Suffolk defeated in Unicorns KO Trophy by Norfolk
Number nine Ashley Watson denied Suffolk a derby victory by smashing 14 runs off the final over to give Norfolk the bragging rights at Manor Park yesterday.
The tailender held his nerve to hit successive fours and a six to help the hosts squeeze past Suffolk’s total of 202 and keep their hopes of progressing in the Unicorns Knockout Trophy. It was the in-form visitors first defeat of the term – they have already qualified for the quarter-finals – and Suffolk captain Justin Bishop admits it was a hard loss to take.
The opening batsman, who top-scored on the day with 56, said: “It is one of the more disappointing ways to lose a cricket match. It was a very good game for the neutrals watching, not many neutrals were here mind you.
“But it was an excellent game. It’s always sad to lose off the last over and I felt we were probably in the box seat towards the last over. We’d grafted hard and got a couple of wickets at the right time but it just didn’t come off.
“We’ve still qualified for the quarter-finals, it’s out of our hands now whether we get a home or away tie. Norfolk have to really smash Hertfordshire in order to win the group.
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“Regardless of whether we’re home away, we’ll go to the quarter-finals, and work hard on our skills in the meantime and get ready for that game.
“We were close to winning it. We had to graft with the bat, I felt that at the end there Tom Rash played exceptionally well for his 47, he really kicked it on and got us to a total we felt was round about par on there. We bowled as a unit, I think we did well.
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“We’ve got some young spinners that bowled. Joe Ellis-Grewal and Craig Estlea bowled brilliant sets of 10 each. That’s the first time they’ve done that at this level. Craig bowled well in a club game here a couple of weeks ago so I was never worried about giving him the ball.”
Watson took the prized scalp of England Test batsman Joe Root’s brother Billy but it was fine knocks from Bishop (56), Simon Guy (37) and Rash (47 not out) which helped the away side set a decent target.
The hosts seemed to be well on their way to victory thanks to a fine partnership of 80 between Gary Park (42) and Harry Bush (51) but the pair were removed within the space of six runs and their side suffered a mini-wobble. Callum Taylor and Stephen Gray went for single figures leaving Chris Brown and Watson to try and chase down the runs.
Norfolk still needed 13 off the last over to win. Chris Swallow, who during his previous nine overs had taken three wickets for 52 runs, was the man tasked with ensuring his troops came out on the right side of a thrilling finale. But it wasn’t to be as Watson found the boundary three times, with two balls to spare.
Norfolk’s delighted captain said of the nerve-jangling two-wicket triumph: “It was a must-win game. They’re a good side Suffolk. They’ve won all three group games quite comfortably and I can’t fault the lads one bit.
“Ashley Watson at the end showed his nerve and we got over the line. I only faced a couple of balls myself but we knew he (Watson) had to really go against Swallow in the last over and he said his option was to sweep and sweep-slog, and he did it ever so well.
“Gary and Harry set us on the way. Them two played well, they played the spin well, and they just looked to manipulate the ball into the gaps. It was a good partnership. And the bowling and the fielding unit was really good.
“To restrict them to that score was a good effort. All of the bowlers that bowled, bowled the right channels, to the right plans, to the right field-set, so I couldn’t fault that – it was superb.
“There is a belief we can get better too.”