Horsford’s best chance
I am trying my very hardest not to put a curse on Horsford's chances in this season's East Anglian Premier League title race. Having hit top spot at the weekend after their crushing victory against then leaders Copdock & Old Ipswichians, for the first time since 2006, when they first played in the competition, I believe they have a real chance to do well.
The reasons are many. Firstly they currently have Jaik Mickleburgh playing for them on a regular basis. It seems that no matter how many runs he scores for Essex second team, he is not in the frame to play first eleven cricket at the moment, so that is a huge bonus to Horsford, though Jaik may view it in a slightly different way.
Also, the club have, in effect, two overseas players this year though only one, Chris Sabburg from Australia, is registered as non-English. He was reasonably successful when he came over two seasons ago and along with his fellow 'Australian-Englishman', James Wild, the middle order has a far more solid look to it than it had previously. These two guys also bowl spinners and once again, even though they have lost Ryan Findlay to Northamptonshire Academy on a Saturday, Chris Brown will again have a three-pronged spin attack to stifle sides.
Added to this, I don't believe the other local sides are as strong this year as in the past. They are all capable of producing a brilliant result, but can any of them produce the results week in, week out?
I believe it will take Swardeston some time to replace Jaden Hatwell and also Richard Sims is not playing at the moment. These two players have been the backbone of Swardeston's success over the past few years and their presence will be sorely missed.
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Vauxhall Mallards, though going about their business in their usual manner under the guidance of my good friend Paul Bradshaw, are third in the table but I just don't see the invincibility they once had. Believe me, they are still a very good side but they are eminently beatable nowadays.
Then we have Great Witchingham, who have a huge amount of batting talent but I fear will struggle to bowl sides out to win games.
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The other EAPL sides are all a tad inconsistent too so, as you can see, I believe this season represents a real opportunity for my old club, Horsford, to win some silverware. Individual honours have never been too far away from Chris Brown's trophy cabinet but, as yet, he hasn't won anything in his four years as Horsford captain and I know that is something he desperately wants to correct.
This season could be his best chance so far.
? The Norfolk Alliance Premier Division is beginning to take shape after our miserable start to the season. Norwich and Fakenham sit at the top after both recorded impressive victories at the weekend.
Acle have played against both sides – two defeats – and we can vouch for their credentials as title contenders. Norwich's defeat of Downham was a clear statement of their intent to return to the EAPL at their first attempt.
Life gets no better for us as we were humbled by Old Buckenham, again, to leave us just four points off the bottom of the table. Batting is a real challenge at the minute for our top order. One fifty in four games bears testament to that. Yet again our front line batsmen were blown away in the first 15 overs and, with failing eyesight and reducing limb movement, I don't really wish to be at No 9 so early in our innings. The fact we took the game to the last over shows some of the nous we need but we should be showing that higher in the order.
This week brings the relatively straightforward challenge of Downham Town, the best Alliance Premier side for the past five years, so another toughie to get through and, yet again, not a full-strength side to pick from due to unavailability. Oh well, things can only get better!
• REST IS NOT ALWAYS BEST FOR BOWLERS IN TOP FORM
There is some discussion over whether England may rest their frontline seamers for the third Test against West Indies with Stuart Broad and James Anderson both having injury niggles in recent weeks.
With the series already in the bag after the nine-wicket victory at Trent Bridge, and both Steven Finn and Graham Onions fit and available, the team management will discuss whether to make changes for the Edgbaston match, starting on June 7.
No two players are the same, but I believe most bowlers prefer to keep ticking over, especially when things are going well.
Rhythm is very important for a fast bowler and taking an extended break can sometimes do more harm than good.
The one thing we can be sure of is that England coach Andy Flower and bowling coach David Saker know what's best for their players – you don't get to number one in the world by accident and we can trust them to make the right decision.
• BURY PITCH USUALLY PRODUCES A RESULT
Norfolk's Minor Counties Championship programme begins with the three-day match against Suffolk, starting at Bury St Edmunds on Sunday.
It's a bit unusual to begin the season with the derby fixture, but playing it on an extended Bank Holiday weekend should guarantee plenty of interest.
I've always regarded Bury as a result wicket, especially the further across the square you play from the pavilion side of the ground, because there is a ridge there that tends to favour the seamers.
Nothing can really be deduced from Norfolk's one-day programme, with none of their MCCA Knockout Trophy games being finished, so in terms of selection I expect they will go with what they know. There will be at least two spinners in George Walker and Chris Brown but it will be interesting to see who features in the seam bowling attack. There are plenty of options with Luke Caswell and Aaron Watson among those putting themselves in the frame with their early-season form.
The two sides know each other very well but as long as it is not too cat and mouse on the first two days, I would expect a positive result – weather permitting.