Akhtar deals blow to Suffolk title hopes

AS THIS dreadfully dreary summer continues unabated, Suffolk's hopes of Minor Counties Championship cheer were dealt a severe blow by Cambridgeshire seamer Ajaz Akhtar at Mildenhall yesterday.

By Elvin King

AS THIS dreadfully dreary summer continues unabated, Suffolk's hopes of Minor Counties Championship cheer were dealt a severe blow by Cambridgeshire seamer Ajaz Akhtar at Mildenhall yesterday.

The 38-year-old, who is approaching his 400th wicket in the competition for Cambs, collected five scalps for 30 runs as Suffolk were made to struggle for runs after a bright start.

From 68 for no wicket. with Ben France and Andrew Mawson flourishing, Phil Caley's side were reduced to a crawl once Akhtar joined the attack as third change.

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The drying conditions helped the bowlers more than on the first day when Suffolk were unable to stop their opponents from making 298 for eight. Suffolk need to conjure a win if they can to guarantee remaining in the top three in the eastern division table - with two further matches to play.

They have not lost a game of any description since the back end of 2005, but this impressive sequence could be broken if they fail to step up a gear on their performance so far in this contest.

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On yet another day that had dry cleaners rubbing their hands, with whites taking a battering from a muddy surface that saw the River End boundary brought in several yards, Suffolk were relieved to avoid the follow on once they reached 149. This signalled the withdrawal of Akhtar from the attack after his wonderfully accurate stint, but it was not until a resolute Justin Bishop was joined by a fluent Phil Edwards that Suffolk regained some of the control they enjoyed earlier in the day.

France completed his half-century in 115 balls, but once number three Martyn Cull went for a duck the home side found themselves on the back foot.

After his marathon Sunday bowling effort, part-time spinner Tom Huggins was just beginning to show his batting skills when he was caught in the slips, while Nick Lee stuck to the task well until being caught at mid-on in his first shot in anger for some considerable time.

Caley was caught off a lofted drive at short mid-off, after Chris Warn had been given out leg before by female umpire Lorraine Elgar from Kent. Paul King reached double figures from two blows before being caught off a skier in the final over before tea.

After the break it got gloomier and gloomier, and the umpires allowed one more over to proceed once the drizzle arrived at 4.58pm.

But after two balls Norfolk official John Tythcott and Mrs Elgar decided it was not fit to continue as the dank weather that had been forecast to arrive earlier finally reached Wamil Way.

Play starts at 11am today with a minimum of 102 overs on offer for Suffolk to pull this game out of the fire - weather, and Akhtar, permitting of course.

Lorraine Elgar is the only female on the Minor Counties umpire panel, and this is the first time she has officiated in a Suffolk game.

Mildenhall scoreboard


First innings: 298 for 8 dec (Kellett 98, Brandy 51, Smith 3 for 77, Huggins 3 for 91).


First innings

B France c Brandy b Akhtar 50

A Mawson c Summers b Akhtar 27

M Cull b Akhtar 0

T Huggins c Brandy b Clarke 23

N Lee c Brandy b Buckham 28

C Warn lbw Akhtar 1

P Caley c Freear b Akhtar 4

J Bishop not out 26

P King c Williams b Buckham 10

P Edwards not out 11

Extras 16

Total (for 8 wkts, 78.2 overs) 196

Fall of wkts: 1-68, 2-68, 3-99, 4-121, 5-126, 6-134, 7-164, 8-177.

Bowling: Buckham 11-3-26-2, Bruce 13.2-2-35-0, Williams 14-2-46-0, Clarke 16-2-53-1, Akhtar 22-12-30-5, Ferraby 2-1-2-0.

Bonus points so far: Suffolk 4, Cambridgeshire 6

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