Cheshire draw with Oxfordshire

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)

CHESHIRE were forced to settle for a draw against Oxfordshire in their penultimate three-day match in the Minor Counties Championship Western Division on Tuesday.

Resuming on 137-3, the visitors were dismissed for 340 in 113.5 overs, leaving the hosts just 31 overs to reach a winning target for 350.

But although a victory might have been likely, the match was abandoned due to bad light after just five overs with Oxfordshire 7-0.

Chester Boughton Hall batsman Warren Goodwin, promoted to open the batting, top-scored with 83, while Danny Leech (71), Jason Whittaker (58) and James Duffy (44) were also in the runs.

Both teams took 11 points for their efforts, four each for the draw and seven bonus batting and fielding points respectively.

However, second-placed Shropshire grabbed a dramatic two-wicket victory away to Wiltshire when their match looked to be heading for a draw on the last day, keeping their title hopes alive.

Following a rain break, Shropshire needed just over 100 runs to win from the final 17 overs. A further break for rain left them requiring 63 off the last seven overs with five wickets left.

And although they lost three more wickets, Jack Shantry (72) and Bruce Thomason (62) secured an unlikely victory for the visitors.

Cheshire led the Division by 21 points, which was extended to 32 points with their 11 draw points against Oxfordshire.

But Shropshire took 23 points from their win away to Wiltshire and now trail by just nine points going into the last game of the season, a match which will decide the title race.

In what promises to be a fantastic finish to the season, the two teams clash at Nantwich Cricket Club between 19-21 August.

And Cheshire skipper Andy Hall, who is expected to return to the side after a wrist injury, knows just how important the result will be.

"We've got a slight advantage over Shropshire, but we can't afford to lose the match," said Hall, whose side last won the Western Division in 2005.

"If we win or draw, then we've won the Western Division and we'll go on to play in the Minor Counties Championship final."

Cheshire are unbeaten this season having won four and drawn one of their Championship matches, as well having reached the MCCA Knockout Trophy final at Lords on Bank Holiday Monday 27th August.

But Hall knows they need another good performance to make sure of the Western Division title - and keep their hopes an impressive title-treble alive.

"We've just got to keep playing like we've been doing," he added. "It's a tough season, but we've come this far, it's important we perform against Shropshire and win the division."

Scorecard (Final day of 3)
Cheshire 1st innings: 358-7, 90 overs (B Spendlove 120, N Dumelow 69, D Leech 51, J Whittaker 35 not out, W Goodwin 33)
Oxfordshire 1st innings: (31-2 overnight from 18 overs ) 349-7, 90 overs (S Knightley 123, R Williams 94, D Taylor 62, A Syddall 3-81, N Dumelow 3-137)
Cheshire 2nd innings: (137-3 overnight from 41 overs) 340 all out, 113.5 overs (W Goodwin 84, D Leech 71, J Whittaker 58 J Duffy 44, L Ryan 5-103).
Oxfordshire 2nd innings: 7-0, 5 overs - match abandoned due to bad light

Points: Cheshire (11pts) drew with Oxfordshire (11pts)

Day 2 report Cheshire battling hard for victory

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)

CHESHIRE found it tough going on the second day of their three-day Minor Counties Championship clash with Oxfordshire.

Having posted a commanding 358-7 in their first innings, thanks largely to a splendid century from former Derbyshire player Ben Spendlove, the Western Division leaders looked on course to dominate proceedings on the second day.

But despite resuming on 31-2, Oxfordshire dug deep to make 349-7 from their allotted 90 overs, a lead of just nine runs for the visitors.

Nathan Dumelow, who scored a spirited 69 in the first innings, impressed with the ball, returning figures of 3-137 from 29 overs.

The pick of Cheshire's bowlers was seamer Adam Syddall, the former Hampshire and Glamorgan 2nd XI player, who finished with a 3-81 return from 21 overs. Jason Whittaker also claimed a wicket.

Batting for a second time Cheshire promoted Chester Boughton Hall batsman Warren Goodwin to an opening spot.

Regular opener Danny Leech, who scored a half-century in the first innings, rested after suffering a knee injury. His fitness will be assessed on the final day.

No 3 batsman Chris Bassano also didn't bat because he'd forgotten his insulin for his Diabetes. He will definitely feature on the final day.

Goowdin led the charge with an unbeaten 65 and James Duffy was 33 not out as Cheshire reached 137-3 at the close of play from 41 overs. The wickets to fall Spendlove - for a duck - Oliver Sadler (19) and stand-in skipper Dumelow (4).

"It's still a very open game," said team manager Sandy Scrimgeour. "Oxfordshire have got themselves back in the match, so there's all to play for on the last day."

Scorecard (Day 2 of 3)
Cheshire 1st innings: 358-7, 90 overs (B Spendlove 120, N Dumelow 69, D Leech 51, J Whittaker 35 not out, W Goodwin 33)
Oxfordshire 1st innings: (31-2 overnight from 18 overs ) 349-7, 90 overs (S Knightley 123, R Williams 94, D Taylor 62, A Syddall 3-81, N Dumelow 3-137)
Cheshire 2nd innings: 137-3, 41 overs (W Goodwin 65 not out, J Duffy 33 not out)

Points so far: Cheshire (7pts) lead Oxfordshire (7pts) by 146 runs with seven second innings wickets remaining.

Day 1 Report Spendlove stars for on-song Cheshire

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)

BEN Spendlove smashed a brilliant century for Cheshire as they made a commanding start to their important three-day Minor Counties Championship clash away to Oxfordshire yesterday.

The former Derbyshire ace top-scored with 120 as the Western Division leaders posted an imposing 358-7 from their allotted 90 overs at Banbury Cricket Club.

Oulton Park colleagues Nathan Dumelow (69) and Danny Leech (51) were also in the runs, as were all-rounder Jason Whittaker (35 not out) and Warren Goodwin (33) as Cheshire dominated.

In reply Oxfordshire slipped to 31-2 with seamer Adam Syddall and Dumelow both taking a wicket each before the close of play.

Victory for Cheshire, who lead the Division by 21 points with just two games remaining, would almost certainly guarantee them this year's title - and with it a place in this year's Championship final against the Eastern Division winners.

"We've made a great start, but we've got to push home our advantage and try and dismiss Oxfordshire cheaply on the second day," said team manager Sandy Scrimgeour, whose side won the toss and elected to bat.

Cheshire skipper Andy Hall gave himself until the very last minute to see if he would be fit to play, but conceded defeated with his injured right wrist.

Hall is now fighting to be fit for the last three-day match in the Western Division, at home to Shropshire between 19-21 August at Nantwich Cricket Club.

"I didn't want to risk making the injury worse, so I decided not to play," said Hall. "I wanted to play, but the boys have done a great job without me. It's important we bowl well on the second day and hopefully dismiss Oxfordshire cheaply, even make them follow-on."

Cheshire starred with the ball as they coasted to an innings victory over Wiltshire in their last three-day contest at Alderley Edge Cricket Club last month.

And Hall wants more of the same as the 2005 Minor Counties champions bid to keep their title hat-trick dreams alive.

"All we can do is keep winning and see if can get to the Championship final as well as the Trophy final," added Hall.

Cheshire meet Suffolk in the MCCA Knockout Trophy final on Bank Holiday Monday 27th August and with the Championship final beckoning can now win three titles this season, which would including winning the Western Division title if they manage to do so.

Scorecard (Day 1 of 3)
Cheshire 1st innings: 358-7, 90 overs (B Spendlove 120, N Dumelow 69, D Leech 51, J Whittaker 35 not out, W Goodwin 33)
Oxfordshire 1st innings: 31-2, 18 overs (A Syddall and N Dumelow one wicket each)

Points so far: Oxfordshire (3pts) trail Cheshire (4pts) by 327 runs.