Hales & Loddon were left rooted to the bottom of Norfolk Alliance Division Five and waiting to hear their relegation fate after old foes Beccles A completed a derby double spearheaded by their captain Ian Norman. The left-arm medium swing bowler bagged six wickets to add to the five he took in the encounter between the basement battlers earlier this season. Norman returned figures of 6 for 15 from nine overs as H&L collapsed to a disastrous 67 all out in pursuit of a 186 victory target.
The result saw Beccles scamper clear of the drop zone but a meagre three point return left H&L propping up the division, two points below Swardeston/CEYMS and waiting to hear whether they will be relegated, or reprieved because of teams dropping out elsewhere in the league. Whatever the outcome Saturday’s defeat was a sorry end to a season of highs and lows which saw H&L underline their potential with five victories against some of the stronger sides in thedivision but mysteriously fail to turn up in the key basement battles which ultimately sealed their fate. H&L lost five of the six encounters with the three teams – Swardeston/ CEYMS, Lowestoft A and Beccles – who finished directly above them.
After winning the toss H&L skipper Josh Pitcher put the hosts into bat on a placid and worn end-of-season wicket at the Common. The decision looked justified as after 40 overs H&L had the upper hand with the hosts on 122 for six, based around veteran Jonathan Puxley’s anchor-role 34. His dogged vigil was ended when he was trapped lbw by the left-arm spin of Martin Wells, whose introduction at third change proved timely with 3 for 26 from six overs. Mark Stewart kept the Beccles batsmen firmly in check with a disciplined 12-over spell which included five maidens and produced two wickets for 21. Simon McDowell was the other key Beccles contributor, batting well for 31 before H&L paceman Isaac Rolph tore through his defences.
The fireworks which tipped the balance of the game Beccles’ way came in the last six overs of the innings as 63 runs were added. Jason McDowell (30 no) led the charge with four fours and a six in a quickfire cameo, while Norman (11), Antony Wright, who hit nine before retiring hurt with a calf muscle injury and Jason Cockings (10 no) also inflicted damage. H&L opening bowler Neil Pearson (12 overs 1 for 52) felt the force as his final three overs were despatched for 36 but Rolph (11 overs 2 for 43) also suffered as his last two overs went for 23.
H&L’s batsmen set about their task purposefully as regular opener Milton Lindsay and big-hitting Neil Pearson, promoted up the order, put on 28 in six overs. Pearson was the first to fall, bowled pulling across the line by Norman for 13 on the second ball of the seventh over. Lindsay followed in Norman’s next over for 17 after picking out Billy Johnson with a lofted extra cover drive. Wickets tumbled swiftly as Norman claimed four more victims cheaply, including that of the dangerous Mark Stewart, adjudged lbw for a duck. Having bowled nine overs, Norman withdrew himself from the attack, leaving Billy Johnson (4 overs 2 for 7) and Chris Robson (3.1 overs 2 for 10) to share four wickets as H&L were put out of their misery on the first ball of the 25th over.