Bucks progress to Championship final

Buckinghamshire gained the batting point they needed to secure the Eastern Division title despite their match against Staffordshire ending prematurely at Stone.

Both captains did their best to make a game of it on the final day but, after Staffs had set the visitors a target of 282 for victory from a minimum of 53 overs, play was washed out with Bucks having reached 68 for one after 19.1 overs had been bowled.

Staffs began the final day’s play with a lead of 121 after Bucks had declared on 178 for six in reply to Staffordshire’s first innings total of 299, of which Peter Wilshaw had hit 70. The declaration had come after Bucks claimed the one batting point they required to face Cheshire in the final on September 6-9.

The clatter of early wickets of the final morning left Staffs at 22 for three. Jimmy Dawson and Liam Hughes added 43 for the fourth wicket but the dismissal of Dawson for 29 brought about another mini collapse as Staffs slumped to 87 for six.

Skipper Paul Goodwin and Russ Ballard rallied the innings with a partnership of 42 before Ballard fell for 29 on the brink of the lunch break.

Staffs lower order had a brief flurry to take the total to 160 before Goodwin was the last player out, caught on the mid wicket boundary for 43 to leave the new Eastern Division champions with a minimum of 53 overs to chase down a victory target of 282.

Bucks openers Russell Lane and Richard Hopwood produced an opening partnership of 55 before Lane became Greg Willott’s 21st championship wicket of the season.

After a further 13 runs had been added to the total a heavy rain storm drove the players from the field for what was to be a final time.

According to Goodwin, the frustrating end summed up his side’s season after just the two defeats in their one day and championship campaign.

Unfortunately the two defeats came in the North East and both were decisive against Norfolk in the Trophy Final against Norfolk at Durham and in the championship against Northumberland.

Goodwin said: “It has been a frustrating end which sums up our season. It would have been nice to have closed the game out. It was set up for a good game.”

“If you lose that much cricket it is difficult to make a serious challenge. You are trying to contrive results in shortened games which becomes a lottery.”