Sudbury have achieved the ambitious goal that they set themselves at the start of this summer, by successfully retaining their Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League title.
The Suffolk side, fresh from winning the EAPL crown for the
first-ever time in 2017, repeated the feat thanks to an outstanding
effort throughout the summer.
In the end, they pipped Swardeston
to the title by just one point, the slenderest of margins, but they led
the table for virtually the whole season and so fully deserved this
The pressure was on as Sudbury could not afford to
slip up during their final game, against relegation-threatened Norwich
at Friars Street on Saturday.
If Tom Huggins’ men had failed to
win this last fixture then Swardeston, winners of the competition for
five years in a row (2012 and 2016), would have taken full advantage to
regain their title.
Yet Huggins led from the front, in harness
with fellow opener Adam Mansfield, to completely overwhelm Norwich on
their way to a big victory by 123 runs.
Captain Huggins hit an
aggressive 76, while Mansfield obliged with a wonderful century (108)
and club captain Darren Batch kept up the momentum with a fine 68 to see
Sudbury to an imposing 323 for six off 50 overs.
to win the match, to remain above basement dwellers Bury St Edmunds in
the table, but they were always up against it during their reply,
despite a threatening second wicket partnership of 92 between the
dangerous duo of Jack Newby and Will O’Donnell.
However, it was
apt that the inspirational Huggins should break that stand, by bowling
New Zealander O’Donnell for 48, and although South African Newby went on
to score a century, in the process setting a new League record for the
number of runs scored in a season (1,233), Norwich eventually subsided
to 200 all out.
For Norwich, that meant entering the end-of-season
play-off phase, to decide their fate for next season – they beat
Norfolk Alliance champions Fakenham on Sunday in the semi-finals, and so
now take on Cambs & Hunts Premier League winners Saffron Walden in
the final next weekend.
But for Sudbury, Saturday was the climax to another wonderful season.
captain Batch summed up the feelings in the Sudbury camp after their
successful defence of such a prestigious regional title.
at the start of the season was to retain our title, but the old saying
goes that it’s often more difficult to win it the second time around,”
“We knew that we probably caught a few teams by
surprise last season, as an unknown quantity, but that was definitely
not the case this year.
“That’s why we strengthened the squad, by
bringing in overseas player Tim Johnston, and also Martyn Cull towards
the end of the summer.
“We have led the table, from about week
three or four to the final day, and it helped that Tom and Adam gave us
such a brilliant start on Saturday, which is something that they have
done so often this season.
“That opening stand gave us the
platform to build a big score. It was a great effort by Adam
(Mansfield), because when you open the innings you so often have to face
the toughest conditions of the day. Everyone appreciates the job that
he does for the team.
“We were all delighted to see him make his
century, and of course Tom has been great with bat and ball. He only
just missed out on 1,000 runs for the season, which is something he
would have deserved,” added Batch. Huggins finished on 993 runs.
Huggins had won the toss and elected to bat, he and Mansfield piled on
the runs to ease the pressure on the home side. Huggins plundered 78 off
88 balls, with two sixes and 11 fours, before he was bowled by James
Mirner with the score on 134, and Batch then joined Mansfield to put on a
further 100 runs for the second wicket.
Mansfield’s superb knock
eventually came to an end when he was bowled by Ashley Watson, having
faced 116 balls for his 108, and struck two sixes and 15 fours. It was a
cracking effort from the Suffolk county captain.
Batch’s 68 came
off 72 balls, and featured three sixes, while both Kenny Moulton-Day and
Tim Johnston struck a couple of sixes during brief cameos at the end of
James Poulson removed opener Lewis Sexton (2) early
on during Norwich’s reply, before Newby and O’Donnell briefly threatened
to revive the visitors. However, Huggins bowled O’Donnell, and when
Billy Moulton-Day bowled Ashley Watson for 17, the floodgates opened.
lost their last eight wickets for just 56 runs, with three wickets
apiece for overseas all-rounder Johnston (9-0-19-3) and Billy
Sudbury could then start celebrating.