North Crawley win their fourth title in a row

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Five teams could have won Division 1 on Saturday night, but there would be only one crowned as champions, and the honour went to North Crawley for the fourth time in a row.

Richard Bryce’s men knew a victory on the final day against MK City would be enough, but they were made to work for it after a last wicket stand worth 36 led the visitors to 190-9.

But with the league’s leading runs scorer Alex Walker notching up yet another century (111 not out), ably assisted by Marcus Goss’ unbeaten 56, North Crawley got over the line for the fourth consecutive season.

“It was certainly the most exciting win,” said Bryce.

“We’ve had problems with availability this season, so we went on a bit of a lean spell where we didn’t win a game for about six weeks.

“But the commitment of the players has been key for us, and we’re delighted to win the league again.”

Walker’s incredible form saw him score 801 runs this season - more than 300 runs more than any other single batsman in the entire seven divisions.

Bryce though said there is a lot more strength in depth behind their big-hitting opener.

He said: “When you look down the order, we lost Pete Barnes who was averaging around 50 for the latter part of the season, and Marcus Goss was also a regular runs scorer.

“There have been a lot of players who have stepped up while others have been away, and it shows that we can call upon some excellent players when we’re stuck.”

Milton Keynes were the beneficiaries on the final day, snatching second place with a comfortable win over relegated Eggington Foresters.

Elstow had been top with just three games to go, but let the lead slip a week later, and ended up third after setting 179, but failed to bowl out a stubborn Olney (172-9) side.

New City’s chances went up in smoke when both they and Eaton Bray scored 180 in a lesser-seen tie.

But even though there have been opportunities to step away from the Four Counties league to test themselves at a higher level, Bryce admits it may harm them, rather than help them in the future.

He said: “With so many teams able to win it on the final day, it shows how strong the league is.

“But if we were to move to, for example, the Cherwell League, we’d be down in Division 5, and in Northants, Division 14.

“At that level, the cricket would be less competitive, and we feel we’re a better side than that.”

New Bradwell will be joining the Division 1 action next season after securing promotion from Division 2.

Having set 175, New Bradwell bowled out Stoke Hammond for 154 to secure second place behind Biddenham.