Cheshire clinch Western Division Championship after Shropshire stalemate
By Jim Law
MCCA Championship, Western Division: Cheshire 455-8 & 329, Shropshire 391-8 & 116-5.
Cheshire 11 points, Shropshire 11 points.
Cheshire saw off a challenge from Wales Minor Counties to be crowned Western Division Champions for 2013.
It's the first time the side has topped the Championship since 2009 and their prize is a four day Final at Wisbech CC against Eastern Division Champions, Cambridgeshire.
An intriguing game before a large Nantwich crowd saw Cheshire force a draw to secure their prize.
'It's a fantastic achievement,' claimed skipper Danny Woods who masterminded the campaign and ended with an outstanding 52 wickets.
'We've come a long way since we underperformed in the one-dayers at the start of the season. Everybody has played their part throughout and the team spirit has been incredible'.
Cheshire's performance is put into perspective by the fact that they were unbeaten in their six games and had to change their plans when skipper James Duffy became unavailable for the bulk of the matches.
Woods took over and such was his success that he continued at the helm with Duffy's consent, once he returned.
And just what Cheshire had missed was very evident at Nantwich as Duffy (left) blasted a stunning 203 in Cheshire's first innings total of 455-8. Danny Berry hit a fine 62 whilst the returning Scott Kirwin also struck a quick-fire 62.
But whilst Cheshire pulled the strings on day one, Shropshire fought back on the second day to put the result in the balance.
Shrewsbury youngster Steve Leach led the way with an unbeaten 157 and with 40 not out in the second innings, spent the entire three days on the pitch.
Rob Foster (76) and Chris Murtagh (59) added invaluable support as Shropshire posted 391-8 meaning Cheshire missed out on maximum batting points and the opportunity to clinch the title early.
And when Cheshire were reduced to 137-5 overnight, the home side were left with some work to do on the final morning. Enter an injured Ric Moore (right with Adam Syddall) who, batting with a runner, took the game away from the visitors with a studious 116.
Vital time was eaten up as night watchman Adam Syddall dug in to support, eking out 22 runs in three hours.
When the hosts were finally all out for 329, Shropshire were left chasing an improbable 394 and with Woods and Jack Williams bowling in tandem, they fell to 116-5 before the captains called it a day.
Shropshire skipper Richard Oliver reflected that 'We had to try and force a result but we came up against a resilient Cheshire side.'
Whilst Woods raised a glass to his troops and licked his lips. 'I've enjoyed every minute of it,' he said, 'and can't wait for that final'.
The full scorecard can be seen here.
The Championship Tables can be seen here.
Championship Final: September 8, 9, 10, 11 Cambridgeshire v Cheshire (Wisbech CC)