Caley relieved to draw

PHIL Caley breathed a huge sigh of relief after his Suffolk side collected 12 points from their drawn Minor Counties Championship game against Northumberland at Bury St Edmunds.

By Elvin King

PHIL Caley breathed a huge sigh of relief after his Suffolk side collected 12 points from their drawn Minor Counties Championship game against Northumberland at Bury St Edmunds.

Set an improbable 426 runs to win in a minimum of 102 overs on the final day yesterday, the plucky visitors made full use of a placid wicket to arrive at tea on 285 for three after 71 overs.

And Suffolk skipper Caley was a worried man. His tea and cake did not go down well as he feared a defeat after his side had dominated the opening two days.

“We were staring down the barrel,” said Caley. “They only needed four and a half runs an over with seven wickets left.

“If my batsman had not gone on and won from that position I would have been highly disappointed.”

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Caley, who asked for the heavy roller to be put on in the morning before declaring, went on: “My hope was that it would make for a more uneven bounce.

“It was always going to be hard to get a result on that wicket and our only chance was to set Northumberland a big run chase.

“Perhaps we could have scored a bit quicker in our second innings, but we had to re-group after losing two quick wickets in the middle of the order. I wanted a lead of over 400 and if we had achieved this earlier we could have had half an hour or so at Northumberland on Monday night.

“We kept going to the end hoping that a wicket would bring a collapse. A win would have been ideal but maximum bonus points is the next best thing.”

Caley praised the bowling of spinner Chris Swallow, who bowled non-stop for 34 overs. “Chris was performing against some quality cricketers and he did very well indeed.

“I am disappointed Northumberland shut up shop. They played the last 15 overs or so out easily enough. You have to gamble sometimes and it would have given us a chance if they had kept going longer.”

A sublime Victory Ground pitch helped produce an epic game that proffered almost 1,200 runs.

The pitch was true to the very end and gave little help to the three Suffolk pacemen who all toiled away without any luck.

Swallow bowled a marathon spell that stretched from before lunch until after tea and his accuracy was impressive as he kept the visitors under some sort of control on the featherbed wicket.

Northumberland's highest score against Suffolk - 313 at Jesmond in 1999 - was comfortably passed and with the likes of Alan Worthy and Bradley Parker at the wicket they looked capable of gaining their second victory of the season.

Caley awarded county caps to pace bowlers Trevor Smith and Paul King and batsman Tim Catley before the start of play, but it was not to be their day in a match that would have put Suffolk in the driving seat for the Eastern Division title had they won.

Smith took the key wicket of Worthy with his first ball after tea, while King had a couple of catches dropped. Catley, the Ely City goalkeeper, stretched to catch Parker on the cover boundary from Ben France's first ball.

This was another defining moment, with danger man Parker hanging his head as soon as he realised he had failed to perfect his cut shot.

Devon Malcolm was fit to bowl after a groin strain scare on Monday and it was a heavyweight contest as he summoned up all his strength in an attempt to gain the prized wicket of the elegant Parker.

Suffolk supporters and officials paced up and down in frustration as wickets failed to come and by tea the visitors looked likely winners needing 141 runs with seven wickets and 31 overs left.

But Suffolk kept battling away and upped their fielding to such an extent that when the new ball was taken in the 91st over Suffolk were the side with the most realistic chance of winning.

And their chances of success improved immediately when John Windows was run out for 40. He backed up a drive by his skipper Phil Nicholson only to be sent back. Windows was out by some distance thanks to Malcolm collecting the ball and throwing in an instant to flatten the middle stump.

Malcolm and King came back into the attack with ten overs left, but Northumberland, who were unbeaten on 117 at lunch and reached 200 in the 51st over, held out without too many alarms.

Teenager Sherburn, who this season hit three centuries in one weekend, was bowled attempting a sweep in the final ball of the first over after lunch before Worthy - playing only his second county game - and Parker made merry with a partnership of 112.

Suffolk play at Torquay against Devon in the second round of the Minor Counties Knock Out Cup on Sunday and against Staffordshire at Ransomes Ipswich starting on Sunday week in their next Minor Counties Championship game.