EAPL title race set to go down to wire
PUBLISHED: 12:39 24 August 2011
Archant copyright 2011
The East Anglian Premier League title race is boiling up to a real nail-biter.
With just 12 points between the top four sides, it is the best possible scenario from a neutral standpoint.
The way things have worked out in recent weeks, it is anybody’s title.
The form side are reigning champions Cambridge Granta, who have built up a lot of momentum from the halfway stage of the season when their chances of retaining their title looked remote.
They have got into the habit of winning games and it may be significant that they avoid their three title rivals from Norfolk in their final four matches, when they play Burwell, Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Saffron Walden.
The three Norfolk contenders were all involved in thrilling finishes on Saturday. Leaders Swardeston, who looked to be in the driving seat a few weeks ago, allowed victory to slip through their grasp against Granta, while Vauxhall Mallards and Great Witchingham both achieved two-wicket victories in games that appeared to be slipping away from them.
With four matches left, there are still potentially 120 points up for grabs so there is still a great deal of EAPL cricket to be played before we discover the outcome of this fascinating title battle.
Horsford appear to be the one Norfolk side with little, realistically, at stake after slipping into sixth place, 43 points behind the top four.
For Norwich, the story is very different as they attempt to get off the bottom of the table and there are still enough points available for them to do it. They are now just 17 behind Clacton after the weekend results.
The problem for Norwich is that though they have stopped their series of defeats, they are not yet turning them into wins.
After Saturday’s visit of Saffron Walden, it promises to be a tough run-in for Norwich with their final three matches all against Norfolk sides currently in the top half, two of them still title contenders. Burwell have had a satisfactory first season in the league and I don’t really believe Saffron Walden will be dragged down into the mire, so it looks like a battle between Norwich and Clacton to avoid the drop.
There is certainly a lot of good EAPL cricket to be played and when our Alliance season is over at Acle this Saturday, I look forward to watching some of it.
• CROMER WILL HAVE TO DO IT THE HARD WAY
I played golf with my former Norfolk team-mate and good friend Chris Carey last Friday, when he informed me he had been persuaded to turn out for Cromer again as they bid to escape from the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division relegation zone.
It was a good move as he scored 88 but it was not enough to stave off a two-wicket defeat at the hands of Sprowston, which leaves Cromer bottom of the table, 30 points behind Brooke and 23 behind Stow with four matches to go.
And if it isn’t hard enough, having just played the second-placed side, they are at home on Saturday to runaway leaders Fakenham, who will be looking to clinch the title.
It is still possible that either Cromer or Stow could overhaul Brooke, third from bottom, in the final four games, but it is hard to see both the bottom two escaping the drop.
Lowestoft, fourth from bottom, ought to be safe with a 37-point advantage over Stow, but the fact they have played one game more than the three teams below them could make it interesting.
I am taking part in Cromer’s Golf Day today so I look forward to catching up on the mood in the camp going into the last four games.
The top of the Premier Division is effectively done and dusted with Fakenham all but crowned champions and in Division One, Old Buckenham and Acle are already promoted with only the title at stake.
Whoever finishes top, there is no question we have been the two outstanding sides in the division and both clubs deserve to go back to the Premier Division at the first attempt.
It is just a question of who goes up as champions.
• ENGLAND HAVE MADE INDIA LOOK A VERY AVERAGE SIDE
While England’s players and their supporters are celebrating becoming the top-ranked nation in Test cricket, the question many of us must be asking is how opponents India ever reached that pinnacle themselves.
Taking nothing away from England’s 4-0 series victory, achieved by some masterful batting and a world-class attack that has dominated India’s batsmen, the world one-day champions have looked a very average Test team.
Monday’s second innings collapse in the fourth Test at The Oval, from 262 for three to 281 all out, summed up India’s series.
The fact is they managed 300 only once in eight innings – and only exactly 300 at that – and with the scoring rate and totals being achieved in Test cricket these days, it was never going to be enough to keep them in the game.
The perception from watching on TV and from people who have seen the tourists at close quarters is that their preparation has been very lacklustre and their morale very low.
My former county colleague, Paul Bradshaw, reckons that we did more in our warm-ups before Norfolk matches than the Indians did at times in this series and that some of their pre-match fielding drills were very old hat.
It is surprising that a team coached by Duncan Fletcher should be lacking in so many areas.
So it’s back to the drawing board for India, who have an ageing batting side, whose fielding at times was village standard, whose energy levels were low and whose bowling, admittedly depleted by injuries to key players, was so innocuous. R P Singh, who was brought in for the final Test, had not played a first-class game since January and delivered what some commentators, including Sir Ian Botham, described as the worst first over in Test history.
The quality of England’s replacements when players like Jonathan Trott and Chris Tremlett were injured was also far superior to India’s back-up players.
Although I tipped England to win the series, I honestly expected a much closer contest. At times it was so one-sided it was untrue.
But credit where credit is due. India were only as good as England allowed them to be. This really is a very formidable England side playing at the top of their game and they are deservedly world-ranked number one.
Of course, if there is one thing harder than getting to number one it is staying there, and they face a tough winter against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and in Sri Lanka, but this England team still looks good abroad as they showed in last winter’s Ashes series.