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Fakenham and Downham Stow both lay claim to title after dramatic final day in Norfolk Alliance Premier Division

A rulebook wrangle has cast doubt during this August Bank Holiday weekend over who out of Downham Stow and Fakenham cricket clubs has won the 2021 Cecil Amey Norfolk Alliance title.

Both sides finished level on points after Downham Stow won at Premier Division bottom club Acle and Fakenham lost a thriller by just three runs at local rivals North Runcton.

On Saturday evening Downham Stow skipper Pat Yates, who scored an unbeaten 67, was trying to get confirmation from the league – whose play-cricket.com website has Downham Stow top – after it was his understanding that the team who registered the most wins (11 to Fakenham’s 10) would be declared champions.

North Runcton v Fakenham..Kirwin Christoffels celebrating the wicket of John Ewart. (50691518)
North Runcton v Fakenham..Kirwin Christoffels celebrating the wicket of John Ewart. (50691518)

Keith Thomson scored 54 and overseas player Fergus Lellman 73 off just 56 balls as Downham Stow won the toss, elected to field and posted 297-4, going on to win by 65 runs.

Yates told the Lynn News: “It’s been a brilliant season. The youngsters have shone, like Ben Wilcox who’s 17 and has scored 500 runs with a couple of centuries.

“Everyone has stood up at some point. It’s been a team effort. Jamie Cook (4-51) was brilliant today with the ball.”

North Runcton v Fakenham. (50691526)
North Runcton v Fakenham. (50691526)

However Fakenham captain David Coyle, who stressed his club feel no ill-will towards Downham Stow, said a mid-season email from the league stated the criteria for selecting the title winners would be average points gained. Covid protocols have also complicated matters.

He said: “We had an email from the league secretary out of the blue, probably as a result from an emergency meeting, during the season that said it would be decided on average points gained from games completed.

“That’s our interpretation and understanding. Downham Stow completed three more games than us. The league table changed to average points, then changed back.

“In my opinion the best team in the league could finish second. I’ve spoken to Pat. This should have been a lot clearer.

“It’s been a horror if I’m being honest, I don’t know what else to say. It’s not Downham Stow’s fault.”

North Runcton v Fakenham. (50691493)
North Runcton v Fakenham. (50691493)

It looked all over for Fakenham – chasing Runcton’s 234-7 from 50 overs – at 47-5 and 95-7, but the away team displayed their depth of batting when opener John Ewart (87) and Paul Lough added 73 for the eighth wicket.

Lough and Coyle (26 not out) made a super last-wicket stand of 55 and needed four off the last two balls before Lough was run out by former Downham Stow player Tom Tansley off the final ball for 44 off 68 balls.

“We were an inside edge to the boundary away from winning it,” added Coyle.

North Runcton v Fakenham..North Runcton players. (50691525)
North Runcton v Fakenham..North Runcton players. (50691525)

The eight bonus points earned in a losing cause brought Fakenham level on points with Downham Stow, who did everything they could by gaining the maximum 25 points, on 289.

Earlier Runcton’s Kirwin Christoffels hit 68 to add to his 10-1-25-4 bowling analysis and Ben Coote smashed 55 off 55 balls with six fours and a six.

Yates added: “Tom (Tansley) last played for us about four or five years ago. We had people on the boundary on their phones telling us news from North Runcton. We’ve used about 18 or 19 players.”

Yates said if they are confirmed as champions Downham Stow intend to advance to the play-offs for a place in the East Anglian Premier Cricket League.

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