Minnows foiled by Suffolk son
CRICKET: It took a Suffolk man to hit the winning run and deny the Minor County a notable Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy victory over Northamptonshire.
By Elvin King
IT took a Suffolk man to hit the winning run and deny the Minor County a notable Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy victory over Northamptonshire.
Pace bowler Darren Cousins, who lives in Haverhill, came to the wicket with the first class county tottering at 104 for eight.
Chasing 129, victory looked a formality when the visitors were 46 for no wicket in the 12th over.
But then South African Test player Andy Hall and Clacton veteran Gary Kirk brought Suffolk right back into the game with some splendid bowling on a helpful wicket.
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Suffolk's biggest victory in their history looked on the cards as an enthralled audience watched a succession of Northants batsmen depart forlornly back to the Bury St Edmunds pavilion.
Only ten runs were added in 11 overs, but eventually stubborn batting by Russell Warren and Cousins wrestled the initiative away from the home side.
Warren was well caught by skipper Phil Caley at midwicket off Kevin Shaw's first over with the score at 127 – and tension levels increased again.
Jason Brown showed little aptitude to batting in the two balls he faced as Shaw competed his over, being almost stumped off a leg side wide, and then pushing tentatively just short of short midwicket.
Richard Pineo's next ball, with the scores level, brought an appeal for leg before against Cousins, before the Northants man struck the next ball to the third man boundary.
Suffolk went so close to glory against a side that had the good fortune to win the toss. Caley would certainly have put Northants into bat if he had won the spin of the coin, and if so Suffolk could well have been celebrating victory and a fourth round home match with Yorkshire.
The team bowling first certainly had an advantage, and if any player deserved a win it was Caley, surely one of the most talented players in the country not to have played the game at a professional level.
His record against first class counties in this competition, over the 20 years he has been in the county side, is remarkable.
He is Suffolk's leading run-getter at this level, and again yesterday looked under no pressure whatsoever against a full time attack.
While others were floundering around him Caley stayed calm and assured – playing some delightful shots.
Kevin Brooks, Suffolk's director of cricket, praised the 38-year-old. "Phil has so much natural talent and is head and shoulders above other club players," said Brooks.
"Perhaps he did not want to take up the game when he was younger. He is certainly good enough."
Caley, after proving yet again that he has the ability to have earned a living from the game, said that he had no regrets.
"When I was a teenager wages in county cricket were so low it was best to get a proper job," he said.
"This is what I did. It is not much fun travelling round the country living in hotels. I have no regrets. And Suffolk means too much to mean. I have always, and still do, love playing for my county."
Suffolk went with their policy of favouring East Anglian Premier League players by omitting the three Two Counties Championship players – Matt and Tim Catley, and James East – from their squad.
The sun shone during Suffolk's 50 overs, but at 43 for five the outlook was far from bright. Bill Athey, who came back to the pavilion saying that 150 would win the game, was needlessly run out looking for a second run and Hall spoiled an impressive start by trying to hit out after four consecutive maidens.
After 17 overs Suffolk were 28 for four, but then Caley with help from the middle and lower order, and Kevin Shaw with some well-judged lusty late blows, lifted the total to a respectable one.
Shaw was making his return after a year out of cricket with knee problems, and the decision to play him was justified with the Bury all-rounder named man of the match.
Brooks also deserves credit for plucking Kirk out of club cricket at the age of 37. Now 41 he hardly bowled a bad ball in his ten overs. Hall backed him up well.
He took four wickets and paid the penalty for a no ball when Andy Brown took a catch at mid-on off the following 'free-hit' ball.
A heavy shower arrived with Northants 56 for one, and almost immediately after the re-start Kirk and Hall got to work in earnest.
Northants are unused to slow club wickets like this and after another rain break at 91 for four they had to summon all their inward strength to deny Suffolk a wonderful victory.