Swardeston Cricket Club were crowned champions of the NatWest Club T20 earlier this month, continuing their fantastic summer with further national silverware still available. The club, based just south of Norwich, comfortably beat Sandyacre CC at the 3aaa County Ground in Derby, having beaten Tunbridge Wells earlier on Finals Day. Swardeston can now look forward to another national final as they face South Northumberland CC in the Royal London Club Championship.
Swardeston, who also won the T20 competition in 2010, were put into bat by Sandyacre, a side from Derbyshire. A perfectly timed innings of 69 not out from Lewis Denmark led the team to a reasonable 148-5 from their 20 overs. Denmark’s knock, which came from 55 balls and included eight boundaries, was desperately needed from Swardeston as early wickets had reduced the Norfolk side to 21-3. “My plan was to give myself and the team a platform to accelerate later in the innings,” Denmark told Concrete. He rebuilt the innings, firstly with Joe Gatting, formerly of Sussex and Hampshire and a batsman whose “quality and experience” assured Denmark there was no need to panic, and then with Freddie Ruffell, with these two partnerships pushing the score into three figures with five overs to go.
Denmark and new batsman Jeremy Elliott attempted to push on, with Denmark bringing up his half-century in the 17th over, but only four runs were scored off the 18th over meaning Swardeston were just 122-5 with two overs remaining. In need of a strong finish, both batsmen responded, scoring 26 runs from the last 12 balls. Denmark attributed the two fours off the final two balls as “vital in ensuring we went off the pitch with the momentum.”
The Swardeston bowlers used this momentum tremendously. Denmark was “always confident with runs on the board” and true to this, Sandyacre collapsed to 83 all out, handing Swardeston a 65 run win. Michael Eccles took the scalps of both openers but it was a shared effort from the bowlers, with everyone chipping in, ensuring not one Sandyacre batsmen contributed a significant score.
Lewis Denmark’s man-of-the-match performance in the final had come after he had also top-scored in the semi-final against Tunbridge Wells. Batting first again, he made 39 at just over a run a ball, including two sixes. Both Swardeston openers as well as Joe Gatting all chipped in, helping their team to 167-9. Despite being “very proud” of his performance, Denmark is quick to point out that Swardeston’s success was very much a joint effort. “All 13 players played a key role, it just happened to be me on the day who top scored. You cannot look past the bowlers in both matches who were excellent and kept it tight with regular wickets at key times.”
Taking wickets at key times was something that certainly happened against Tunbridge Wells. The side from Kent got off to a good start and were 52-1 but Thomas Oxley bowled both openers and Swardeston captain Mark Thomas took three wickets to help peg them back. Wickets kept falling at regular intervals and Tunbridge Wells eventually fell 23 runs short, all-out with a ball to spare.
Swardeston will now prepare for their next national final in what could be an historic season for the club. Having already won the East Anglian Premier League and Carter Cup, a win against South Northumberland in the Royal London Club Championship would ensure an unprecedented quadruple. Furthermore, no side has won the Club Championship and the Club T20 in the same season, but with all the momentum behind Swardeston, they will certainly fancy their chances.