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Movers and shakers in group finals

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The 16 Group Finals in the ECB National Club Championship will take place with a number of extremely intriguing ties this Sunday.

South Northumberland, winners in 2006, having already knocked out current holders Chester-le-Street will be hosting Benwell Hill. With the clubs sitting in second and fourth places in the North East Premier League table a close contest is envisaged.

A battle royal is anticipated at Clifton Park as York host West Indian Cavaliers. York have won the Yorkshire Premier League for the last three seasons and West Indian Cavaliers have been Nottinghamshire Premier League Champions in four of the last six seasons. Both sides have had good runs in the National in recent years with York reaching the Quarter-Final last year and West Indian Cavaliers having similar success in 2007.

Loughborough Town and Doncaster Town meet in the Group 3 Final. Both clubs had three attempts before completing their matches against Caythorpe and Barnsley respectively so will be hoping for better weather come Sunday. Loughborough are sitting in fourth place in the Leicestershire Premier League where the top five teams are only separated by five points. Doncaster are sitting in mid-table in the Yorkshire Prem.

Group 4 has Ormskirk and Northern meeting in the Group Final, both clubs are locked together in mid-table in the Liverpool Competition with only five points separating the sides.

Group 5 throws up an interesting tie as Bamford Fieldhouse from the Saddleworth League take on Grappenhall. This is the Cheshire club’s first foray into the National Club Championship for many years and as they are only in Division One of the Cheshire County League it will be interesting to see if they can stop the Bamford Fieldhouse juggernaut. The other tie in the North West sees Farnworth from the Bolton League host Highfield from the Liverpool Competition. The Bolton League side will fancy their chances of another upset on their home patch against the side second in their Premier League.

Stone from the North Staffs & South Cheshire League have exceeded their expectations by getting to the Group 7 Final and now face a trip to Walmley from the Birmingham Premier. Both clubs are struggling in their league campaigns and will hope that they can continue to enjoy their cup run. The other Midlands Group throws up a real clash of the titans as Knowle & Dorridge, top of league and current Champions, host Barnt Green. The Worcestershire side are sitting third in the league table and played in the 2005 Final at Lord’s losing on the last ball to Horsham. This match could prove to be the pick of the ties to be played on Sunday.

In the South West four of the top five teams in the West of England Premier League table lock horns with each other. Bath reached last year’s Semi-Final before surprisingly losing at home to Spencer, this time around they have a mouth-watering tie at home to Frocester in the Group Final in Group 9. Frocester are fresh from their record score of 446 for six against St Fagans in the previous round and Bath had an impressive victory at Sully Centurions. On the picturesque North Parade Bridge Road ground the crowd is likely to be treated to a real run-fest. Bridgwater and Taunton St Andrews, second and third in the WEPL respectively, meet at The Parks in Bridgwater after both sides beat Cornish opposition in the last round.

Reading enjoyed an easy win at Weybridge to set up a tie with Havant who won fairly comfortably at Southern League rivals South Wilts. With Reading enjoying a successful season as they look for promotion back to the Home Counties Premier Division they will fancy their chances against Havant who are surprisingly struggling in the Southern League after picking up the title for the last three seasons.

High Wycombe romped to victory against Middlesex Tamils but will find Ealing an altogether tougher opposition. The Buckinghamshire side are bottom of the Home Counties League and now face opponents who are top of the tree in Middlesex and seeking a sixth consecutive league title as well as being touted as serious contenders to win this competition.

Brondesbury host East Anglian Premier League leaders Saffron Walden in another very attractive match. Brondesbury have a good record in this competition in recent years and Saffron Walden had an even better record up to five years ago including picking up the trophy at Lord’s in 2002. Now the Essex side appear to be returning to being top contenders once again.

Group 14 has thrown up another clash of high-scoring sides as South Woodford (371-4 against Enfield) host Bromley (302-2 v Upminster). South Woodford ply their trade in the Essex League Division One so will be treating Bromley, winners in 2007 and runners-up in 2006, with respect. However so far this season Bromley have not been able to field anything approaching their strongest side and were given a fright when Blackheath bowled them out for 121 in the last round. On the same day South Woodford had romped to victory over Hornsey by 127 runs. This match could be close but the experience of the Bromley side is likely to see them come out on top.

The last two Group Finals see Sussex Premier League sides host opposition from Middlesex and Kent. In Group 15 Preston Nomads, Sussex Champions for the last two years, host Teddington. The Middlesex side have a tremendous pedigree in the National Club Championship having reached the National Stages on numerous occasions and having visited Lord’s on four occasions, twice picking up the trophy. Having said that it is 11 years since Teddington played their last Final when losing to Wolverhampton.

Preston Nomads have already disposed of Malden Wanderers, runners-up in 2008, in this year’s second round and as they are already topping their league table they may prove to be just too strong for their visitors on Sunday.

Eastbourne have also appeared in the Final, last as runners-up in 2000, when they lost in a replay at Southgate. As they were victorious in 1997 they have the proud boast of visiting Lord’s twice and not losing. In their Group Final at The Saffrons they will play Bickley Park who won a close match by two runs at Lordswood their Kent League rivals in the previous round.

Final: Saturday September 18 – Derbyshire CCC @ 11:00