EAPL Round-up: Great Witchingham and Sawston & Babraham neck-and-neck at the top as Swardeston slip up leading Bury St Edmunds to close the gap
An intriguing set of results on Saturday means a fascinating second half of the 2021 Read Brothers Ltd East Anglian Premier League lies in store.
A whole host of clubs are set to be fighting it out at both the top and bottom of the division heading into the last 11 matches as teams look to find a consistent spell.
Only nine points separate the leading four teams and just four points separate the bottom four following the weekend's 11th round of fixtures.
Swardeston (195) saw their short stay at the summit ended with Norfolk rivals Horsford (196-7) turning the table on its head to register only their second win of the campaign.
Their three-wicket victory batting second was indebted to a fifer from Ashley Watson (5-45) before Stefan Marillier's patient 89 not out from 133 deliveries brought them up to a revised target of 196 from 69 overs with 10.5 overs to spare.
It gave Sawston & Babraham (298-5 dec) the chance to regain top spot but their bowlers could not finish off a stubborn hosting Copdock & Old Ipswichian (179-9) side as they ended up taking 17 points to seven from the draw.
After winning the toss Dan Heath's Rams elected to bat first, making the strongest imaginable start as they looked to recover from their back-to-back defeats.
Charlie Lewis (46) was the first wicket to fall in the 35th over with the score already up to 127-1.
Hague continued to dominate the runs but formed a strong partnership with Ethan Guest, who reached 43 in 60 deliveries before being bowled by Suffolk skipper Jack Beaumount in the 55th over. By that time the score was up to an imposing 235-2.
Hague finally succumbed within three overs Ben Clilverd joining him having racked up 151 from 174 balls.
Two wickets then fell in quick succession with Clilverd ending on 25 from 17 deliveries when Heath took the decision to declare after 60 overs.
Beaumont (9) departed to James Vandepeer in the second over while Alex Oxley (14) was caught by Charlie Lewis off Mark Smith in the 11th over to leave the hosts at 38-2.
At 71-4 in the 24th over the victory looked well in sight but Copdock were able to eek out the runs as the overs ticked by to eventually claim the draw. Their top individual scorer proved to be wicketkeeper Jacob Marston with 38 from 50 deliveries.
Clilverd was the pick of Sawston & Babraham's bowlers with his 4-38 off 18 overs helped ensure they got the most out of the draw in terms of points to take away.
It is Great Witchingham (316-4) who are the new leaders following a 98-run victory at home to Burwell & Exning (218) that earned them 30 points, but they are level with the Rams on 117 points.
The visitors won the toss and elected to field which would have been a decision they regretted as they were unable to keep Great Witchingham's openers in check.
It was not till the 28th over that Alex Woolliscroft claimed their first wicket, an LBW seeing James Spelman depart for 34 at the start of the 28th over with the score on 98.
But it was fellow opener Sam Arthurton who ultimately did the damage, with Great Witchingham's captain hitting an unbeaten 159 from 163 deliveries.
The declaration came after 61 overs with four wickets in hand with Alex Shanks having reached his half century from 63 balls before being caught by Joe Tetley off Wooliscroft who ended with 2-96.
The only other wicket came from Jamie Seabrook 1-31, with Wooliscroft catching Yaseen Valli on 40.
Burwell & Exning made a decent start before Tom Griffths departed for 38 LBW to Ben Stolworthy at 76-1.
But wickets then began to fall at regular intervals, and despite Olly Jeffries' 76 from 95 balls no-one else was able to take on the mantle.
Stolworthy took four wickets for 59 runs to ensure the victory alongside three apiece for Charlie Rogers and Andy Handby, with the visitors' fight ending in the 53rd over.
Bury St Edmunds' (217) 71-run victory at home to Saffron Walden (146) means they are just six points behind third-placed Swardeston and nine behind the joint leaders.
Captain Ben Seabrook lost the toss at the Victory Sports Ground and was invited to bat by the visiting Saffron Walden captain Benjamin Harris.
Batting was not easy but Seabrook and Chis Benjamin battled against a good attack for almost an hour before Seabrook was out for 17 to a very difficult delivery to fend off. Benjamin was next out for 43 on 91.
The partnership between Matt Doran (53) and Max Whittaker (48) proved the best of the day and in reality put the home side into a strong position, both playing very well but were out after lunch.
The score went from 154-2 to 217 all out with no other Bury players able to master the conditions other than a last wicket cameo by Rufus Easdale.
Local boy Joe Read opened for Saffron Walden and struck two 4s before being out fifth ball LBW to George Loyd.
Loyd had Michael Wallis caught by wicketkeeper Benjamin with further wickets taken by Doran and Max Dias with the score on 74.
It reached a 100 with four wickets down and Alistair Russell going well, but the introduction of young Sam Aldous proved decisive as his two wickets made the score 110-6.
The wicket was by now taking spin with Josh Cantrell and Ben Whittaker taking further wickets while Adam Kizis provided an excellent throw to run-out Alex Hancock.
The final wicket on 148 was an outstanding caught and bowled by Cantrell giving Bury a win by a 71-run margin to make it six wins from eight completed matches.
Another disappointing batting display saw Sudbury lose by four wickets at Mildenhall on Saturday, a spirited fight back with the ball not enough after being bowled out for 137.
After the home side won the toss and chose to bowl Suffolk’s Tom Rash took the three big wickets of Rubin Hermann, Darren Batch and Tom Huggins to leave Sudbury 66-5.
Ben Parker (40) and Kenny Moulton-Day (35) rebuilt with 64 for the sixth wicket before both fell to Matt Allen within the space of three runs; the Talbots losing their last five wickets for only seven runs.
Mildenhall opener Jack Potticary got his side’s reply off to the perfect start with a hard-hitting 33 from 25 balls.
Wickets fell at relatively intervals throughout the innings but Darren Ironside played well for 40 and Sudbury never quite had enough runs on the board to stay in the hunt.
Batch and Huggins took three wickets apiece but Rash topped off a good day with the winning runs and Mildenhall (139-6) won by four wickets.
Sudbury travel to Cambridge next Saturday in search of a change of fortune, starting the second half of the season as one of four teams separated by four points of the bottom of the EAPL.
Cambridge (319-5) will be keen to bounce back from a six-wicket defeat at home to Frinton-on-Sea (323-4) which saw Michael Comber star with an unbeaten 159.
The result leaves Frinton one point above basement side Horsford but closes the gap to Sudbury to just a point while being within two of Copdock & Old Ipswichan.
Weekend fixtures for Saturday (11am)
Bury St Edmunds Vs Horsford
Cambridge Vs Sudbury
Copdock & Old Ipswichian Vs Swardeston
Great Witchingham Vs Frinton-On-Sea
Mildenhall Vs Saffron Walden
Sawston & Babraham Vs Burwell & Exning CC