Thursday, 12 December 2019

Henley duo star as Berks retain championship title

Henley duo star as Berks retain championship title

BERKSHIRE held their nerve to win the Minor Counties Championship title for the fourth successive season after they secured a one-wicket victory against STAFFORDSHIRE in a tense finish at Banbury.

It was the closest they had come to losing a game in five years.

In a low-scoring final dominated by the pace bowlers on a wicket that offered plenty of movement, the Royal county were set just 97 to win in their second innings but that modest target looked beyond them when they slipped to 63-7.

But Staffs couldn’t dislodge opener Jack Davies, who carried his bat for 42, the second-highest total of the match. The 19-year-old Henley star, showing tremendous composure under immense pressure, occupied the crease for more than three hours, during which he faced 103 balls, scoring off just 24 of them, including five boundaries.

With eight catches behind the stumps as well, the Middlesex professional was a contender for the man-of-the-match award, which he won two years ago when making a century against Lincolnshire, but instead the accolade went to Henley teammate Richard Morris, who made a valuable 89 in Berkshire’s first innings total of 164, which gave them a slender lead of 14.

They bowled out Staffs for 150 in their first innings and 110 in the second, when Henley pacemen Tom Nugent claimed 5-40 and Andy Rishton 4-42.

On their return to the crease, Berkshire made a dreadful start, losing three wickets for 17 and they began day three needing 73 more runs.

But Dan Lincoln (3) and skipper James Morris (2) were both bowled and when Andy Rishton (4) was trapped lbw, Berkshire had slumped to 40-6.

Chris Peploe, with 15, and Tom Nugent (13) supplied valuable lower-order runs in important partnerships — 23 and 18 respectively — with Davies which got Berkshire to within 16 of their target.

Both fell to lbw decisions to Maxfield deliveries, as did Luke Beaven (4) with the total on 87. In all, there were 11 lbw decisions against Berkshire during the match and just two against Staffordshire.

So it was all down to Davies and last-man Mungo Russell, who faced 13 balls in 21 minutes, and they slowly nudged their way to the finishing line with Jack hitting the winning runs off Maxfield in the 41st over.

Maxfield finished with career-best figures of 7-48 in a brave effort from Staffordshire. But like Lincolnshire before them, the Eastern Division champions just couldn’t get the better of a Berkshire side who just refuse to be beaten no matter how close the opposition gets to them.

Berkshire’s win equalled Devon’s record of four successive Championships between 1994 and 1997 and gave them their seventh national title in four seasons. Last month they had defeated Cumberland by one run in the MCCA KO Trophy final.

They remain unbeaten in 30 Western Division fixtures and now four Championship finals.

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