High five for Cheshire means title beckons at Nantwich
By Jim Law

MCCA Championship, Western Division: Cheshire 326-9 & 0-0 dec, Devon 49-0 dec & 218.
Cheshire beat Devon by 59 runs.
Cheshire 20 points, Devon 4 points.

Cheshire continued their 2013 100% Championship record with a fifth consecutive win which sees them sit proudly on top of the Minor Counties Western Division with one game to play. Skipper Danny Woods was again instrumental in securing a hard earned win after heavy rain had washed out the second day. With both sides eager for victory, negotiations forced an intriguing last day that saw Cheshire claim a 20 point victory. With Shropshire going down to Berkshire and Wales MC drawing at Wiltshire, Cheshire find themselves 16 points clear going into their last game, at home to Shropshire.

Danny Woods was understandably delighted at pulling off a fine 59 run victory after striking a deal with his Devon counterpart to give this rain affected match every chance of a positive conclusion.

A generous declaration left Devon chasing 278 in their second innings and after a fiery opening spell from Ian Tait and Adam Syddall had reduced them to 27-3 at lunch, it was again Woods and leg spinner Jack Williams who did the damage. Woods five wickets mean he's now taken 47 in five Championship matches this summer whilst Williams is relishing his partnership with the skipper, his 18 overs yielding 2-42.

Earlier Cheshire had won the toss and their 326-9 included a classy 80 from the in-form Khalid Sawas and a typical 53 from the returning James Duffy. With the score 254-7 on the Sunday evening, Monday's play was washed out and Cheshire batted swiftly on the third morning to reach 326 before declaring. Whilst some 'generous' bowling allowed the game to move on quickly, Williams' contribution of 72 not out was established against a lively attack on the first evening which saw Syddall retire hurt having taken one on the hand. At conclusion, both sides had four bonus points and the feeling in the Cheshire camp was that 326 was a useful score on a demanding pitch.

Devon 's brief first innings of 49-0 treated the Bowdon locals to the unusual sight of Lee Dixon and James Duffy bowling in tandem before an injury to Johnny Kettle saw Duffy go behind the stumps to be replaced by the equally unusual sight of Danny Berry, back in the swing with a couple of tidy overs.

With Cheshire forfeiting their second innings, Devon were set 278 from a minimum of 61 overs and 17 in the last hour.

David Lye (60) batted well for the visitors and a late rally gave a glimmer of hope to the innings but once Woods and Williams had got into their rhythm, there was an air of inevitability about the outcome.

A triumphant Woods highlighted how hard the side had worked to achieve the victory. 'Once again, it was down to great team spirit', he said. 'Batting wasn't easy on the first day and that was a real gutsy knock from Khalid'.

Whilst also paying tribute to Duffy's innings, Wood acknowledged the significance of having his ex-Hyde team mate back in the fold. 'He's a class act and his influence on the team is outstanding. He's a great role model and a huge asset'.

Results elsewhere leave Cheshire needing nine points to be certain of the title - assuming Wales MC take a maximum of 24. Even then, bonus points may well suffice with Cheshire's superior run rate. But the little matter of Shropshire at Nantwich next time out will be a big challenge and Woods refuses to take anything for granted.

'Work still to do,' he concluded in typical modest fashion. 'Obviously we'd love to get to the Championship Final but there's a lot of cricket still to be played.'

If Cheshire do reach that final, they're likely to play at Cambridgeshire who currently lead the Eastern Division and play their last game at Northumberland.

The full scorecard can be seen here.
The Championship Tables can be seen here.

Remaining games: Aug 4, 5, 6 Cheshire v Shropshire (Nantwich), Dorset v Wales (Bournemouth).