Norfolk Alliance round-up: Premier Division title hopefuls Sprowston suffer a setback

Cricket action from the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division: Cromer v Sprowston. Cromer Batting - Sam

Cricket action from the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division: Cromer v Sprowston. Cromer Batting - Sam Hales in WicketPicture: MARK BULLIMORE

Fakenham are starting to hit top gear as they opened up a 25-point gap at the top of the Premier Division, writes Gavin Caney.

As all-rounder Will Dunger predicted they would a few weeks back, the top-flight leaders have strung together a run of form which suggests they are nearing their best. A third win in a row was always expected at basement boys Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers.

But it was the manner in which they ruthlessly chased down a target of 245 for victory by six wickets which must have sent out a worrying message to their rivals. The sensational Chad Bowes, who earlier in the day took three wickets, smashed another century to prove he's the real deal with the bat. The South African's 116 was the mainstay of his team's run chase but captain Keegan Monahan-Fairlie's 53 was also needed to wrap up another success.

Second-placed Sprowston – eight points adrift going into the weekend – lost vital ground as they were beaten by 59 runs at Cromer. The visitors made a solid start restricting the home team to 52-2 from the first 15 overs. Richard Charlwood (76) seemed to have inspired the hosts to a huge score but 170-4 with 16 overs left only became 252-9.

The title-hopeful's reply got off to a terrible start as they slumped to 47-5. Andy Hanby battled bravely to try and save the game. However, when his two hours at the crease ended for a gutsy 63, his team's hopes, in reality, went with it. Michael Warnes' 5-46 was perhaps the sole reason Sprowston suffered a setback.

Near the bottom, Stow dropped to ninth in the 10-team table after losing to Swardeston A, who leapfrogged them in the process. Jeremy Elliott (4-31) and Alex Levinson (56) did the business for the East Anglian Premier League giant's second-string.

In Division One, North Runcton swept Mattishall aside to strengthen their hopes of making an immediate return to the top tier. Garboldisham and Lowestoft, 15 points adrift, remain hot on their heels though.

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The latter thumped Beccles by 128 runs to ensure the race for the championship remains a three-way battle.

Peter Mitchell hit 104, Nathan Garrod 58 and Billy Brice 62, as Lowestoft bludgeoned their way to an unpassable 278-5.

Fuller shines as Swaffham stutter again

Division Three leaders Swaffham's slight wobble continued as they lost for the second weekend in a row.

Unbeaten until last Saturday, the third tier's pacesetters were looking to bounce back to winning ways when they welcomed Bungay. Yet they had no answer to all-rounder David Fuller who produced a memorable display to heap more pressure on the promotion hopefuls.

He removed openers Mark Eagle (25) and Chris Upton (17) before returning to send Tom Puckey (11), Andy Dale (1), Ryan Bradbury (6) and Ben Mills (0) back to the pavilion. Not content with claiming sensational figures of 6-36, the opener struck an unbeaten 55 in a total of 134-3, which eased his side to a six-wicket victory.

Second-placed Vauxhall Mallards A won at Acle A, despite the best efforts of Matt Miners (61), to move within 12 points of Swaffham – who they host in a mouth-watering fixture on Saturday.

Division Two leaders Norwich A were forced to make do with a winning draw at Fakenham A. Chris Binnie (84) and Chris Borrett (53 not out) played their part in setting the hosts a difficult 261 for glory. And while Fakenham (179-9) never really got close to passing it – although Harrison Futter hit a fine 100 – they remained resolute to deny the city outfit a victory they appeared likely to clinch.

Norwich's 18-point haul was 13 more than second-placed Hethersett & Tas Valley's as they were beaten by Bradfield.

Elsewhere, there were victories for divisional leaders Mundford (fourth tier, Dan White, 57), and Bircham (sixth tier, Will Pillinger 88) while Division Five frontrunners Martham also enjoyed a victory of sorts.

David Spencer's 67 helped his troops claim a winning draw at Mattishall A to remain 23 points clear of the pack in the fifth tier.