Injured Ben Claydon included in Suffolk squad to face Oxfordshire in NCCA Play-off Final as Andy Northcote's side bids for first outright title in 42 years
Suffolk have plenty of players capable of being a hero in the National Counties Cricket Association (NCCA) Play-off Final.
Those are the words of head coach Andy Northcote ahead of the four-day final against Oxfordshire at Tring Park CC in Hertfordshire, starting on Sunday.
Eastern Division One winners Suffolk face Western Division One winners Oxfordshire in what will be the county’s first play-off final since they shared the title with Cheshire in a rain-affected final in 2005.
You have to go back to 1979 – their second success in the space of three years – for the last time Suffolk won the title outright, with their only win prior to that since joining the Minor Counties Championship in 1904 coming way back in 1946.
Suffolk have named a 13-man squad that includes all-rounder Ben Claydon, who played a pivotal role in their one-wicket win against Staffordshire at Copdock to secure the Eastern Division One title despite suffering from back spasms.
However, Northcote conceded that Claydon, who scored an undefeated 51 in a record 10th-wicket partnership of 89 with Adam Mansfield, has only a ‘tiny chance’ of playing due to his injury.
“He does have a side tear, so is doubtful but he has been such a big player for us that we are going to give him as much chance as possible.
“If on the morning before the toss there is no chance at all, then I will slip into the 13th spot,” said Northcote.
Sudbury batsman Ben Parker, who is a teacher at Thomas Mills School in Framlingham, is unable to get time off work, so Mistley all-rounder Kyran Young and Copdock & Old Ipswichian wicketkeeper Jacob Marston come into the squad.
Young was left out of the side to face Staffordshire due to the age restriction ruling after scoring 84 in the victory over Lincolnshire.
Marston’s only appearance so far this season came in the opening NCCA Trophy 50-over match against Cambridgeshire.
Northcote reflected on his side’s achievement this season which has come in the first season of the revamped NCCA competition.
He said: “It is absolutely wonderful to win the Eastern Division in the NCCA’s first year. This adds to the occasion as it will forever be highlighted. But we must not forget that this is not some fluke, a one-off or instant success.
“This squad has largely been together for three or four years and we've been building tactically, with team values and structures all this time.
“It shows that with the added non-financial investment we have placed on this squad, the Suffolk Young Cricketers programme is working and whilst we will start blooding younger players through our next cycle, the wait for another divisional title will not be 16 years apart.”
Looking ahead to the final, Northcote said: “I am fully confident that if we can go and do our basics well, we will be just fine and come out victorious.
“Finals are there for someone to be a hero, stamp your mark on an historic occasion and we have plenty of men ready to do so.
“But to win the division that includes Berkshire, we know Oxfordshire must be strong. They have close links with Sussex and a very good ex-pro in Gareth Andrew.
“Our homework on each player and the ground is in; Chris Gange (assistant coach) and I will start building plans for each batter over the next day or two and then it’s just down to execution.”
Suffolk squad: Jack Beaumont, Darren Ironside, Alex Oxley, Joe Gatting, Kyran Young, Ben Shepperson, Josh Cantrell, Jacob Marston, Tom Rash, Adam Mansfield, Matt Wareing, Alex Quinn, Ben Claydon.