Cheshire miss-fire in chilling season opener
By Jim Law

MCCA KO Trophy (Group 3): Herefordshire (2pts) 151-3 beat Cheshire 147 all out by seven wickets.

Cheshire fell to a disappointing defeat in their opening MCCA KO Trophy match against Herefordshire.

After losing the toss and batting first on a difficult early season pitch, Cheshire slumped to 8-3 before eventually rallying to a credible 147. A defiant response from the hosts in improving conditions however left James Duffy's side well short as they went down by seven wickets.

In shivering April conditions at picturesque Brockhampton, both sides observed a moving minute's silence before the game in respect of Sandy Scrimgeour who died last month. Sandy's involvement with Cheshire cricket spanned over 30 years as a player, umpire and administrator. He was Cheshire CCC team manager when the side played Suffolk at Lords in the 2007 final.

The toss was always going to be crucial on a damp pitch and David Exall had little hesitation in putting the visitors into bat when Duffy called incorrectly.

The decision paid dividends immediately as the Cheshire top order struggled against a moving ball - Johnny Kettle, Chris Tipper and 2012 prolific scorer Khalid Sawas, all back in the hutch with just three on the board. Only Goodwin stood up to the early ferocity, looking accomplished on the attack until he was bowled for 15 with the score on 21.

Skipper Duffy and Scott Kirwin (left) upped the ante after Lee Dixon and Danny Berry had gone cheaply, the Hyde pair adding 46 for the seventh wicket. Duffy hit six 4s in his 33 before falling lbw to spinner Mike O'Shea and Kirwin was ninth out, top scoring with 38 including his side's only 6. A late flourish from Danny Woods (10*) pushed the score to a respectable 147 with the side all out after 37 overs. Extras were third highest scorer (26), Dan Conway finished with 4-28 from his ten overs.

147 had felt some way off early in the innings and Cheshire felt reasonably confident that their bowlers had something to attack, even with the pitch improving as the day went on.

However, with early wickets required, Jimmy Warrington on his Cheshire return and Adam Sydall struggled to get the breakthrough as Ben Stebbings and debutant Liam Gwynne looked accomplished from the off. The breakthrough finally came on 65 with Sydall bowling Stebbings but although Goodwin and Woods took a further wicket apiece, Herefordshire cruised to their target with 18 overs to spare, rookie Gwynne finishing unbeaten on 79.

Duffy was in typical upbeat mood afterwards acknowledging his top order didn't get to grips with the conditions early on and the bowling lacked some of its usual fire.

'We need to be philosophical about this', he said. 'Of course the toss was important, it's April, but in truth they adapted better than we did and we looked a little rusty in parts. We'll go away and work on our individual games before our next match in two weeks and with three games still to play, are confident that we can qualify for the quarter finals'.

The other match in Group 3 saw last year's trophy winners, Cumberland win at Cambridgeshire. Cheshire's next match is against Cambridgeshire at Tattenhall (May 5), followed by Cumberland at Kendall (May 19) and Northumberland at Hyde (June 2). The top teams qualify for the quarter finals.