Heartbreak for Norfolk as they miss out on Minor Counties East title
Norfolk missed out on what would have been a first Minor Counties East Division title for 17 years on Tuesday when they lost a thrilling encounter at Longton by 96 runs.
Hosts Staffordshire needed to win the game to overtake the leaders and only four-and-a-half overs remained when slow left-armer Paul Byrne trapped Andy Hanby leg before to settle the issue.
Hanby faced 62 balls without scoring but occupation of the crease was always more important than runs to Norfolk.
The visitors showed no interest in chasing a target of 262 and instead dug in for the draw that would have sealed top spot, with no fewer than 38 maidens being sent down by the Staffordshire bowlers.
Staffordshire resumed on 147-3 and it was clear from the start that they were looking to score quick runs and the score had progressed to 186 when Tim Maxfield was run out by Sam Arthurton. Peter Wilshaw joined Matthew Morris but their partnership did not last long as Watson trapped Morris LBW for 76. Four runs later ex Derbyshire player Rob Hemmings pushed a Watson delivery straight to Arthurton and at 196-6 Norfolk were well in the game.
The powerful Wilshaw and wicketkeeper Spencer Byatt started to score quickly however and had taken the score to 258 when Byatt was adjudged LBW to Watson for 39. Wilshaw was the next to go when he was run out by Charlie Rogers. When Watson bowled Dan Richardson for a useful 23 captain Kadeer Ali called time on the Staffordshire innings. leaving Norfolk with a victory target of 262 in a minimum of 76 overs. Watson finished with five wickets to overtake Hanby as the leading wicket taker in Minor Counties with 39 to his colleague’s 37.
Norfolk opening pair Arthurton and Jason Reynolds had put on 35 when Arthurton fell LBW to the second ball from Warwickshire youngster Manraj Johal for 23. In Johal’s second over he bowled Will Rogers for four with the score on 39. Professional Tom New added 20 with Reynolds before Ali trapped Reynolds LBW. Marillier was next to go with the score on 60 and when first innings hero Finlay was bowled by Hemmings for a duck Norfolk were in some trouble at 70-5.
New flicked a catch behind to keeper Byatt for 43 to give Johal his third wicket and Hanby entered the fray to join Watson who had started to apply himself very well. The pair were fighting hard when Watson on 33 was given LBW to Richardson. It was now an uphill battle and things got worse when Stolworthy departed to a catch close in off spinner Byrne. Hanby was standing firm but soon lost Charlie Rogers when he shouldered arms to a ball that nipped back from Hemmings. At 165-9 with ten overs remaining Means and Hanby had much to do. Eventually after 80 minutes at the crease without scoring Hanby’s rearguard action came to an end when he was trapped leg before to Byrne with the score on 165.
Despite the obvious disappointment it has been a an excellent campaign for Norfolk and they have certainly done the county proud. Well led by Watson it has been a real team effort.