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Rain stays away at last - but that's where the happiness ends

PUBLISHED: 12:38 24 May 2012

England's Alastair Cook acknowledges the crowd after reaching his half century during the first Test at Lord's.

England's Alastair Cook acknowledges the crowd after reaching his half century during the first Test at Lord's.

At last! A weekend of no rain and a full fixture card throughout the county.

But I’m not sure that we at Acle were too happy with a lack of the wet stuff as yet again we succumbed to a heavy defeat in our Norfolk Alliance Premier Division game against current leaders Norwich.

Unfortunately, I was away on a school cricket tour so was unable to witness our latest foray into Premier Division cricket, but from what I hear it was the same old story.

However, before I start crucifying our players, I’m sure Chris Borrett would have been equally pleased with his troops for putting us in our place after all his side’s turmoils of last season.

On paper, Norwich have a side to beat any other in the county but, as Chris will admit, it is consistency that eludes them and that factor stops them from becoming one of the more successful sides. Cup runs have generally been their main focus over the past few years but I’m certain that at this level his squad of players will be right up there at the end of the season.

One decision announced by the Norfolk Alliance management committee last week was that, due to the withdrawal of Hillington at the start of the season and the early-season bad weather, only two teams would now be relegated from the Premier Division at the end of the season.

Currently that seems like a huge light at the end of our tunnel but I still believe that Acle are better than we are currently showing and maybe one good performance is all we need to kick-start our season. Maybe that will come this weekend when we play Old Buckenham, the side who came up with us last year from Division One. But, remember what happened when we played them in the NACO Cup 10 days ago – all out for 28!

Norfolk sides had a good weekend in the East Anglian Premier League with three of our teams earning victories, with the most comprehensive being that of Vauxhall Mallards, who now share top spot with newly-promoted Copdock & Old Ipswichians.

At Horsford, my mate Luke Caswell did his chances of gaining a starting spot in Norfolk’s first championship match – against Suffolk, starting on June 3 – no harm by taking an incredible eight for 16 against a decent Saffron Walden side. Not to be outdone, Mark “Supermarket Man” Thomas bowled Swardeston to victory with an equally impressive seven for 46 against Burwell. This now means Norfolk clubs occupy three of the top four spots and are well on the way to reasserting their dominance of cricket within the EAPL.

Current champions Cambridge Granta sit bottom but one, but don’t discount them yet, especially at this early stage.

The Norfolk Twenty20 Cup got under way at Manor Park on Tuesday night and there will be a new club involved in the competition when the second match takes place tonight.

I will not have a first-hand view of the action this season as Acle have decided not to take part as we found it increasingly difficult to field a full-strength side. We are not the youngest side in Norfolk and a lot of our senior players have work commitments that make it difficult to play midweek games.

But in our place, it’s good to see another Norfolk Alliance Premier Division side involved in Sprowston, who play Norwich this evening.

Sprowston will be ideally suited to this form of cricket. Having played against them in the first of our Alliance fixtures to escape the bad weather, I know they are a very young side and Twenty20 is a young man’s game.

They have lads who can put bat to ball, as well as a couple of old warhorses in Simon Chipperfield and Rob Purton, both of whom have plenty of East Anglian Premier League experience.

Anything can happen in 20 overs and although, on paper, it looks like a victory for Norwich tonight, I think Sprowston will be very competitive and could certainly cause an upset or two.

It could be a tougher time for Brooke, who were relegated to Alliance Division One at the end of last season and are currently bottom of the table, though they have completed only one league match. Who comes out on top in the eighth year Horsford have run their Twenty20 competition is difficult to predict. Swardeston will be bidding for a hat-trick of titles, but I feel the gap between the top four Norfolk clubs will be smaller this season, and Fakenham and Norwich will not be too far behind the big four if and when they meet in the Cup competitions.

Well, the first Test at Lord’s went pretty much the way I expected in terms of the result, but anyone who followed it closely will tell you that it was by no means easy for England.

The scorecard reads victory by five wickets but at midday on the last morning victory was by no means certain. What helped England was having two guys perfectly suited for such a position – England’s next captain, Alastair Cook, and the most technically gifted batsman in English cricket, Ian Bell.

They took the attack to the West Indies and ultimately our opponents had no answer. How they must be wishing Chris Gayle makes himself available for the next Test match and that Shane Shillingford gets over his “cold fingers” problem, a suggestion by captain Darren Sammy that was actually laughable.

Gayle will provide that bit of quality that the tourists require at the top of the order because, all too clearly, they rely unquestionably on Shiv Chanderpaul to hold them together.

His batting at the moment, while not what you would coach your youngsters, is magical. Number one ranked in the world, he has developed a technique to play all kinds of bowlers and he has become extremely successful with it. But to become a higher-ranked Test nation, the Windies need to start winning Test matches – they have lost five of the last seven – and they won’t do that with the current crop of players, especially as all the front line seamers appear to be carrying an injury.

Shillingford impressed everyone in Australia and to do that he must be a half-decent bowler. He also gives a greater balance to the attack. However, if England decide to target him and the West Indies go in with only four front line bowlers, they could be in trouble.

Sammy is not a Test match bowler. He is a capable number eight batsman and a good slip fielder but that shouldn’t get you into a Test side. The reason he plays is that the current political situation in West Indian cricket means he is the glue that they use to stick it all together. Unfortunately that glue isn’t good enough and before too long the whole thing will fall apart. Oh, Ottis Gibson, what have you let yourself in for!

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