Halstead captain Ed Clark prepares side ahead of final step back up into the Thurlow Nunn East Anglian Premier League after a decade's absence.
Halstead captain Ed Clark is looking for a repeat performance up in north Norfolk this weekend as he prepares his side to take the final step to get the club back up into the Thurlow Nunn East Anglian Premier League (EAPL) after a decade's absence.
The north Essex outfit reached Saturday’s play-off final – having lost last year’s last four encounter - with hosting Norfolk Cricket Alliance champions Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers (11am) courtesy of a dominant 179-run victory at home to Wisbech Town on Sunday.
After finishing bottom of the top tier-level EAPL on the final Saturday, the Cambridgeshire side saw their second chance to avoid relegation quickly slip away at Star Stile the following day.
After being inserted to bat, Halstead opener Harry Pritchard (116) came together with no.5 Ryan Vickery (127) to put in a match-winning total with the hosts ending their 50-over allocation on 314-5.
Josh King was then the undoubted star with the ball, taking an incredible five wickets for just six runs from 6.4 overs that included three maidens.
“I'd say it was a complete performance from us where all the bits that you want to come together came together,” said Clark, whose side had retained their Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Division One title to take their place in the semi-final shootout despite a last day home defeat the previous weekend.
"We had a tricky period but Ryan and Harry were superb with a massive partnership in the middle and they paced themselves really well and accelerated at the right time.
"It obviously meant we could post quite an imposing total on the board and then bowling and fielding-wise I couldn't fault anyone.
"We put a squeeze on and built some pressure and it was a very, very pleasing performance from us. It's probably the best performance of the season we've put in as a collective, so to do it when it matters makes it all the better."
Of King’s display, he added: “He had a bit of a slow start to the season with wickets but the second half of the season he's been absolutely phenomenal.
“Those figures are definitely up there with some of his best and they were very deserved as well, I would say.”
Halstead will now have to overcome the challenge of playing on a new pitch and dealing with a two-hour trip up past Wroxham on the Norfolk Broads if they are to regain their EAPL status for the first time in 11 years by beating Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers.
But Clark is not looking for any excuses and hoping his side, without talismanic overseas player Max Chu once again following his return to New Zealand, can embrace the occasion of the final.
"I've got no idea how it works,” he said of their opponents getting home advantage for a second week, following their three-wicket semi-final against Cambridge St Giles last Saturday.
"We'll have a nice trip to north Norfolk but there's nothing wrong with an early start and it's something we're going to have to get used to if we want to play in the Premier League.
"We're looking forward to a nice away day and hopefully we can come out victorious on Saturday."
EAPL secretary Andrew Abbott confirmed a draw had taken place on hosting play-off games which he said the constituent leagues that feed into them had been notified of back in June.
Meanwhile, Clark has what he described as a ‘welcome selection headache’ ahead of Saturday with opening batsman Adam Dellar back available, having missed the semi-final due to work commitments.