Club Cricket Conference

Tuesday, 19th June 2018

Swardeston take East Anglian standards to high level

By Charles Randall

25 October 2016

There can be little doubt that Swardeston, from Norwich, finished the season as the outstanding club of 2016, even though they lost the Royal London Club Championship final to South Northumberland.

As East Anglian Premier League champions for a fifth successive season, Swardeston won the national T20 competition at Derby, beating Sandiacre in the final, and they somehow survived an extraordinary semi-final against Weybridge to go all the way in the 50-over format.

Weybridge, who finished third in the Surrey Championship a long way behind the winners Sunbury, must have thought they had done enough when they reached the last over needing only two runs for victory with two wickets in hand. Even a tie might have been enough for the visitors to go through on wickets lost, but leg-spinner Matt Taylor produced a wicket maiden out of the hat to spark joyous scenes at The Common.

Philip Mann, with 41 not out, seemed to have steered Weybridge to victory, but he was not on strike when Taylor started the final over, and the tail could not lay bat on ball. While the result was exciting for Swardeston, it was more than frustrating for Weybridge after a famous fightback. Ben Curran, brother of the Surrey all-rounders, hit 75 before becoming a second run-out victim,  and Weybridge faded until an eighth-wicket stand of 63 between Mann and Brent Kay took them to the brink.

Taylor enjoyed success with the ball in the Royal London final at Northampton, but Swardeston proved no match for South Northumberland, victorious by 73 runs.

'South North', twice previous winners, needed the experience of the former Australia Test batsman Marcus North, 41 off 52 balls, to take them to 159 all out, with Taylor claiming 4-28 and Michael Eccles 3-28, but in reply Swardeston lost Peter Lambert to the first ball of the innings, caught in the covers, and they struggled to 84 all out. Only Lewis Denmark, with 34, resisted after Stephen Gray and the seasoned match winner Joe Gatting, bowled second ball for a duck, had been dismissed by Jonathan Wightman in the second over. The loss of Gatting and Gray, with 3,500-plus competitive runs between them this season, was the hammer blow.

South North might have felt it would their season when they demolished 2012 winners York by eight wickets in the first round. Wightman and Stephen Humble reduced York to 18-7, and a recovery to 156 was not enough.

Weybridge also started well when Ben Curran smashed 157 from 110 balls and added 234 runs for the second wicket with Tom Winslade (90 from 106 balls) to set up a 204-run win over Surrey Championship rivals Guildford  – a reverse from the league result between the two sides just 24 hours earlier.

To reach two national finals in one season Swardeston needed luck, as any side would. They advanced to the T20 quarter-final at Radlett only because West Indian Cavaliers, to whom they lost, were later disqualified by the ECB  for an ineligible player. And Taylor's sensational maiden over against Weybridge in the 50-over format was a rarity at this level.

Swardeston topped the East Anglian table comfortably, but they suffered one really bad day in August when Jo Tetley, the Anglia Ruskin University left-hander, hit 183 off 154 balls against them for Burwell. A declaration at 400-5 and a heavy defeat was a hiccup for the future champions.

Gatting topped the league batting aggregates with 978 runs at 51.4 in a consistent summer of 10 fifties and two centuries. He finished ahead of the Boland import Dewald Botha's 958 for Copdock & Old Ipswichian. The league's most successful bowler was again Paul Bradshaw, the Vauxhall Mallards legend, who took 58 wickets, followed by 53 from Michael Rippon for Woolpit.