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Debuts in the offing during Suffolk's final Unicorns Championship encounter

Suffolk could hand debuts to two players in their crucial final Unicorns Championship match of the season, writes Nick Garnham.

Max Whittaker and Alex Cruickshank may come into the side for the three-day fixture versus Northumberland at the victory Ground in Bury St Edmunds, starting on Sunday.

Missing from the side that drew with Cumberland are former captain and wicket-keeper Adam Mansfield, his Sudbury team-mates James Poulson and Paddy Sadler, who are all ruled out by work commitments, and opening batsman Alex Oxley, who is with Warwickshire 2nd XI.

Suffolk Cricket team 2019 (15848042)
Suffolk Cricket team 2019 (15848042)

All-rounders Darren Ironside and Josh Cantrell both return to the squad after missing the match at Netherfield CC through injury.

Whittaker is a wicket-keeper and top-three batsman with Bury St Edmunds while Cruickshank is a lower-order batsman and bowler with fellow East Anglian Premier League side Mildenhall.

Suffolk head coach Andy Northcote said of their selection: “Max Whittaker has kept for us most of the Second XI season and that’s what has got him in to the squad; showing commitment and desire.

“Other keepers that we considered were Alfie Marston of Bury and Jacob Marston of Copdock.

“Some heads might be turned with the selection but the message is clear; with a tight decision to be made we reward those that commit to playing for the 2nd XI.

“Alex Cruickshank is another 18-year-old who is a bright prospect for the future. Alex has worked his way up from our Under-17s and now opens the bowling in the Suffolk 2nd XI and in the EAPL.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for both boys to relax, stay present and enjoy the experience.”

Suffolk sit in the fifth and final place to decide which teams will form the new Eastern Division One in next season’s re-branded National Counties Cricket Championship.

They are currently five points behind fourth-placed Lincolnshire, who are at home to Bedfordshire, and four ahead of Buckinghamshire, who are sixth and entertain Cumberland.

Northcote said: “Yes, I suppose to guarantee top-five status it is a must-win but we have to, at some point, stop thinking like that and move our focus to the processes that we have followed and try to follow each game. The outcome will take care of itself.

“I feel devastated for the group; we have had rotten luck with the weather, played some incredibly good cricket but because it’s a short season, find ourselves at the wrong end of the table and now going in to this game with three regulars missing. That’s Minor Counties cricket for you!

“We can’t control what Bucks and Cumberland do so I don’t believe that adds extra pressure on the group. What it will mean is that I keep a close eye on the game and, possibly, if need be, try to shift our tactics. But like all things, if you don’t focus on what’s in front of you, you end up tripping yourself.

“Northumberland are a solid side that have struggled this year. However, like all teams in this competition, they are dangerous. Michael Richardson (Durham contracted) has scored plenty of runs and their wickets have been shared across a few bowlers.”

Suffolk squad: Jaik Mickleburgh, Jake Foley, Kyran Young, Ben Shepperson, Darren Ironside, Jack Beaumont, Mike Comber (capt), Tom Rash, Josh Cantrell, Max Whittaker (wkt), Ollie Bocking, Alex Cruickshank, James Baker.

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