Suffolk hold nerve to reach first final
SUFFOLK held their nerve yesterday to earn themselves a glory day out at Lord's.Phil Caley's heroic team edged home in a dramatic low-scoring game at Challow and Childrey - beating Oxfordshire by three wickets in the semi-final of the Minor Counties Knock-Out Trophy.
By Elvin King
SUFFOLK held their nerve yesterday to earn themselves a glory day out at Lord's.
Phil Caley's heroic team edged home in a dramatic low-scoring game at Challow and Childrey - beating Oxfordshire by three wickets in the semi-final of the Minor Counties Knock-Out Trophy.
They now face either Cheshire or Devon in a showpiece final at cricket's headquarters on Monday, August 27.
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And after losing two of the previous three semi-finals success was very sweet for Caley and his men.
They will now walk out from the Long Room to enter the most famous cricket arena in the world.
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Despite a pitch that kept low and made it difficult to score runs, Suffolk were still cockahoop at dismissing Oxford for what seemed like a paltry 65. But the visiting batsmen were also up against some tight accurate bowling, and it took a wonderful straight six from Chris Swallow - followed by a sumptuous four - in what turned out to be the penultimate over - to finally confirm a treasured victory.
While the in-form Swallow took the honours with the bat, it was Clacton's Martin Smith who reigned supreme with the ball; claiming a startling six wickets as Oxford tumbled to the fifth-lowest total in the competition's history.
The game was actually called off at one point yesterday, with a new date - July 15 - mentioned for the re-staging. It was felt that there was little chance of play because of wet conditions, and a dismal forecast.
The competition organisers appeared to agree and Suffolk players were prepared to head for home after taking advantage of the lunch on offer.
Then mobile telephones began to start ringing with calls from the decision-makers saying that a result had to be found over the two days allocated.
There was mass confusion for some while with umpires, officials, coaches and skippers all involved in the debate.
When some blue sky appeared over the hills - and the pitch dried up during a dry, windy morning - a U-turn took place and play was back on again.
It remained mainly sunny for two hours until the given start time of 3pm, and after Suffolk skipper Caley won the toss Oxfordshire were asked to bat first.
With play expected to go into the second day, Suffolk had to bring their contingency plan into operation to cover for Paul Grayson (playing for Essex today) and Andrew Mawson (having to work today). They were left out of the starting XI, which deprived Suffolk of two of their most experienced batsmen.
It was not easy bowling in the strong wind, but Smith struck twice in the third over to give the visitors the perfect start.
He tweaked a bail off to remove James Hewitt and then had danger man David Taylor caught driving by a leaping Phil Edwards in the covers.
Paul King, who tied down one end during his maximum 10 overs, chipped in with a wicket before Smith claimed three more quick wickets - all before the end of his fifth over.
A couple of the Oxfordshire shots were perhaps too extravagant for the conditions, but Smith was bowling with pace and devilment.
Suffolk's lowest-ever total was against Oxfordshire - 29 at Felixstowe in 1904 - and it looked at one time as though they were going to gain full revenge.
Smith took his haul to six before Edwards and Justin Bishop cleaned up the tail with help from good catches by Chris Warn and Tom Huggins at slip.
Huggins went early for Suffolk, and Ben France was not far behind as a succession of leg before wickets had the Suffolk contingent biting their nails.
Martyn Cull struck a couple of timely blows, and King - promoted up the order - helped take the initiative with 28 runs coming during his stay at the wicket.
The score slowly crept upwards, but when Warn was out to a juggling catch at first slip with 11 runs still needed it was not cut and dried by any means.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man - and Swallow struck his two memorable shots to secure Suffolk their first-ever competitive game at Lord's.
Oxfordshire v Suffolk
Challow and Childrey: Suffolk beat Oxfordshire by three wickets.
J Hewitt b Smith 4
S Hole b Smith 5
D Taylor c Edwards b Smith 0
R Kaufman c Warn b King 0
A Cook lbw b Smith 1
I Crosby lbw b Smith 1
P McMahon c Warn b Smith 0
I Hawtin not out 17
D Burton lbw Edwards 10
L Ryan c Warn b Edwards 1
K Arnold c Huggins b Bishop 6
Total (29.2 overs) 65
Fall of wkts: 1-6, 2-6, 3-7, 4-9, 5-17, 6-18, 7-19, 8-41, 9-46
Bowling: Smith 9-2-25-6, King 10-4-17-1, Edwards 6-1-9-2, Bishop 4.2-1-7-1.
B France lbw b Burton 6
T Huggins lbw b Arnold 0
M Cull lbw b Burton 11
N Lee lbw b Arnold 4
P Caley lbw b Arnold 0
P King c Ryan b Taylor 10
C Warn c Hole b Taylor 6
C Swallow not out 15
J Bishop not out 1
Total (for 7 wkts, 26.3 overs) 66
Fall of wkts: 1-10, 2-12, 3-20, 4-22, 5-36, 6-50, 7-55.
Bowling: Burton 10-2-29-2, Arnold 10-3-15-3, Taylor 3.3-1-2-2, Ryan 2-1-4-0, Hewitt 1-0-10-0.