Sprowston Cricket Club are a force to be reckoned with
Sprowston Cricket Club chairman John Murrell has spoken of his pride after one of the most memorable spells of his 51 years at the club saw a major trophy placed in the Barkers Lane silverware cabinet . . . with the possibility of another one to come.
The celebrations from Friday night's stunning 45-run Norfolk Twenty20 cup final win over Vauxhall Mallards had barely died down when Simon Chipperfield's stars booked their place in the final of the prestigious Carter Cup, beating Garboldisham on superior run rate after a rain-affected semi-final.
These are heady days for all at the club, none more so than for stalwart Murrell, who began his long association as a player at 14, and has been coach, treasurer and, for the past decade, chairman.
'I am very proud,' he admitted. 'The real thing that I am proud of is that a lot of the younger players who are playing in the team are also doing a lot of work behind the scenes rather than just turning up and playing the games.'
Although Sprowston's success against the Norfolk powerhouse teams of Horsford, Norwich, Great Witchingham and Mallards in the T20 competition has opened eyes this season, the foundations were laid many years ago, when a fabled conveyor belt of youth talent began rolling.
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The success has been a long time in the making as carefully nurtured young players have blossomed into authentic senior level performers. It has been a team effort of which everyone at the club can be proud.
'Success doesn't just happen overnight. There has been a lot work behind the scenes – it's not just the players on the pitch but a whole collection of people from the tea person upwards,' said Murrell.
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Sprowston have never won the Carter Cup, having lost in the 1988 final to Horsford, and Murrell is hoping they can at long last lay the ghost to rest against the year 2000 winners Norwich in the Manor Park showdown on Sunday, August 12 (10.45am start).
'It's going to be tough. Norwich are a good all-round side. I am just hoping it's a good competitive game. It would be disappointing if it's a one-sided affair. If it's a good match, that's all I can ask for.'
In the aftermath of Friday night's cup win Sprowston lost to Norwich heavily in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division on Saturday, but Murrell said: 'I don't think the players will read a lot into that. They will be quite confident.'
Sprowston finished runners-up after returning to the Alliance top flight last season but have found life tougher and been dogged by inconsistency this term, ex-Great Witchingham EAPL player Chipperfield's first at the helm since taking the captaincy reins from Phil Glozier.
'I think we took people by surprise a bit last year. This year we haven't quite clicked in the same way on Saturdays – I wouldn't say it's because the cups have been a distraction, though.'
Sprowston's success has been based on a home-grown formula in recent years, after they decided not to bring in a paid professional. They have not employed an overseas professional since New Zealander Greg Nicholl more than five years ago.
But Murrell admitted it was a case of never say never, especially if the club wants to step up to the East Anglian Premier League in the future. 'To compete at the top of the league we might need to look at the situation. You have got to keep it open,' he said.
Although EAPL cricket would mean extra pressure on finances and resources, Murrell said: 'It's really down to the players. It's something the players would have to look at if they got to the position of winning the Alliance Premier Division.'
Meanwhile, this season the club has seen a further boost to the facilities at the impressive Barker's Lane ground which has been their home since 1990 with the addition of a �24,000 double bay practice net, paid for by the ECB, other grant aid and club fund-raising.