Teams need self belief to topple league champions

Paul NewmanAs I enter my thirteenth year of 'The Verdict' it's nice to see that some things don't change. Rain completely washed out cricket within the county on Saturday with the exception of the Norfolk Alliance Premier League game at champions Downham Town.Paul Newman

As I enter my thirteenth year of 'The Verdict' it's nice to see that some things don't change.

Rain completely washed out cricket within the county on Saturday with the exception of the Norfolk Alliance Premier League game at champions Downham Town.

Whilst the rest of us sat watching how events in the world Twenty20 were unfolding on Sky Sports, Duncan Lanchester and his team managed to avoid the rain to get a reduced 30 overs game in against North Runcton.

Crucially they managed to get a positive result and have already opened a 16-point lead at the top of the division.

While clubs in the east of the county always knew that rain was lingering about for much of the day, it would appear that skies cleared sufficiently in the west for at least one game to be played.

All credit to the champions for either hanging about long enough or making every effort to get a game in as this positivity is surely the sign of a club determined to win the Premier Division for a fourth consecutive season.

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Without doubt Downham will take some beating and if we, at Acle, hope to finish higher than our position of runners up last season, then we're going to have to play out of our skins all year.

Downham are very consistent and rarely put in a poor performance. They have set the bar extremely high for three seasons and other club's like ours can't really afford to give the champions any sort of lead so early in the season.

From my perspective I just hope there are enough sides out there that have the self belief they can get something from matches against Downham and in making games more competitive this should make fixtures against the champions that much more difficult for Duncan and his side.

I know he'll understand what I mean by this, and as the true competitor he is, I'm sure he would relish the challenge.

The East Anglian Premier League has now completed its third weekend of fixtures and, taking into account the near total wash out of matches last Saturday, the table does not yet reflect the way the season may evolve.

While it's fantastic to see my old club Horsford sitting pretty at the top of the league it is far too early to say how this competition may turn out.

What is certain is that Vauxhall Mallards will be there or thereabouts come early September, Swardeston will have to win those close matches they didn't manage to do last year but did so in their championship years of 2007 and 2008, Norwich will get better as the season unfolds, Great Witchingham will be heavily reliant upon their county players, Fakenham will huff and puff but not blow too many sides away and Horsford, I hope, will remain a threat for as long as possible especially now they have an overseas pro who won't give his wicket away.

I believe the title will remain in Norfolk which is fantastic for the county and a tribute to the hard work taking place behind the scenes at our clubs.


Norwich failed to obtain revenge for last season's final defeat as they were brushed aside by Swardeston in the Carter Cup first round at Ingham.

Robert Newton blasted an unbeaten 105 from 55 balls as Swardeston took just 16.5 overs to chase down the 140 they needed for victory.

Earlier in the day, Paul Wiseman - who captained Norwich due to Chris Borrett's Norfolk commitments - won the toss and elected to bat first.

Runs were hard to come by for Norwich's openers and it wasn't long before Oliver Higenbottam looped the ball into the hands of Newton for the first wicket.

Aaron Watson relieved the pressure with an elegant cover drive, but the next wicket was just around the corner. An unhappy Ben Baldwin was adjudged to have been caught behind to leave the score at 15 for two.

Sam Noster and Watson looked to rebuild the innings with some positive running, but their resistance was ended when the impressive Chris Gardiner took the wicket of Noster for 19.

The highest partnership of the innings then followed, with Alistair Horsley smashing the final over before the interval for 16, before a post-lunch collapse left Norwich struggling.

Only 41 more runs were added to the total with Watson (31) falling in the opening over of the afternoon session. Only Horsley (61) managed to take the attack to the bowlers as no other batsman reached double figures.

Gardiner (4-43) was the pick for Swardeston, bowling with excellent pace and aggression throughout his spell. Michael Eccles and Jaden Hatwell also chipped in with two wickets apiece.

In response, Swardeston were given an early lifeline when Newton was dropped in the gully.

The 20-year-old then made the fielding side pay for their mistake with a breathtaking innings to win the game.

Jordan Taylor was dismissed for three, but Newton was already in his stride and with the assistance of Will Rist (23no) he blasted his way to 50 from just 37 balls.

The opening batsman - who hit nine fours and eight sixes along the way - then produced some massive hitting against Norwich's spinners to wrap up the nine-wicket victory as he reached his century in the 17th over.

Newton - a Northamptonshire academy player - admitted that he enjoyed himself: 'It was good. I got my eye in early on and the spinners were introduced as I decided I was going to have a go at most things,' he said.

Swardeston captain Mark Thomas reserved some words of praise for his century maker: 'It was nice to watch, certainly very entertaining,' he said. 'It's good to have him playing for us on a Sunday now and again.' Thomas urged his team to repeat the success of last year: 'It was nice to knock a fellow Premier League team out, so hopefully we can go all the way,' he said.

Carter Cup, first round: Sprowston (110-6) bt Cromer (109) by four wkts; Stow (78-1) bt Happisburgh (77) by nine wkts; Hardingham (271-3) bt Beccles (154) by 117 runs; Brooke (102) lost to Horsford (105-2) by eight wickets; Downham (162) bt Gt Witchingham (130) by 32 runs; Sheringham (204-9) lost to Swaffham (205-8) by two wkts; Lowestoft (147) lost to Bradenham (148-9) by one wkt; Norwich (139) lost to Swardeston (140-1) by nine wkts; Bungay (114-8) bt Hales (113) by two wkts; Norwich & Coltishall Wanderers (81-5) bt Mattishall (80) by five wkts; Hethersett & Tas Valley (241-8) lost to North Runcton (242-9) by one wkt; Vauxhall Mallards v Dereham - Vauxhall Mallards walkover; Fakenham v Saham Toney - Fakenham walkover; Acle, Diss and Old Buckenham received byes.


It must have been a strange feeling for Norfolk and Essex player Jaik Mickleburgh at the weekend when he became the fourth victim in a quite extraordinary over from David Payne, the Gloucestershire seam bowler.

In the Clydesdale Bank 40 match at Chelmsford, Payne took an incredible 7-29 from six overs, including four wickets in four balls, and recorded the best ever one-day figures by a Gloucestershire bowler.

Jaik admittedly was a tad unlucky, clipping a ball off his pads into short fine legs hands, but nevertheless this was quite some achievement.

I have, however, been involved in a one-day game where my Derbyshire team-mate Michael Holding took eight wickets in an innings against Sussex down at Hove but this didn't contain the thrill of a hat-trick never mind four in four.


Some readers may remember that in my final 'verdict' of last season I did comment it would not be easy for Norwich City to make an immediate return to the Championship in their first season in Division One.

My side, Leicester City, had done so the previous year but not without a few battles along the way.

This was a league where a totally different brand of football was being played and the question was would this allow Norwich to play the way they would like?

There would have been many doubters after the first game against Colchester but absolute credit to the club that they turned it round in no uncertain manner.

Total respect goes to Paul Lambert and his squad and the Championship will be a stronger league with the presence of the Canaries next season.

As for my side, we go into tonight's semi-final play-off second leg game having to 'pull it out of the hat' against a strong looking Cardiff City side.

C'mon you Blues!