Huggins leads the way as Sudbury close in on title

Tom Huggins, who captained Sudbury to a successful defence of their EAPL title. He scored 76 against

Tom Huggins, who captained Sudbury to a successful defence of their EAPL title. He scored 76 against Norwich on Saturday, while fellow opener Adam Mansfield hit 108. Picture: RICHARD MARSHAM

Sudbury returned to winning ways, at just the right time, to move within one match of retaining their Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League.

James Poulson, bowling, who scored 17 at the end of Sudbury's innings and then took one for 41 in th

James Poulson, bowling, who scored 17 at the end of Sudbury's innings and then took one for 41 in the win over Cambridge Granta on Saturday. Picture: NICK GARNHAM - Credit: Archant

Tom Huggins played a captain’s innings as Sudbury defeated Cambridge Granta by 49 runs, to protect their narrow one-point lead over chasing Swardeston going into this weekend’s final round of matches.

Huggins top-scored with 81 in Sudbury’s total of 242 all out – they were bowled out with 4.5 overs of their innings still remaining – before dismissing Granta for 193.

The reigning champions have only lost four matches all season, although two of these came in the previous two matches, at the hands of rivals Swardeston and away at Mildenhall.

They could not afford any slip-ups, as proved by Swardeston’s emphatic victory at Vauxhall Mallards on Saturday by 177 runs.

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Sudbury will end their campaign at home to Norwich this Saturday. The Norfolk club remain in danger of finishing bottom of the league, and so an unwelcome end-of-season play-off phase, which should ensure a very competitive day at Friars Street.

In-form Swardeston, who won the title in the five previous years (2012 to 2016) before Sudbury’s historic first-ever crown last year, also enjoy home advantage this Saturday against Horsford.

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Granta won the toss and elected to field, at Friars Street, and they soon had Sudbury staring down the barrel at 37 for four.

Suffolk captain Adam Mansfield (1), club captain Darren Batch (1), Martin Cull (0) and Ben Parker (5) were all quickly back in the pavilion, which left the home side in a crisis situation.

But opener Huggins is always a handy man to have in a crisis, and he found good support from Kenny Moulton-Day (24 off 26 balls) and overseas all-rounder Tim Johnston (58 off 60 balls).

Huggins and Moulton-Day added 53 for the fifth wicket, and Huggins and Johnston put on a further 71 for the sixth wicket to steer Sudbury into calmer waters.

Huggins was eventually caught by Henry Campbell off Chris Pepper, to leave the score on 161 for six, having faced 93 balls for his 81, with a six and 14 fours.

Johnston continued to bat well, however, adding 58 with all-rounder Ben Reece (21) for the seventh wicket before he became one of Ben Claydon’s four victims.

James Poulson contributed a valuable 17 at No. 9 to boost Sudbury’s total to 242, although that still looked vulnerable when Granta’s opening pair of Michael Pepper and Claydon put on an opening stand of 60.

However, the introduction of the experienced Batch proved a turning point. He removed both openers, having Claydon caught by Cull for 31, and then bowling Michael Pepper for 39, these two dismissals sandwiching the exit of Jonathan Atkinson (7), who was another of Batch’s victims.

Chris Benjamin (36) and Chris Pepper (25) did see the visitors recover to 142 for four, and 101 short of victory, before Sudbury took the last six wickets for just 51 runs.

It was a real team effort. In addition to Batch’s three for 29, off seven overs, the trio of Huggins, Johnston and Reece all took two wickets. Reece took the final two wickets with his only five balls of the match.

“It all goes down to the wire now. We just need to win this weekend, although Norwich have a lot to play for as well, so it should be a cracking game,” enthused club captain Batch.

“It was tough batting at the start of our innings on Saturday, because conditions were damp, which helped their seam bowlers.

“But Tom (Huggins) survived early on and then did something that has been missing from the previous two weekends – in that one of our top four managed to make a significant contribution.

“Tom was the backbone of the innings, and there were some vital runs scored at the end by Tim (Johnston), Kenny (Moulton-Day) and Ben Reece. We thought 242 was a slightly above-par score, and we were always in the driving seat.

“Although Jonny Gallagher didn’t get any wickets, he bowled his 10 overs for just 34 runs. It was he who kept the pressure on their batsmen and enabled others to take the wickets,” added Batch.

- Meanwhile, Frinton suffered a home defeat at the hands of lowly Norwich by a margin of four wickets at Ashlyns Road. Put into bat, Frinton limped to 197 for eight off 46 overs in a match reduced by rain, indebted to a superb knock by Michael Comber.

Openers Michael Griggs (21) and Jaik Mickleburgh (19) put on 41 for the first wicket, but otherwise only Comber advanced past 20 on his way to a well-constructed 82 off 91 balls.

Likewise, Norwich were indebted to one man for their total, opener Jack Newby batting throughout on his way to 102 not out to see the visitors home with four wickets in hand, and five balls to spare.

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