Frustration for Andy Northcote as Suffolk fail to take as gap to leaders Staffordshire widens to 16 points following drawn match against Cambridgeshire
Suffolk head coach Andy Northcote could not hide his disappointment after his side drew their latest Unicorns Championship match, versus Cambridgeshire, writes Nick Garnham.
Northcote’s side sit joint fourth in the Eastern Division ahead of the penultimate round of matches after falling three wickets shy of victory at Ipswich School.
Suffolk set their opponents 380 to win in what amounted to 84 overs, but the match ended in a draw as the visitors closed on 233-7.
After reducing Cambridgeshire to 81-3, a fourth-wicket stand of 117 between Lee Thomason and skipper James Williams frustrated Suffolk.
Although Williams finally fell for 52 at the start of the last hour's play, Suffolk could only capture three more wickets, Bury St Edmunds' Josh Cantrell the most successful bowler with 3-69.
Alex Oxley (82) and Jaik Mickleburgh (73) had earlier extended their opening partnership to 116 before being separated and quick runs from Mildenhall's Ben Shepperson (61 off 41 balls) and Mike Comber (25 off 12 balls) enabled Suffolk to declare their second innings on 287-5.
That was after Suffolk had secured a 92-run first-innings lead thanks to Jaik Mickleburgh’s splendid 155 which underpinned their 396-6 off 90 overs in which Shepperson made 57 and Comber 48.
Cantrell took 3-55 as Cambridgeshire collapsed from 300-5 to 304 all out, although first-change bowler Raj Singh, who plays his club cricket for Haverhill, did not bat.
He played no further part in the match after dislocating his right shoulder while diving to stop the ball on the mid-wicket boundary on the first afternoon and will not play again this season.
Northcote, who took three catches at short leg while fielding as 12th man on the last afternoon, said: “The wicket was very flat and we tried everything; we used (occasional bowler) Ben Shepperson and chopped and changed the bowlers and changed the field and tried different tactics but just couldn’t make the breakthrough.
“I think we got it right with one hour to go which opened up things nicely and made it exciting.
“The pleasing thing from my perspective is that we just kept going. A lot of teams would have pulled out and shook hands but we kept going which is a credit to (captain) Adam Mansfield (Sudbury) and the group.”
With three of the other four Eastern Division matches also ending in draws, Northcote admitted it was doubly disappointing for Suffolk not to press home their advantage and close the gap further on leaders Staffordshire which now stands at 16 points.
He said: “You can hear that in my voice. We did everything we could and that’s the bottom line. We can keep our heads held up high, we have got two games to go and if we win those you never know.
“It is probably not going to be enough to win the championship but it will be a very respectable second or third finish at worst so that’s our target.”