during the time we were in the field and we had to get on with it.
'Sam Kelsall is a former England Under-19 player and he really made the difference for them on the day (scoring 73 with the bat and taking 3-43).
'We played okay after winning the toss and going against our natural instincts and having a bowl first because the pitch was damp and then from about the 15th over we were stood in the field in drizzle.
'So we were disappointed in one aspect but it was the third year running to get that far in the competition so it was good to make the quarter-finals again.
'You could argue that we were a lot closer to going on this year than the poor performance at Wiltshire (in the quarter-finals) last year, because we were only 19 runs short of beating Lincolnshire, but certainly there is still room for improvement.'
Great Witchingham's James Spelman was Norfolk's top-scoring batsman in the one-day format with 248 runs in his four matches, drawing praise from his skipper.
'James Spelman has improved his one-day game a lot,' Brown added. 'Obviously he's a brilliant three-day player and he's worked at his one-day skills and is certainly playing spin a lot more freely in the shorter format.
'He was consistently getting good scores all the way through the season, backed up by Sam Arthurton and Garry Park, and some useful runs from Jordan Taylor and Ben France.'