New faces are better prepared to make leap
Paul NewmanNew faces are beginning to make their mark in Norfolk's Minor Counties side, as the efforts of Sam Arthurton and Harry Bush showed on the opening day of the game against Cumberland at Furness Cricket Club.Paul Newman
New faces are beginning to make their mark in Norfolk's Minor Counties side, as the efforts of Sam Arthurton and Harry Bush showed on the opening day of the game against Cumberland at Furness Cricket Club.
Back in the mid-1990s we relied on the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division to provide the bulk of the county side, but the advent of the East Anglian Premier League meant that Norfolk club cricket, which was always strong, became even stronger.
The introduction of the EAPL and the East of England Development Competition has given the younger players in the county a better standard in which to test themselves and improve. It's fair to say that scoring runs in the EAPL is now almost as difficult as scoring runs in Minor Counties cricket.
Very often in my time as captain I was told that certain players deserved their chance and should be picked for Norfolk, but with a few notable exceptions, the evidence wasn't really there because they weren't producing the eye-catching performances needed to sway the selectors.
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The difference now is that the lads who are coming through into the Norfolk side have been scoring runs or taking wickets in a higher standard of cricket, which means they are better prepared for Minor Counties cricket and, in some cases, to go on to a higher level still.
Going back to the late 90s, the side had a settled look because there were always positions where we were strong - we had the formidable opening pair of Carl Rogers and Carl Amos, a strong seam attack that included both professionals and a middle order where some players excelled as specialists in the one-day game and others were more suited to the longer format.
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Until Chris Brown arrived in 2001, we lacked a top-quality spinner but he was the final piece of the jigsaw in the side at that time.
Now the side is evolving again. The Rogers-Amos partnership came to an end, with Carl Amos' contribution worthy of greater appreciation than was perhaps given him when he rather faded from the Minor Counties scene, and now James Spelman has established himself as a successful opener in the three-day game, as further demonstrated by his fourth championship century against Cumberland on Sunday.
With Chris Borrett not playing three-day cricket this season there is another vacancy in the middle order and I think we were all pleased to see three of the younger brigade included in the side over the past three days.
Sam, who is with the Essex Academy, has certainly produced the goods this season and made another 86 on Sunday, and I have known Harry since I coached him at Norwich as an under-14. At that time he had huge potential at both cricket and tennis but cricket looks set to benefit most from his talent. He clearly made the best of a good wicket at Barrow-in-Furness with 75 not out in 49 balls.
It is good, too, to see Peter Lambert given his opportunity and although he was in a no-win situation when he batted on Sunday, he made runs in the second innings and his chance will come again.
Brown and George Walker are better than any spinners in Minor Counties cricket and the fact that they are able to bowl the bulk of the overs means Norfolk can afford to play an extra batsman.
If there is a gap in Norfolk's armoury it may be in the shape of a strike bowler, especially if Paul Bradshaw is no longer able to play three-day cricket. At the moment they are filling the void with Jonathan Miles, who took four wickets in Cumberland's first innings on Monday. He previously played for Lincolnshire but does not play club cricket in Norfolk, which appears to be another departure from the previous selection policy of Norfolk-based players only, after the failed performances of Jonathan Trower last season.
There are, however, still some candidates within the county for a place in the pace attack and there is certainly an opportunity for one of the younger bowlers to stake his claim before the season is over.
t NORFOLK'S GRASP ON CROWN LOOKS TO BE SLIPPING A BIT
I said at the start of the season that I thought the East Anglian Premier League title would stay in Norfolk but it's not looking so certain now.
Cambridge Granta moved into second place behind Saffron Walden by beating Norwich by 131 runs on a rain-affected day when none of the Norfolk sides won.
Granta have been a top half side for a number of years so their progress should come as no surprise, while Saffron Walden have a 19-point lead after beating Burwell.
The reigning champions, Vauxhall Mallards, have still not really clicked into top gear and are 56 points behind the leaders with the coming weekend marking the halfway stage of the season. They will be concerned that they do not get too far adrift and leave themselves too much to do in the second half of the campaign to hang on to their title.
It appears Swardeston's game at home to Fakenham could have gone either way, but they ended up with the worst of the points from a losing draw, while Horsford, who are fourth, also had a rain-curtailed contest at Great Witchingham.
Although the weather has played a part in the way the table looks, no side other than the leaders has won more than three of their games. The rest have to find the consistency that Saffron Walden have achieved if they are to challenge them.
I have criticised the EAPL points system before because I think there are too many points for a win compared to what is on offer to a side that totally dominates a game but can't force victory. However, I still believe the best side in the league will win the title and the Norfolk clubs have some work to do to if they are to challenge for that tag.
There is, effectively, one more EAPL team in Norfolk, except that they are top of the Alliance Premier Division by 50 points.
I have warned Chris Brown that when Horsford play Downham in their Bob Carter Cup semi-final, it will be just like playing an EAPL team and they are in for a tough match.
Most of the chasing pack in the Premier Division rely on very effective overseas players with the successful home-produced players adding the icing on the cake.
Acle came up against one of the best of the imports when we played Brooke last weekend because Rahul Dewan was clearly a class act.
t IT'S FRENCH REVOLUTION AND ANARCHY IN THE UK
Dressing room unrest has overshadowed much of the World Cup action this week, with talk of French revolution and anarchy in the UK, or at least in the England camp.
France made the headlines first with Nicolas Anelka sent home for alleged abusive comments made to national coach Raymond Domenech at half-time during the 2-0 defeat by Mexico.
Whatever the grievances of the players, if reports of Anelka's comments are correct, then you can't have that in the dressing room and you can't have the manager spoken to in that fashion.
Then we had the strange scenario where former England captain John Terry addressed the media and did his best to get the message across to disgruntled fans that he felt the sort of hard line style of management favoured by national team boss Fabio Capello was not conducive to bringing the best out of the players.
I imagine Capello had a difficult meeting with his players after the dismal 0-0 draw against Algeria, but it's not clear why Terry, rather than captain Steven Gerrard, was making a public statement about such matters.
Capello has since described Terry's comments as 'a big mistake' and Terry has now apologised, but it was the last thing any of them needed ahead of today's final Group C game against Slovenia, where we all demand - and expect - a better performance from England.
There are perhaps parallels with the problems in the England cricket camp early last year when the rift between Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores led to one standing down from the captaincy and the other being replaced as coach by Andy Flower. Pietersen had plenty to say from day one but Moores kept his own counsel on the affair and was probably the bigger victim.
The one positive from the whole affair is that things have almost certainly worked out better for the England side under Andrew Strauss and Flower than they would have done if the strained relationship between the previous captain and coach had been allowed to drag on.
Such unrest is not uncommon in cricket and my former county, Derbyshire, have had their share of turmoil over the years.
There was a fair bit of dissatisfaction at Derbyshire in my time at the rather aloof style of leadership of Kim Barnett as captain and Phil Russell as coach and their attitude towards the senior players.
I was never part of any dressing room plot or campaign against either of them, but the county's problems continued well into the 90s after I left, with Australian batsman Dean Jones leaving in mid-season after a successful first year as captain, Dominic Cork having a troubled spell as captain and Barnett eventually moving to Gloucestershire.