Suffolk grit their teeth to go through

SUFFOLK had to grit their teeth and get down to basics to beat Bedfordshire by 22 runs in the Minor Counties Knock-Out Trophy at Flitwick yesterday.The hard-earned victory was enough for them to top Group 2 with three wins and one rain-off, and they will be hoping it is third time lucky when they take part in their third semi-final in the last four years.

By Elvin King

SUFFOLK had to grit their teeth and get down to basics to beat Bedfordshire by 22 runs in the Minor Counties Knock-Out Trophy at Flitwick yesterday.

The hard-earned victory was enough for them to top Group 2 with three wins and one rain-off, and they will be hoping it is third time lucky when they take part in their third semi-final in the last four years.

Having suffered the heartbreak of losing at home to Shropshire and away to Berkshire when just one game away from the Lord's final, Phil Caley's side have shown enough consistency and skill in recent seasons to deserve a big day out at cricket's headquarters.

On a wet surface yesterday they were asked to bat first and it was never going to be day for high scores, with Suffolk just about doing enough to post a competitive score.

Despite being without Chris Schofield, who was playing for Surrey, Suffolk had more than enough at their disposal to gain the points to stay ahead of Norfolk - although they could never afford to relax.

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Justin Bishop was fit to return to the team after his hamstring problem, having bowled for Bury St Edmunds in the East Anglian Premier League on Saturday. This meant that Clacton skipper Martin Smith was named 12th man.

Tom Huggins has scored a fifty in every Suffolk match he has played this year, and in the conditions his 53 in 113 balls was against his true instincts, but of paramount importance to the outcome of the game.

His 79-run partnership with Paul Grayson put the visitors in a good position to reach a score that in the circumstances was just about par for the course.

Nick Lee struck the ball well in a brief knock, and Chris Swallow was in command at the end but ran out of partners. Caley had his first Suffolk knock of the season.

Caley's side paid the penalty for playing the ball into the air on the slow wicket, although the Bedfordshire bowlers were all steady with Shaun Rashid, who moved from Staffordshire during the winter, the pick with five wickets.

A crucial factor was the number of wides bowled by the home side, with Suffolk gaining significantly from the 20 that were called against the Beds bowlers - adding not only runs, but also over three extra overs.

Suffolk needed to bowl well as the wicket had dried out somewhat in the bright sunshine, and, after Beds had got off to a good start, the visitors worked hard to grab the initiative thanks to particularly good spells from left-arm spinner Grayson and Ben France.

Whereas Suffolk had scored 89 at the halfway stage, Beds were on 67 - and the pressure proved too much as they then regularly lost wickets as the skies darkened.

Andy Roberts was sent in early to play the anchor role, but he was unable to match Huggins, and when he went the home team were destined to end the zonal games without a victory.

Suffolk now play away on Sunday, July 1 to Oxfordshire or Wiltshire, who finished level on points in their group with the winners to be determined on run rate.

Unbeaten in one-day cricket for two years, one more win will see Suffolk qualify for the final at Lord's on August Bank Holiday Monday.

Flitwick: Suffolk beat Bedfordshire by 22 runs

Bedfordshire won toss

Suffolk

T Huggins c Knott b Rashid 53

B France b Sneath 0

A Mawson c Arblaster b Rashid 3

P Grayson c Sneath b Hawkes 36

J Bishop c Hawkes b Roberts 1

N Lee c Harding b Hawkes 17

C Warn lbw Hawkes 2

P Caley b Rashid 8

C Swallow not out 24

P Edwards c Roberts b Rashid 0

P King b Rashid 5

Extras 34

Total (48.3 overs) 185

Fall of wkts: 1-9, 2-22, 3-101, 4-104, 5-136, 6-138, 7-141, 8-172, 9-176.

Bowling: Rashid 9.4-1-33-5, Sneath 10-0-38-1, Matthews 9-1-40-0, Hawkes 10-2-33-3, Roberts 10-0-32-1.

Bedfordshire

A Roberts c Swallow b Grayson 40

A Trott lbw Bishop 22

O Clayson b France 1

J Walford c Mawson b Grayson 23

G Arblaster b Swallow 8

N Hawkes c France b Grayson 2

J Knott not out 25

B Harding c Swallow b Edwards 13

B Matthews c King b Bishop 6

S Rashid c Mawson b Edwards 3

W Sneath not out 2

Extras 18

Total (for 9 wkts) 163

Fall of wkts: 1-38, 2-43, 3-90, 4-97, 5105, 6-105, 7-127, 8-142, 9-155

Bowling: Edwards 10-1-39-2, Bishop 10-2-30-2, France 9-2-25-1, King 3-0-11-0, Grayson 10-1-27-3, Swallow 8-1-28-1.

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