Surprise win vital boost for Thetford A

Lifetime highest scores from both Andy Kerling and Nick Shepherd saw Thetford A to an unlikely nine-wicket victory and 22 points at promotion-chasing Bradfield A in Alliance Division Six.

Lifetime highest scores from both Andy Kerling and Nick Shepherd saw Thetford A to an unlikely nine-wicket victory and 22 points at promotion-chasing Bradfield A in Alliance Division Six.

With relegation still a real threat after the team had fallen victim to the weather and very narrow losses in recent weeks, this win could be critical in determining the outcome of Thetford A's season.

It was all the more remarkable for a crisis in player availability that almost saw the game called off completely.

This has been a tough season for Thetford A and relegation is still a real danger with one game left, but they can approach it with confidence after this convincing nine-wicket win.

Skipper Gavin Siriwardena won the toss and put Bradfield in on a pristine track, but with high humidity promising help for the seamers.

Siriwardena and Nathan Coleman began well, restricting the Bradfield openers' opportunities to score, but failing to find much penetration.

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After reaching just 20 from the first ten overs, Bradfield began to open up, but a bowling change saw Matt Kerling induce a loose shot from J Hewetson (29), Colin Tyms taking a sharp catch at short midwicket.

With B Down joining A Robinson and both going after the bowling, the scoring accelerated to 96-1 after 22 overs, only for Down (23) to clip a leg-side delivery from Nick Shepherd (1-26) to backward square leg, where Matt Kerling held a great, diving catch. Another bowling change saw Robinson (55) mis-time a drive off the impressive Karl Harris (1-22), whereupon Siriwardena juggled, but held onto, the resulting skier at mid-off and Bradfield were 125-3.

Thetford hopes that this would start a flood of wickets were unfounded, however, as the bowlers tired, fielding lapses crept in and the pitch continued to offer little assistance. Nathan Coleman (1-36) picked up another wicket, bowling M Reynolds for 28 to give Thetford a second bowling point, but T Wiseman and M Seago kept on the attack as the score passed 200.

With overs running out, Matt Kerling (2-48) started to find more swing and trapped Wiseman (26) lbw in the 44th over. With the score on 226-5 and Seago unbeaten on 53, Bradfield captain Keith Register opted to declare, confident that he had enough runs already and giving his side two extra overs in which to bowl the visitors.

Thetford began their reply with little real hope of reaching their target of 227, but aiming to get batting points.

The pitch remained resolutely flat, however, and the disruption to the Bradfield bowlers' lines from the left-right opening pair of Nick Shepherd and Andy Kerling helped the batsmen accumulate steadily. Both Shepherd and Kerling batted with admirable patience and judgement, circumspect in defence but putting away bad balls, especially from the change bowlers.

The scoring rate was rather becalmed at the halfway point, nevertheless, and the total only 86 - so victory still seemed a long way off.

First Kerling and then Shepherd, after reaching 50s, then accelerated, and both benefited from dropped catches. The score had more than doubled by the 41st over when a mix-up saw Shepherd run out for a brilliantly judged 72 out of a superb partnership of 176.

More than 40 runs were still required from less than eight overs, but Simon Lewis joined Kerling and they made steady progress towards their target.

With one over to go and seven needed, Kerling was unbeaten on 97 but Lewis was on strike and, three balls later, the game was over with Lewis making a perfectly-paced contribution of 24 not out and Kerling stranded three short of a richly-deserved century.

Ultimately, Bradfield's declaration backfired on them in a way that neither side would have predicted, their bowling just not being penetrative or consistent enough on a flat pitch to make inroads into what was far from Thetford's strongest side.

Bradfield A: J Hewetson c Tyms b M Kerling 29, A Robinson c Siriwardena b Harris 55, B Down c M Kerling b Shepherd 23, M Seago not out 53, M Reynolds b Coleman 28, T Wiseman lbw M Kerling 26; extras 11. Total (5 wkts dec) 226. Bowling: G Siriwardena 12-1-66-0, N Coleman 9-1-23-1, M Kerling 7.5-0-48-2, N Shepherd 5-0-26-1, A Kerling 5-0-22-0, K Harris 5-0-22-1.

Thetford A: N Shepherd run out 72, A Kerling not out 97, S Lewis not out 24; extras 28. Total (1 wkt) 227. Bowling: T Wiseman 6-0-23-0, N Bartholomew 10-1-37-0, C Scannell 12-3-43-0, A Robinson 3-1-17-0, S Kimber 8-0-32-0, N Hewetson 8.3-0-65-0.