Cromer CC thwarted by final pair
The North Norfolk derby ended in last-ball drama at the Norton Warnes as Cromer got their season back on track against old rivals Fakenham.
Chasing a total of 199-8 Fakenham had threatened throughout to take control but a courageous display of accurate bowling from the home attack, backed up by tenacious fielding and some stunning catches, took the match into the final minutes with all results possible.
Antony Robinson struck with the last delivery of the penultimate over to leave Fakenham nine down and facing a resurgent Chris Carey, rolling back the years and steaming in from the Cromwell Road End. But in a tense finale the veteran seamer was denied by the final stonewalling pair of Lo and Clarke, surrounded by a posse of Cromer fielders, to leave the home side ultimately a little frustrated but overall satisfied with the winning draw.
Cromer had been put into bat on a damp, green track that promised to be a real test of character and technique, and home openers Billy Payne and Tom Davies had to dig in to negotiate the new ball. Left-hander Payne unleashed some crunching drives to reach 21 before falling to Fakenham dangerman Slegg, bringing the in-form Richard Charlwood to the crease to join the skipper.
Charlwood top-scored in last week's defeat at Sprowston and he looked in good touch as he and Davies gradually got on top. Davies was looking more and more confident, manoeuvring the field around with well-placed singles and finding the gaps with some superb trademark boundaries, and Charlwood looked in complete control as he once again demonstrated a classy range of strokes. However batting was never easy, especially against the pair of young Fakenham spinners, and Davies fell to a lbw decision after getting to a well-deserved half-century. The partnership had put on 97 valuable runs.
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With just a few overs remaining the Cromer middle order came in with a licence to thrill and wickets tumbled as the big shots came out of the locker. Carey and Robinson both launched maximums and Charlwood was punishing anything short or full, falling off the last delivery as he looked to deposit another ball into the tennis courts.
A total of 199-8 was a decent one and the Cromer bowlers came out fired up. Michael Warnes soon had the visitors 12-1, Robinson struck when Carey parried at slip and dived full-length to take the rebound, and at the other end workhorse James Craske bowled unchanged into the wind and proved a real thorn in the side. But West Indies Test batsman Omar Phillips was showing exactly why he has made a first class double-hundred with some wonderful shots off his legs and down the ground.
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The left-hander was threatening to take the game away from Cromer and it would clearly take something special to dislodge him. Right on cue Davies whistled up Warnes and the Norfolk seamer came up with the goods once again, finding the edge of the bat and producing a stupendous full-length diving pouch from 'keeper Davies to send Phillips on his way for a well-made 40.
Cromer sensed the win was on and attacked with vigour. Jarvis was snaffled in the deep by Payne off Carey and Warnes bowled Fernando, but Sean Cooper dug in once more and, with opener Speneley, started to snuff out the Cromer fire and give the visitors hope of victory.
Despite a few scares and dropped chances the pair put on 67 before the pitch had a final say. Cooper found a leading edge that lobbed gently to Robinson at extra cover, and just one run later Carey dispatched Speneley's runner from midwicket with a superb direct hit that ended Fakenham's interest in the win.
It was left to Cromer to push for the points culminating in the drama of the last over and an extremely encouraging display for skipper Davies to reflect on as he plots the rest of the season, with the promise of an ever-strengthing team as Matthew Warnes and South African Malcolm Cloete come into contention.
Cromer entertain former champions Downham Market on Saturday.