Don Topley: Big Minor County ‘local derby’ should be a cracking game to watch
In his regular column, Don Topley takes a look at the big Suffolk v Norfolk clash coming up
It may not be at Lord’s or The Oval, or witnessed by 20,000 spectators, but next Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, a Minor County ‘local derby’ takes place at Copdock & Old Ipswichians Cricket Club.
Suffolk host neighbours Norfolk in their Minor County Championship fixture; Minor Counties prioritise white ball cricket early season in a 50-over competition and a brand new t20 competition.
Former Essex batsman, Jaik Mickleburgh, has played for both East Anglian sides and knows a majority of both sets of players. Mickleburgh, 28, spent time playing for Norfolk on the way up the professional ladder, before representing Essex CCC for eight years – the right-handed opening batsman, played more than 100 First Class games averaging nearly 29 runs every time he reached the crease.
I felt he was unlucky not to find another county after Essex released him in 2016, as I believe he was good enough.
However, 2017 is where Suffolk came in and signed him. He now – when work allows – plays for Suffolk and will be an influential player for his chosen county next week.
Last summer, he amassed a staggering 815 Championship runs at an incredible average of 116.43 and was awarded the prestigious Wilford Rhodes Batting Trophy for the highest aggregate amount of runs throughout the Minor Counties circuit.
Mickleburgh said: “I still enjoy three-day cricket and batting for long periods. Our three-day Minor Counties game will prepare good teenage cricketers or late developers for the challenges ahead like the First Class, 2nd XI County Championship cricket, especially if they have aspirations of playing professionally.”
Jaik will probably open Suffolk’s batting next week, with ‘easy on the eye’ Jed Cawkwell. Jed was educated at RHS Holbrook but now ironically, is the master i/c cricket at Norwich School. Clearly, all the players really know each other well.
Suffolk’s players are mostly from within the East Anglian Premier League with Mickleburgh and former Kent all-rounder, Adam Ball, having First Class professional experience. Ball can only play when work permits.
‘When work allows’, is the key phrase in Minor Counties cricket as some have suggested that Minor Counties and Premier League cricket conflict with each other.
Mike Gatting has raised this old issue before, as today playing on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will require the club cricketer to take two days holiday from work to offer the commitment of playing at Minor Counties level. And that may be after having played on a Saturday for their Premier League amateur cricket clubs.
Can a husband with a young family afford to play cricket four days in a row? Clearly, those who do should be congratulated for their unwavering commitment and endeavours. Or does the current system dilute either cricket structure as not everyone will commit to both, therefore the ability level may be compromised?
Suffolk’s 50-over campaign was excellent with wins over Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire before a losing tie (lost, on losing more wickets) in Devon in the semi-final was a hard pill to swallow.
As with professional neighbours Essex CCC, Suffolk are a better side at 50-over cricket rather than t20.
Even with Mildenhall, Sussex and IPL star, Tymal Mills, in their ranks Suffolk were humbled twice by Norfolk in the double-header earlier in the Spring. Norfolk were extremely impressive at t20 and have made the August t20 National Finals with Devon, Cheshire and Berkshire.
Norfolk defeated Lincolnshire in their only three-day Championship game so far, with former professional (and Mickleburgh’s former Essex team-mate) Sam Arthurton making a telling contribution of 155 in their first innings in an eventual 10-wicket Norfolk win.
Not to be outdone, Mickleburgh made 173 in the second innings in his Suffolk team’s 163-run winning margin over Bedfordshire.
But when Mickleburgh was unavailable due to his Brentwood School coaching commitments, Suffolk were condemned to a huge defeat away at Staffordshire.
There is an array of fine club cricketers and a decent handful of former professionals on show over the three days.
Hopefully, the beautiful weather will continue for Copdock and Old Ipswichians Cricket Club (just off the A12) to put on a good event where 22 committed cricketers, who know each other particularly well, will do battle.
Play starts at 11am each day and entry is free!