CHESHIRE START WITH WELCOME WIN
By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC Media Officer, mobile 07813 859986)
CHESHIRE skipper Andy Hall saluted his on-song county side as they started the new season with a welcome victory over Cumberland.
The hosts clinched an impressive six-wicket victory at Neston Cricket Club to get their MCCA Knockout Trophy campaign off to a winning start.
"It was a good team performance, the perfect start to the season," beamed Hall.
"We could have rolled them easy at one stage, but we showed a lot of character to chase 283 for victory."
Cumberland batted first and posted an imposing 282-9 from their allotted 50 overs.
But at 110-6 the visitors were reeling and could have easily been dismissed for 150 or less if it was not for some fine batting from James Lowe and all-rounder Chris Thompson.
Opener Lowe made a spirited 128 from 136 balls, while Thompson weighed in with an important 61 from 52 balls as the pair shared a battling seventh-wicket stand of 98 to get Cumberland out of all sort of bother.
But having lost the toss and been forced to chase, Cheshire wasted little time in successfully reaching their target.
Lee Dixon (pictured left-courtesy Barry Mitchell) top-scored with an unbeaten 77 and skipper Hall contributed a useful 57 not out as Cheshire triumphed with five balls to spare.
Dixon and Hall's partnership proved pivotal as the pair shared an unbroken fifth wicket partnership of 116 to make sure of a maximum two points.
Opener Warren Goodwin (59) and new vice captain James Duffy (31) were also in the runs as the hosts timed their chase to perfection.
Earlier left-arm spinner Danny Woods starred with a 3-28 return from ten overs, while seamer Richard Wilkinson also claimed three wickets.
There were wickets for Richard Logan, Adam Syddall and James Warrington as Cheshire gave themselves plenty to smile about for the campaign ahead.
"It was a pretty flat deck, but 280 was probably a par score," added Hall.
"At one stage I thought there were going to get 320 or 330, but we took some wickets in a rush to peg them back.
"At 110-6 we could have rolled them over, but their opener batted well and there were some decent runs down the order.
"But Lee Dixon batted very well for us and everyone else contributed, which was great. It's good to have showed the character we needed to chase down a big score.
"One game, one win. We probably need two more wins from our next three games to make sure we qualify for the semi-finals."
Scorecard - Cumberland won the toss and batted first
Cumberland 282-9, 50 overs (Lowe 128, Thompson 61, Wilkinson 3-62, Woods 3-28)
Cheshire 284-4, 49.1 overs (Dixon 77*, Hall 57*, Goodwin 59, Duffy 31)
Footnote: The 5th wicket partnership of 116 was a new Cheshire MCCA Trophy record the previous one was 113 It was Lee Dixons MCCA Trophy debut. Danny Woods 3 for 28 was his best bowling for Cheshire. Ed
CAPTAIN HALL RELISHING LAST SEASON IN CHARGE
By Neil Goulding
CHESHIRE skipper Andy Hall is hoping his last season in charge will be his best yet.
Hall will stand down as the county captain at the end of the season after a successful ten-year stint in charge of one of the most successful minor county outfits in recent times.
Hall (pictured left-courtesy Barry Mitchell) guided Cheshire to the 2007 Minor Counties Championship three-day crown and to two shared titles in 2001 and 2005.
And he also took Cheshire to Lords for the 2007 MCCA Knockout Trophy final against Suffolk, albeit they were pipped in the final.
There's undoubtedly going to be a large void left when Hall does finally hang up the captain's armband so to speak, but he sees a bright future for Cheshire with a string of ambitious youngsters ready to pick up the mantle.
"It would be great if we could finish the season by winning something, that would be the perfect way for me to finish as captain," said Hall.
"I've really enjoyed being captain, I've got lots of fond memories. But I just feel that after ten seasons in charge it was time for a change.
"I'm happy about stepping down because we've got a lot of excellent players and the county is looking in good shape.
"But it's not the end for me, I'm going to keep playing and hopefully this season we can have a really successful season.
"People might look at us and say we've got quite an inexperienced side this season, but our aim is to win something. We all believe can do that."
Cheshire kick off their season in the 50-over Knockout Trophy on Sunday against Cumberland at Neston Cricket Club (11am start).
And, having reached the quarter-finals last season, Hall is hopeful his team can go all the way this season and finish their campaign with a showcase final at Lords on Thursday 25th August.
"We got to Lord's a few years ago, to play there is always a great incentive," added Hall.
"We played some good cricket last season to qualify, but we also played some ordinary cricket.
"It was a consistency problem, but we got to the quarter-finals and could have won that match."
Cheshire posted an imposing 285 at home to Lincolnshire, but their opponents pulled off a fine four-wicket victory.
"We posted a good score, but we thought we were probably 30-40 runs short," recalled Hall.
"We also dropped a couple of catches that match, so we only had ourselves to blame.
"But we're confident we can have a good run this year. We know we've probably got to win three of four qualifying matches to get into the quarter-finals.
"And of course the icing on the cake would be a final at Lords. That's a long way off, but you've got to aim to get there. It would be a great occasion for everyone involved with the county."
Cheshire face Staffordshire, Northumberland and Shropshire after their opening bow against Cumberland, with a potential quarter-final with either Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk or Suffolk to look forward to on Sunday 19th June at Christleton Cricket Club.
And then there's the Championship campaign to get their teeth into with matches against Herefordshire, Cornwall, Devon, Wales, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
"Last season was a missed opportunity for us in the Championship because we could have got to the final, but we didn't perform in the key moments we needed too.
"The Devon game [a 54 runs defeat] stands out because we could have won that game and would have stood a good chance of getting to the final.
"You've really got raise your game for those key moments - and we blew it.
"But we'll come back stronger this season. The younger players are more experienced and have benefited from the matches they played last season.
"We've got a good squad of players are we're all hopeful of doing well. Everyone is really looking forward to the season."
Cheshire's 12-man team v Cumberland: Andy Hall (captain), Adam Worrall (wicketkeeper), Louis Bentley, Danny Berry, Lee Dixon, James Duffy, Warren Goodwin, Richard Logan, Adam Syddall, James Warrington, Richard Wilkinson, Danny Woods.