Cheshire edge out Wiltshire in tight finish
Two in two for Woods as Cheshire take maximum points
By Jim Law

MCCA Championship, Western Division: Cheshire 394 & 174, Wiltshire 315 & 219. Cheshire beat Wiltshire by 34 runs.
Cheshire 24 points, Wiltshire 7 points.

A tense final day culminated with a fine 34 run win for Cheshire as they saw off Wiltshire at Chester Boughton Hall. Having set the visitors 254, Danny Woods master spin ensured victory as he took 6-47 after Warren Goodwin's 104 and 63, but Cheshire left it late as they snatched victory with just two overs to spare.

Two days of high winds make conditions tough for both sides in an enthralling game that ebbed and flowed throughout, Cheshire grabbing the initiative late on the third afternoon in a tight contest.

Cheshire made just one change to the side that had dramatically beaten Oxfordshire in their last outing, bolstering their top order with Lee Dixon returning for spinner, Danny Cranmer. Woods continued at the helm in the absence of the unavailable James Duffy and struck first blood, winning the toss and choosing to bat first on a blustery afternoon that saw the start delayed until after lunch.

A minimum of three sweaters apiece was the norm for most of the first afternoon, Wiltshire spending as much time chasing bails blowing off stumps as the ball around the outfield.

An impressive attack led by Tahir Afridi made life tough for the Cheshire batsmen but after Johnny Kettle, Chris Tipper and Rick Moore had all departed and the score at 62, Goodwin (above) went into overdrive striking a fine 104 - his seventh Championship hundred. A stand of 150 with Khalid Sawas (62) moved the total to 212 before he departed just ahead of hypothermia setting in. Lee Dixon (62) and Danny Berry (51) moved things on apace and the tail wagged as Jack Williams added 23. Cheshire were all out for 394, claiming maximum batting points.

Second day conditions reduced the sweater load by one but at least there was less rain about. A flat wicket however offered little for the Cheshire bowlers who struggled as Ed Kilbee (71), Henry Langford (54), Tom Morton (63) and Ashur Morrison (65) piled on the runs. A fine seventh wicket partnership of 115 between Morrison and Morton was finally broken by Woods before Morton inexplicably ran out two of his colleagues whilst pushing for his half century, both dismissals a result of fine fielding from Scott Kirwin at point. Wiltshire closed on 315, 79 behind Cheshire, Adam Syddall finishing with 4-69.

Cheshire reached 70-3 overnight to set up an intriguing final day which whilst not exactly tropical, at least allowed the Cheshire Roadshow tent to make an appearance; any earlier attempts would have seen both it and David Bailey flying off towards North Wales.

Goodwin continued his fine work from the first innings with a sparkling 63 but Wiltshire pegged their hosts back to avert the need for a trick declaration for Woods. Fortunately the tail wagged again however as Williams added 31 whilst Alfridi proved a real handful, his 5-88 giving him match figures of 11-185. Cheshire's total of 174 set their visitors a gettable chase of 254, the key likely to be the spinners who were by now beginning to find some turn.

Kilbee again dug in for Wiltshire but once he'd gone for 56 with the score at 101-4, Cheshire sensed victory. The middle order resistance suggested otherwise however as Morton and Morrison again frustrated, adding 44 for the seventh wicket.

Woods was intelligently switching his pack, his and Williams' nagging accuracy augmented by a real hostile spell of pace bowling by Kirwin.

As wickets fell, Cheshire still had much to do in the final hour against a resilient tail, edging towards a draw. It was therefore with some relief that Woods fittingly took the final wicket with 14 balls to spare, ending with 6-47.

'It was a great victory', remarked the skipper as he paid tribute to an all-round team performance. 'It was particularly pleasing as we had to work so hard to get it on a great Chester track. We really had to dig deep to get them out a second time. A decent game of cricket all round in some tough conditions too'.

Whilst Cheshire recorded their second victory to date, Woods wasn't getting carried away. 'Confidence is high', he said 'and we'll travel to Bournemouth for our next game (v Dorset) in good spirits. The great thing is that everybody's contributing and we're really picking up some momentum'.