By Charles Randall
10 December 2019
Club cricket in 2019 belonged to Norfolk, as Swardeston became the first club to win the two ECB major national titles in one season.
And in a wider perspective Swardeston were acclaimed the county's Team Of The Year in all sports in a boost for cricket at the Active Norfolk awards night in November, hosted by the ITV East Anglia presenter Becky Jago. So the Norwich club could look back on the season with pride at their recent annual general meeting not least for making a significent donation to the Lord's Taverners.
Swardeston won the 40-overs National Club Championship at Lord's and went on to take National T20 at the Derby County Ground. The only surprise was that they failed to land East Anglian Premier League title for a treble, finishing as runners-up to the Essex club Frinton-On-Sea. Another remarkable achievement was the cheque of £2,412 handed to the Taverners by the club chairman Stuart Bartram, money that was raised in a single night at the summer ball in May.
Joe Gatting completed a magnificent season as the league's best batsman, with 950 at 55.8, and headed the wickets list with 50, but Frinton deserved their maiden East Anglian title mainly because they won at Swardeston at The Common, a result that settled the title's destiny.
Frinton's Essex connections showed when former county seamer Michael Comber took 4-26 as Swardeston slipped to 131 all out. The former Essex batsman Adam Wheater hit 41 off 50 balls in reply to set up a four-wicket win. This was probably a surprise result as Swardeston had dominated a drawn game at Frinton in June, though Comber excelled.
Frinton relied on another county batsman, Jaik Mickleburgh, to supply runs when available, and his presence ensured Frinton won their final three games to clinch the title.
Swardeston bounced back after their Frinton reverse by amassing 396-5 very quickly at close rivals Sudbury, with Gatting smashing 100 off 53 balls and overshadowing Callum Taylor's brisk 116, but Frinton also won their last three games easily to stay ahead.
At the other end of the table rock-bottom Vauxhall Mallards folded, but they at least won their last two Premier matches after being outclassed nearly every week. Firstly they won by 62 runs at Great Witchingham, opener Paul Bradshaw hitting 88 and their captain Adam Todd adding 51 off 31 balls.
Mallards finished in style by winning their final match, this time with an 80-run success over visiting Copdock & Old Ipswichians. It was hard work, as they had to recover from 53-7 to 154 all out, thanks to Todd's undefeated 51 at number nine. Then Bradshaw ripped through the Copdock batting with the new ball, finishing with 6-28.
The league's second-most successful batsman proved to Justin Broad, 18, an EU-qualified Western Province age-group batsman, who amassed 936 runs for Bury St Edmunds at 55.0, an excellent return on his maiden English season.
But the end of season glory went to Swardeston. Their depth in batting ensured they dominated the National Club Championship final at Lord's where they destroyed Nantwich , from Cheshire. Alfie Cooper, 19, hit 61 off 66 balls for a day to remember, and Peter Lambert, with 60 off 37 balls, and Gatting, with a rapid 49, batted their opponents out of the match. Swardeston's total of 280-7 off their 40 overs always looked too much to beat - and even more remote when Duckworth-Lewis adjusted Nantwich's target to 253 off 35 overs.
Lambert's 81 not out off 50 balls had created a problem for visiting Ealing in a superb semi-final. Swardeston's 259-7 was not an impossible target, as Mylo Wilkins showed during his 109 off 76 balls in reply, but support withered and Ealing were bowled out for 227 with three overs still remaining to lose by 32 runs.
Callum Taylor, the former England Under-19 seamer, released by Essex in 2018, made the difference against Ealing with 4-29, and he completed a memorable season with bat and ball by excelling in the National T20 final for Swardeston's third success in this competition in recent years.
Taylor took 5-18 as Swardeston beat Toft by 21 runs at Derby, after strong batting produced a total of 178-7. Jordan Taylor, Callum's brother, hit 45 from 39 balls before Lewis Denmark and the inevitable Lambert piled on late runs. Toft made a good reply, but the key moment came when Gatting and Denmark combined brilliantly on the long-off boundary to catch James Scott, Toft's potential match-winner with 41 off 23 balls.