Cricket: Graham confident of guiding Norton to calmer waters
STAND-IN Norton skipper Alex Graham says the prospect of relegation isn't being contemplated at Community Drive.
Graham has temporarily taken over the captaincy from his 21-year-old brother Josh, who is sidelined for a couple of weeks after injuring his right ankle playing football.
Alex could be forgiven for thinking brotherly love had gone out of the window after inheriting a side languishing in 10th place.
Norton are just five points clear of the drop zone, but pushed front-runners Elworth close last week before suffering a 13-run defeat.
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And the new skipper insists the club have enough talent to steer themselves clear of danger.
"We can survive, and that is the thinking of everyone in the dressing room," said the 20-year-old, main picture.
"People are pulling together. We have a fantastic spirit and that will help us.
"We've shown we can mix it with the best. A lot of our best cricket this season has been against leading sides. But we've struggled against teams around us, which is a bit of a mystery."
Norton kick off the second half of the campaign with a visit to Sandyford, who they beat on the opening day of the season.
That formed one of three wins before the turnaround, and Graham hopes his side can double up to ensure their survival.
"I'd say we need at least six wins to be safe. The division is that tight and, aside from the top three of Elworth, Whitmore and Meakins, there isn't a lot between the teams.
"I wouldn't say we're the fourth best team, but we certainly have more about us than being third-from-bottom."
Sandyford are unbeaten in six matches, but hopes of forcing their way into the leading positions have been hampered by the weather. Two recent matches saw the players never leave the pavilion, yielding a return of just four points.
Skipper Jonathan Barnett admits it has been a frustrating time as his seventh-placed side now look to make up the 46-point gap to the promotion places.
"We had just started to find a bit of form before the postponements, which has set us back a bit," he said. "We've still got a chance of pushing ourselves up there, though, and I believe we haven't showed our true capabilities yet this season.
"There is more to come from us. The batting can certainly improve because we've been relying on Sohail Rauf for the runs in the past few games."
The bowling department now looks to be well stocked after Barnett's brother, Andy, returned from Australia to spearhead the attack.
He has found the form which earned him Staffordshire recognition last year, and the skipper thinks that could help them mount a late charge.
"It's great to have Andy back. There is more stability on the bowling front, and I'd say we have one of the strongest attacks in the division," he explained.
"There's probably no pressure on us now either. At the start of the season all eyes were on us because we'd just come down from the Premier Division.
"Teams might write us off seeing as we're in mid-table, but that would suit us just fine.
"It would be dangerous for teams to do that because I know we're capable of going on a consistent run."