Suffolk in with a chance of the title as they head to Saffron Walden

Jaik Mickleburgh, who top-scored with 78 for Suffolk against Cambridgeshire. Picture: NICK GARNHAM

Jaik Mickleburgh, who top-scored with 78 for Suffolk against Cambridgeshire. Picture: NICK GARNHAM - Credit: Archant

Head coach Andy Northcote would “have bitten your hand off” if offered the opportunity to still be in with a chance of winning the title after Suffolk lost their opening Unicorns Championship fixture, writes Nick Garnham.

Suffolk travel to Saffron Walden to face Cambridgeshire, starting tomorrow, in their final three-day fixture in second place in the Eastern Division table just six points behind leaders Lincolnshire.

That seemed an unlikely scenario after Suffolk suffered a heavy defeat at Staffordshire in their first match of the campaign.

Northcote said: “Looking back, I would have bitten your hand off if it was offered to me (still being in the hunt with one to go after that trip to Staffordshire) but in reality, that was always going to be tough highlighted by player availability.

“It’s going to be a mammoth task against Cambridgeshire, who have selected two ex-professional spinners and are a good, balanced side, so an interesting three days lies ahead.

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“However we can only control what’s there to control so I’m hoping the boys arrive like they have all season, ready to work hard with our common goal in mind and we will be alright.”

Suffolk’s chances of winning the Eastern Division will be boosted by the return of Jaik Mickleburgh, who replaces Darren Ironside.

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The former Essex batsman missed the hard-fought draw against Lincolnshire at Ipswich School as he was away with Brentwood School.

It is no coincidence that Suffolk have won all three of their championship fixtures that Mickleburgh has played in, with the opening batsman registering two centuries in just four innings.

His presence at the top of the order was sorely missed in the loss to Staffordshire and also versus Lincolnshire.

That result leaves Lincolnshire, who travel to Carlisle to face Cumberland, on 89 points ahead of Suffolk (83pts) with Staffordshire (81pts), who visit Northumberland, two points behind in third place.

Cambridgeshire (79pts) are another two points adrift in fourth and even fifth-placed Buckinghamshire (77pts), who host Hertfordshire, have an outside shout of claiming the title if results go their way.

Suffolk: Jaik Mickleburgh, Adam Mansfield, Kyran Young, Martyn Cull, Jed Cawkwell, Ben Shepperson, Jack Beaumont, Tom Rash, Mike Comber, Josh Cantrell, Ollie Bocking. 12th man: Darren Ironside.

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