Former Essex stalwart Jaik Mickleburgh propels Copdock & OI to fine win over Swardeston
Former Essex stalwart Jaik Mickleburgh, in harness with captain Tom Rash, guided Copdock & Old Ipswichian to a superb six-wicket win over defending champions Swardeston in the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League on Saturday.
Swardeston, who have won the title for an unprecedented last five years, rattled up 297 for six on a fine batting strip before declaring after 61 overs in a real run-feast at Old London Road.
Copdock were soon struggling on 119 for four, and staring at the possibility of a heavy home defeat, which would have meant a fifth reverse in their first eight matches.
But that was when all-rounder Rash entered the fray, to team up with opener Mickleburgh in a match-winning partnership.
Mickleburgh celebrated his second century of the summer, an unbeaten 133, while skipper Rash contributed a masterly 74 not out in an unbroken stand of 179 for the fifth wicket to wrap up a terrific victory in the 54th over.
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Copdock therefore inflicted a first defeat of the season on title favourites Swardeston – they had won five and drawn two of their first seven fixtures – at the same time celebrating a third victory to move up to seventh in the EAPL table.
Captain Rash heaped praise on his fellow match-winner, Mickleburgh, who spent nine years with Essex before his departure at the end of last season.
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“Jaik (Mickleburgh) is quite simply the best player in the league,” enthused Rash.
“It’s not just his sheer talent, but also his attitude. He shows people how he does it, and you can learn off him. He’s played 100 first class games, so he knows the game inside out.
“Personally, I feel great at the moment. I haven’t had much luck in the EAPL, but I’ve scored a few runs in county cricket. So it was nice to get a few runs over the weekend.
“At 199 for four, we were up against it and the pressure was really on when I came in. But the great thing is that Jaik was at the other end. That makes you relax a lot – it is great to bat with him.
“Neither of us gave a chance. In fact, it was a chance-less partnership, and we ended up winning with six-and-a-half overs in hand,” added Rash.
Rash had begun the day by winning the toss and opting to field first, and once again it was Hugo Douglas who caught the eye.
Fresh from a fine performance for Suffolk the previous week, when he claimed six wickets on his Unicorns Championship debut in the drawn game against Buckinghamshire, Douglas was still a threat on a dead-pan pitch against Swardeston.
The 21-year-old removed both openers, Peter Lambert (24) and Jason Reynolds (31), to leave Swardeston on 60 for two.
An in-form Stephen Gray and Joe Gatting then took charge, for the Norfolk visitors. Gray had struck an unbeaten 103 in the previous weekend’s equal score draw at home to Bury St Edmunds, and he continued where he left off in a 73-run stand for the third wicket.
Wicketkeeper Gray was eventually caught by Mickleburgh off Stephen Croft for 41, the first of three victims for spinner Croft.
Summer signing Croft went on to record figures of 18-0-76-3, but Gatting dominated at the crease, powering to a century as he propelled Swardeston towards the 300-mark.
Gatting put on 89 for the sixth wicket with Freddie Ruffell (41no), before he was caught by Harry Bailey off Douglas for a cracking 108, accrued off 128 deliveries.
“We excelled in the field, on a flat pitch, managing to restrict them,” explained Rash.
“Joe Gatting is a class act, and how he is not playing on the professional circuit is beyond me.
“In the end, they declared to give themselves time to get us out,” added Rash.
And that plan seemed to be vindicated when Copdock slithered to 119 for four, after Martyn Cull (17) and Mickleburgh had shared a half-century opening partnership, and Sam Webb-Snowling had contributed a quickfire 23 off 18 balls with five boundaries.
But Swardeston could find no way of breaking the partnership of Mickleburgh and Rash.
While Rash faced 120 balls for his 74 not out, Mickleburgh’s unbeaten 133 came off 155 deliveries, including 15 boundaries.
“I didn’t think that Swardeston bowled as well as we did. They didn’t put the ball in the right areas,” continued Rash.
“We managed to get there without taking too many risks.”
Mickleburgh, 27, currently tops the EAPL run-scoring charts, having also scored a century against Mildenhall (108) last month and 99 against Horsford.