Rain frustrating Suffolk victory bid

MENTION hose pipe bans and water shortages to Suffolk skipper Phil Caley and you will not receive a polite reply.In a summer of supposed drought, Caley's hopes of success in both the Minor Counties Championship and the KO Cup have been dogged by bad weather.

By Elvin King

MENTION hose pipe bans and water shortages to Suffolk skipper Phil Caley and you will not receive a polite reply.

In a summer of supposed drought, Caley's hopes of success in both the Minor Counties Championship and the KO Cup have been dogged by bad weather.

And it was therefore no great surprise for the Suffolk faithful to have clear blue skies that accompanied their breakfast turn into dark leaden skies before the start of the second day's play against fellow title hopefuls Lincolnshire at the Victory Ground, Bury St Edmunds.

After 22 overs were lost to rain on Sunday a further 42 were lost yesterday forcing Caley and his opposite number Mathew Dowman to get their heads together and try to contrive a result.

The final hour's play was near farcical with part-time bowlers allowing Suffolk to score virtually at will so that Lincs will have a total to chase today.

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Chris Schofield rattled up an unbeaten 92 in 51 balls with 16 fours and a six before Caley declared at 7.55pm with Lincs needing to score 338 to win from a minimum of 102 overs today.

The day ended with relations soured between the teams with the visitors accusing Caley of setting them a target higher than had been negotiated.

This should ensure an entertaining final day, but whatever happens it is a shame that Caley's talented, well-balanced side have been unable to have the right weather conditions to fully show what they can do.

Leaders Buckinghamshire collected four bonus points for dismissing Northumberland for 216 in a rain-affected day at Jesmond yesterday - and they remain in the driving seat to take the Eastern Division title even through they were 128 for 6 at close of play last night.

There will be a succession

of calls to and from Northumberland to check the state of play, but only a win will be good enough for Suffolk or Lincs - and then only if Bucks, who began their final game five points ahead of Suffolk and three ahead of Lincs, are beaten.

Play did not start at Bury until 3pm and there was a further 15-minute break for a shower.

Full marks to Bury chairman and groundsman Bobby Flack for his efficient covering of the wicket - with play possible within an hour of the rain ceasing.

In their first innings Suffolk would have preferred to have reached 275 - the total needed for a third batting bonus points - with the loss of just four wickets as this would have moved level with their opponents.

But after contributing freely to a fine fifth-wicket partnership of 121 with Nick Lee, Chris Warn was caught off a skier at mid-off five runs short.

Caley decided not to go for the fourth batting point - 325 - and called his batsmen in as soon at 275 was reached.

Suffolk have secured maximum bowling bonus points in their five previous games, having won three times and suffered two rain-affected draws.

But on a dry wicket and with the sun blazing down for most of the late afternoon and early evening, Lincolnshire - unbeaten themselves in the Championship - showed their batting prowess with a measured 110-run second wicket stand between Martyn Dobson and Jon Trower.

Three balls after Trower was out, the visitors declared ensuring that Suffolk did not collect any bowling bonus points.

With Andrew Mawson breaking his left big toe in the nets on Sunday, Martyn Cull opened the second Suffolk innings with Tom Huggins.

It was a throwback to the days of two-day Minor Counties matches when batsmen Paul Cook and Simon Mason opened the bowling with six close fielders and Huggins clobbered fours off the first three balls before being caught at slip off the fifth.

Nick Lee joined in the fun with Schofield as Suffolk slogged 189 runs in less than 17 overs, before the third declaration of the day arrived in near darkness with a frustrated Lincs asking fast bowler Stuart Airey to fire in a long-winded final five balls.

If there is a winner today they will collect 16 points - plus their respective bonus points - and hope that this will be enough to allow them to overtake Bucks.

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