Chasing pack are grateful to Granta for that victory

Paul NewmanThree local derbies in the East Anglian Premier League brought three convincing victories for teams with an eye on top spot - and it is still anyone's title at the halfway stage of the season.Paul Newman

Three local derbies in the East Anglian Premier League brought three convincing victories for teams with an eye on top spot - and it is still anyone's title at the halfway stage of the season.

Reigning champions Vauxhall Mallards needed to kick-start their season and how better than with a comprehensive 187-run win over Swardeston.

James Marshall had made a solid rather than spectacular contribution for Mallards until now but the New Zealander's 131 at Brundall was not a moment too soon, and helped push his side into fifth place, within 31 points of new leaders Cambridge Granta.

There is no doubt that when the overseas player produces that kind of performance, it is that much easier for the rest of the side to play around him, and Swardeston, who have blown a little bit hot and cold this season, were on the receiving end this time.

Horsford lifted themselves back into third place with another home victory, with their overseas player, Australian Chris Sabburg, also scoring a century, and with Norwich slipping into bottom spot as a result of their Manor Park defeat, they will need to produce their customary strong second half of the season to steer clear of a relegation battle. The return of Felix Flower and, I understand, Ashley Watson for a short period should improve their chances of staging a recovery.

Great Witchingham skipper James Spelman's five-wicket haul and half-century in the victory over Fakenham brought them back into contention and, after a spell at the top of the table early in the season, he will be looking for them to keep the pressure on from now on.

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The four Norfolk sides in the top six will all be grateful for Granta's 56-run win at home to morning leaders Saffron Walden. Granta have been a consistent top half side in recent seasons, and their bowlers did a very good job in a low-scoring game, but it will take a brave man to bet on them staying at the top.

Leading from the front is a different ball game and if this season has proved anything in the EAPL, it is that anybody can beat anybody. We have already had five different teams topping the table.

It makes for a strong, competitive league and the second half of the season promises to be a fascinating battle. Downham march on in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division after their seven-wicket win over Acle retained their 50-point lead. We were never really in the game because we were unable to post a competitive total. We have some tough fixtures coming up and must learn from this defeat if we are to climb the table.


Any England victory over Australia is cause for celebration but winning the NatWest Series of one-day internationals with two matches to spare is fantastic.

The first two victories were comfortable, the third at Old Trafford was anything but. However, the new resilience of this team was demonstrated by the way Tim Bresnan took them past the Australian total in a tense finish.

It's only nine months since the Aussies won the one-day series 6-1 in England, and though they are not in the best nick - the batting has been brittle and they do not have their strongest attack available -they went into the fourth match at The Oval today in real danger of suffering a 5-0 whitewash.

There is clearly a great deal of confidence flowing through this England squad after victories in the Ashes and the World Twenty20 and although the personnel differs from squad to squad, coach Andy Flower seems to have them all firing on all cylinders at the moment.

He has found missing parts of the jigsaw in each team and there seems to be a real belief in the England camp that they will not lose.

I can remember a similar feeling in the Norfolk one-day side in 2001, when we won the one-day trophy at Lord's and beat Holland and the Somerset Board XI at Manor Park at the end of the season. We felt as if we couldn't lose.

England managed to beat five of the top nations in the World Twenty20, including South Africa and Australia, and there is clearly a feeling that they can beat anybody. Flower and Andrew Strauss have planned meticulously for each set of opponents, and with the help of fielding standards that are higher than ever, England are finally delivering in all forms of the game - Test, 50-over and Twenty 20.


From heroes to zeros, England's success on the cricket field is in stark contrast to a miserable World Cup for our footballers in South Africa.

But while there is no defence for the dismal performance of Fabio Capello's team against Germany in Bloemfontein, no one can dispute that Frank Lampard and England were robbed of a perfectly valid goal and, at 2-2 at half-time, I believe it would have made a difference in the second half. As an England fan, I was more than a little gutted.

The incident has brought the arguments over goal-line technology to the fore once again and it seems remarkable that, 44 years after Geoff Hurst's goal at Wembley, we are still debating the same issue. In the 60s and 70s, we did not have the means to settle such disputes, but now we do.

It has been said in the past that TV replays would disrupt the flow of football, whereas stop-start games such as cricket and tennis have been able to accommodate a second opinion from the sidelines.

But I believe the demand for change will now be too powerful for FIFA to ignore. Their resistance to change will be chipped away - it's just a matter of how far the new technology will go.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter does not want to remove the human element from decision making, but it will be harder to keep saying no, and he confirmed yesterday that the technology issue will be discussed again.

In cricket, the use of the third umpire and Hawkeye has drastically reduced the influence of the men in white coats, at least at the top levels of the game, to the point where almost every close run out is referred to the cameras and we may as well have robots out in the middle.

That won't happen in football, but there has to be room for manoeuvre after Sunday's shambles.