Suffolk are weather-beaten

CRICKET: So near, yet so far sums up the Suffolk's 2002 Minor Counties cricket campaign.Yet the county's cricketers and managers can still look back with plenty of satisfaction.

By Elvin King


SO near, yet so far sums up the Suffolk's 2002 Minor Counties cricket campaign.

Yet the county's cricketers and managers can still look back with plenty of satisfaction.

If rain had not intervened on four occasions they might well have pipped Norfolk for the Eastern Region title.

Suffolk finished runners-up after going into their final game against Buckinghamshire at Mildenhall with high hopes of finishing top of the table.

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However, a heavy downpour minutes before the start ruined any chances of play for two days, and more rain meant there was no play on the final day either.

"This took the gloss of what was otherwise an encouraging season," said Suffolk's director of cricket Kevin Brooks today.

"Our target was a top three place and this is what we achieved. But for the weather we may have ultimately won the championship."

Matches against Bedfordshire, Cumberland and Norfolk were also affected by rain. In each match Suffolk had a good case for collecting more points if disruptions had not occurred.

Suffolk's season got off to a promising start when they lost a nail-biting Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy match against Northamptonshire at Bury St Edmunds by one wicket.

"It was an exceptional performance considering the conditions," added Brooks. "I am convinced with the players we now have available and with the addition of the right overseas player, we are good enough to beat a first class county.

"It is therefore frustrating that we will have to wait until 2004 at the earliest to meet one again. Our disastrous defeat at Buckinghamshire in the first round of next year's C&G Trophy on August 28 was a big blow.

"Financially it could also prove a problem when it comes to deciding on a professional for 2003."

Former Derbyshire pace bowler Trevor Smith was the county's professional this year, taking over from Bill Athey, and Brooks is hoping to have him back again.

"This depends on finance and also on whether Trevor gets fixed up with a first class county again," said Brooks, who has praise for skipper Phil Caley and coach Andy Brown.

"Phil is 40 this month but thankfully shows no signs of slowing down. It was no distraction on his leadership but this year we did not always have to rely heavily on his performances.

"Andy missed games through injury, but made important contributions to the side."

Brooks, Caley and vice captain Russell Catley are set to have their positions ratified at the December annual general meeting. They were formally re-elected by the Suffolk committee earlier this week.

"In addition to players we expected to do well it was encouraging that players like Tim Catley and Paul King also made significant contributions throughout the season," added Brooks, who also had praise for 23-year-old wicketkeeper Chris Warn.

"Chris made his first class debut for Derbyshire against India and has worked hard to become one of the finest keeper/batsmen in the Minor Counties.

"Apart from an hour's play at Northumberland when we batted badly and one crucial missed catch in that lost game we performed well throughout the season. It was a year when we could well have enjoyed better rewards. Hopefully our hard work will come to fruition and we can go one place higher in the Minor Counties next year."

Norfolk went on to play Western Region winners Herefordshire for the overall Minor Counties Championship, with the match ending in a draw and the title shared.