Suffolk toil in the sun

SUFFOLK spent the bulk of their first day in this season's Minor Counties Championship chasing shadows in the sunshine at March, Cambridgeshire, yesterday.

SUFFOLK spent the bulk of their first day in this season's Minor Counties Championship chasing shadows in the sunshine at March, Cambridgeshire, yesterday.

Cambridgeshire accumulated a massive 414 for seven declared, bolstered by centuries from debutant John Mann and skipper Ajaz Akhtar.

All-rounder Akhtar declared immediately after reaching his own ton, leaving Suffolk a tricky 21 overs at the end of the day.

The visitors were 66 for one at the close. Opener Russell Catley was trapped leg before by Mark Mason for 10, but Andy Mawson was looking comfortable on 37. Russell's younger brother Tim Catley was with him at the crease.

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The toss was all-important on a good batting wicket, in good batting conditions. Ahktar called correctly, condemning Suffolk to an energy-sapping day in the field.

Trevor Smith was the pick of Suffolk's bowlers, taking three of the seven wickets to fall, including that of opener Jones for a duck.

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Paul King weighed in with the dismissal of fellow opener Simon Kellett, the former Yorkshire batsman, to leave Cambridgeshire in a vulnerable state on 29 for two.

But after that promising first hour Suffolk's successes were few and far between, with Mann and Akhtar the chief destroyers.

Northampton-based teenager Mann enjoyed a dream senior county debut. He top-scored with a superb 147, which included 12 boundaries and two sixes.

Having taken 105 balls to reach his half-century, Mann then speeded up with excellent support from the middle order, including former Essex star Robert Rollins (31).

It was the arrival at the crease of Akhtar, at the fall of the fifth wicket, that spelt real danger for Suffolk.

Ahktar and Mann shared a sixth-wicket partnership of 121 in just 78 minutes. By the time that Russell Catley claimed the wicket of Mann, the home side had already reached 317.

A further 97 runs were added, due mainly to the hard-hitting Akhtar, who took 76 balls to reach 50 but only 33 deliveries to register his second 50.

Suffolk will be looking to chip away at Cambridgshire's advantage, by spending most of today's second day (of three) building a big total in reply.

Kevin Brooks, Suffolk's Director of Cricket, was not happy with his team's performance with the ball.

He said: "We always knew that it was going to be a decent wicket on the opening day, so it was not a good toss to lose.

"We had a good start and got a couple of early wickets, but our bowling lacked the discipline that we would usually expect.

"We did not put the ball in the right place consistently enough, and all it needed was for Cambridgeshire to bat with discipline to build a big score.

"However, we have a chance to fill our boots on the second day, although at first we must play sensibly to post a decent score ourselves.

"The pitch should still be good for batting, although it is likely to get slower and lower as the game wears on."

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