Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Berkshire face wait to defend league title

BERKSHIRE head coach Tom Lambert has accepted that the cancellation of this season’s National Counties Championship was inevitable because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s three-day competition, along with the Showcase 50 overs matches against first-class counties, has been scrapped.

This means that Berkshire will have to wait until 2021 before they have the chance to win the championship for a record fifth time in a row.

Officials of the National Counties Cricket Association are now working on a revised fixture list which involve only white ball cricket for the final two months of the season.

Former Henley bowler Lambert said: “At no stage did we ever think that we would play championship cricket this year so we put that to bed mentally pretty early.

“We are still not certain what sort of a white ball season it will be. But there are encouraging signs that we will get a tournament or two potentially.

“We are still waiting to hear exactly how that will work. But it’s all in hand and being well organised.”

Ahead of the hoped-for return to competitive action Berkshire is set to play an away match against Wiltshire on Sunday in their annual match for the Marlborough Cup, starting at 11am.

Assistant coach and wicketkeeper Stewart Davison will lead them out, with Berkshire having two captains this season.

The other, James Morris, will miss the game as he is resting a knee problem.

Lambert said: “We are looking forward to get back out there. What format we play will depend on what format we are told we will be playing this summer.

“Ideally we would play both 50 overs and T20 competitions and there is just about enough time if you use all the weekends available in August and September to get group stages and then a finals day for both competitions.

He added: “Fingers crossed we get a competition that we can all get excited about and get our teeth stuck into. The important thing for everyone involved in National Counties cricket, if it is going to be played, it needs to be a good tournament. We shouldn’t just rush back for the sake of putting something on.”

Lambert does not anticipate any of the 20 national counties having player availability issues when the season belatedly gets underway.

“I would imagine that the one thing counties won’t have an issue with is availability because everyone is going to want to play,” he said.

“It has been a bit difficult staying away from everybody but if we can get these two games in it will be as good as we would have had in a normal season.”

Berkshire have added former Cornwall captain Matt Rowe, who plays his club cricket for Henley, to the squad that won a championship and trophy double last season.

Berkshire warmed up for the Wiltshire fixture with an inter-squad

50/50 game at Thatcham CC last Sunday.

Davison's team were all out for 202 with Andy Rishton scoring 57, Michael Williams 45 and Davison 29, with Max Uttley taking 3-25.

Richard Morris's side went on to win by two wickets in the 45th over, Chris Peploe leading the way with 53 not out. Euan Woods batted twice, scoring 36 and 21, while there were 22 runs from the bat of Archie Carter.

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