Fakenham captain Ben Harvey remains confident in title quest

FAKENHAM captain Ben Harvey is confident that his side can reel in the 15-point gap to leaders Norwich – if the weather gives them a fair deal.

Twice in recent weeks, Fakenham have had games rained off, allowing Norwich to steal a march in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division title race. Both sides played – and both won – on Saturday, with Harvey delighted that his team are still in contention.

“We were a bit unfortunate the week before when we could not play at Vauxhall Mallards because it was very wet and that put Norwich in the driving seat,” he said. “But it was a good way to bounce back on Saturday with a convincing win against Acle. That’s all we can do – continue to try and put the pressure on Norwich.

“There’s been a bit of rain about this week again which is a shame because we’ve been fighting the weather all season.

“We’ve had five games rained off and I’ve never played in a season with that many before. It has been disappointing, but there’s still a long way to go and there is still only 15 points in it. It only takes one slip up for everything to change.

“I’m sure Norwich will not be resting too comfortably on a lead of 15 points.”

Saturday’s 122-run win at bottom side Acle featured half-centuries from Harvey (51), Keegan Monahan Fairlie (59) and Sam Wells (50), Fakenham making 220 for seven before bowling the hosts out for 98.

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“It’s not been the easiest of seasons to get your head down with the bat and score runs,” said Harvey. “A lot of pitches have had rain on during the week, so it was nice to play on a hard, dry track.

“We set a target of 225 and we were a bit disappointed to miss out on maximum batting points by five runs, but 220 was still a good score on a turning pitch. It was a good total for the bowlers to defend and they did the job well.”

It was New Zealander Well’s first significant contribution after arriving to replace Kimeshin Chetty as the club’s overseas player and Harvey added: “He’s settled in really well.

“He’s been a bit unfortunate that we’ve only played two games since he arrived, but in both of those he has looked quite assured with the bat and he also does a fair bit with the ball. He looks like a very handy acquisition and we’re delighted to have him.”

Norwich eased to a seven-wicket win at Sprowston – who they will face again in the Carter Cup final a week on Sunday. Harvey does not expect that big cup date to have any effect on Norwich’s title bid: “I haven’t given that much thought, but it’s brilliant for Alliance cricket to have two sides in the final and it shows that Alliance sides are able to compete with the EAPL teams.

“I don’t think it will be a distraction for Norwich, I think they’ll just see it as a good opportunity to let their hair down and enjoy themselves.”

This Saturday, Harvey’s men host third-placed Old Buckenham, who have also won the Lady Mary Trophy and reached the final of the NACO Cup this season.

“They have had a good season,” said Harvey. “With guys like Robbie Austin and their overseas player, who has done well for them, they’ve got the makings of a good side. They’re a bit like Sprowston, having come up from Division One and nobody really knew what they were going to do. They shocked us earlier in the season and almost beat us before we won with nine wickets down, so facing them is certainly a difficult prospect.”

Fakenham’s Neil Yarham hit a magnificent 146, including 20 fours and six sixes, with David Spencer picking up four for 66 for Hockwold. Roy Bland (74) and Anthony Ruddick (61no) pushed Hockwold to within four runs of victory when the overs ran out.