Second day nightmare for Suffolk

CRICKET: SUFFOLK face the daunting prospect of going through this season's Minor Counties Championship without a single victory. At one time yesterday they looked a good bet to beat Northumberland by an innings at Ransomes.

SUFFOLK face the daunting prospect of going through this season's Minor Counties Championship without a single victory.

At one time yesterday they looked a good bet to beat Northumberland by an innings at Ransomes.

But by stumps they were left with an uphill task to avoid another defeat – with only a match against Buckinghamshire away on August 19 to come.

Since Kevin Brooks became associated with Suffolk the county has enjoyed considerable success and when Andy Brown joined as player coach during the winter the signs looked good.

The season began with success in the one-day game and the spirit and confidence in the camp was high.

But with a succession of batting failures and a bowling attack that relies too heavily on the skills of 40-year-old Gary Kirk a series of poor results have followed.

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And their inability to post even a half-decent total in their second innings returned to haunt them as they conceded the initiative on the second horror day at Sidegate Avenue yesterday.

In their previous Minor Counties fixture, against Cambridgeshire at Mildenhall, Suffolk's narrow two-wicket defeat was blamed on their inadequate second innings haul of 134, which had undone all the hard work of establishing a first innings advantage of 40.

History repeated itself in even more dramatic fashion yesterday as the game was turned on its head by a disastrous three-hour spell for Suffolk.

This incorporated a last wicket partnership of 96 by Northumberland's stubborn pair of Simon Birtwistle and Graeme Angus, followed by the home side's sad capitulation to 64 all out.

Resuming overnight on 21 for one, the visitors slithered to 96 for nine just 20 minutes before lunch. A lead in excess of 150 looked on the cards for Suffolk, with Kirk once again inflicting the major damage.

Clacton veteran Kirk scooped another five-wicket haul to boost his tally to 20 wickets from three Championship matches this summer, and he was looking to improve these figures still further when Northumberland resumed their second innings this morning.

Suffolk became more frustrated the longer that the hard-hitting Angus and the more circumspect Birtwisle remained at the crease.

Number 11 batsman Angus, with a previous county best of 33 and dropped in the slips off Paul King's first over, clubbed three huge sixes, one each off Kirk, David Cross and King, on his way to a pulverising 49 from just 34 deliveries.

He was in for just 49 minutes, but with Birtwistle finishing unbeaten on 46, the pair had grabbed a psychological edge over Suffolk.

Despite this frustrating last wicket stand, the hosts could still gain heart from a healthy first innings lead of 74.

But it all went horribly wrong in the late afternoon sunshine. Only Bill Athey, who had top-scored with 87 in the first innings, and opener Brown reached double figures as Northumberland's bowlers tore through Suffolk's line-up.

It was Suffolk's lowest ever total against Northumberland, beating the previous unwanted landmark of 65, which was also an unhappy memory from Ransomes in 1991.

Chris Warn batted for a long while but then tapped a full toss back to Steve Chapman and skipper Phil Caley ended a fine run of four consecutive half centuries when he was caught in the covers cutting a short ball.

Richard Pineo looked hard done by and one or two other dismissals also looked debatable but with Caley failing to score the brittle Suffolk batting was shown up again.

Slow left-arm bowler Chapman matched his collection of four wickets from the first innings, leaving the visitors requiring 139 for victory, a figure almost unimaginable just three hours earlier.

Kirk claimed his 21st Championship wicket of the summer to remove opener James Miller leg before with the first ball of his second over.

Northumberland were five for one at that stage, but Adam Heather and John Windows nudged the score on to 29 by the close, leaving them requiring a further 110 with nine wickets remaining this morning.

Suffolk are still in with a fighting chance of gaining their first Championship victory of the season on what is a bowler-friendly wicket. But they are no longer the favourites.