By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC Media Officer, mobile 07813 859986)

Pictured: Cheshire bowler Adam Syddall claimed a second inning wicket before rain ended play early

CHESHIRE were forced to settle for a draw after heavy rain meant that there was no play on the last day of their MCCA Championship match away to Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire were due to resume 45 runs ahead with nine wickets remaining, but the bad weather meant that both sides had to settle for a 11 points each in their opening three-day clash of the season.

Oxton batsman Lee Dixon was Cheshire's star performer with a brilliant debut century, his innings of 169 the highlight of a frustrating end to the match as the county looked for a winning start to the new Western Division campaign.

Skipper Andy Hall contributed 48 in a record county seventh wicket partnership of 170, while promising Neston seam bowler James Hawley weighed in with three first innings' wickets.

"It's a shame the last day was rained off, but there's nothing you can do about the weather," reflected Hall.

"I've played in enough games now to know that the rain can spoil the day, but I thought we showed lots of character in this game having been in trouble at stages.

"We were in real danger of being bowled out cheaply in our first innings, but Lee Dixon made a great knock and we hit back well to get a first innings lead.

"We've made a solid start, hopefully the weather won't prevent us from trying to get a win against Wiltshire in our next three-day match."

Meanwhile, Cheshire head to Grantham Cricket Club this Sunday (13 June) to face Lincolnshire in the quarter-finals of the MCCA Knockout Trophy.

Two more victories in the Trophy competition would see Cheshire progress to their second final in four seasons, with this year's final being played at Durham CCC's Riverside ground on Wednesday 11 August.

"We're all looking forward to the match," added Hall. "Lincolnshire are a strong team, but we're confident we can win if we play well.

"It's been a while since we've been to a Knockout Trophy final - and I know the lads would love the chance to play at the Riverside.

"We've still got a couple of tough matches ahead of us if we're going to get there, but we'll be trying our hardest to win this competition."

Oxfordshire first innings: 294-8, 90 overs (D Smith 82, S Hole 78, C Hunt 43, C Knightley 42, J Hawley 3-53, N Dumelow 2-74)

Cheshire first innings: 333-9, 90 overs (L Dixon 169, A Hall 48, S Hole 4-48)

Oxfordshire 2nd innings: 84-1, 26 overs

No play last day due to rain

Points so far: Oxfordshire 11pts, Cheshire 11pts (Match abandoned)

Cheshire team:
Warren Goodwin (Chester Boughton Hall)
Andy Hall (Bramhall) - captain
Ben Spendlove (Oulton Park)
Lee Dixon (Oxton)
James Duffy (Hyde) - wicketkeeper
Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park) - vice captain
Matt Dawson (Bramhall) - wicketkeeper
Daniel Berry (Hyde)
Richard Logan (Chichester)
Adam Syddall (Bowdon)
James Hawley (Neston)

12th man: Jonny Fawcett (Didsbury)

Scorer: Janet Herbert


By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC Media Officer, mobile 07813 859986)

Pictured: Cheshire skipper Andy Hall shared in a record 7th wicket partnership of 170 with debutant Lee Dixon

CHESHIRE debutant Lee Dixon was the star of the show with a brilliant century as Cheshire produced a brave fightback on the second day of their MCCA Championship clash with Oxfordshire.

Drafted in at the last minute for the unavailable Louis Bentley who was called up to the Lancashire 2nd XI, Oxton batsman Dixon made a dream start to his Cheshire career.

The hard-hitting left-hander helped Cheshire recover from serious trouble at 74-6 to post 333-9 in their first innings, having seen Oxfordshire make 294-8 in their first innings at Banbury Cricket Club.

Dixon's fine, and very timely knock, lasted 211 balls and included 20 fours and 3 sixes.

And, alongside Cheshire skipper Andy Hall (48), the pair shared in a new record seventh-wicket partnership of 170 for the county.

The duo's excellent efforts eclipsed the previous record of 149 set by Simon Renshaw (106) and former wicketkeeper Stephen Ogilby (82) back in 2002 against Wiltshire at Westbury.

Hall, whose innings lasted 152 balls, used all of his experienced as he played second fiddle to Dixon, the promising youngster who has risen through the Cheshire junior ranks.

Richard Logan (22) and Daniel Berry (23 not out) also added valuable runs at the death as Cheshire established a welcome 39 runs lead.

Stuart Hole was the pick of the Oxfordshire bowlers with a 4-48 return, with three of those wickets having come on Sunday evening with Cheshire in trouble at 19-3.

In reply Oxfordshire finished the day on 84-1 from 26 overs, Bowdon seamer Adam Syddall the only wicket-taker with the score on 76.

"I'm really pleased for Lee, it was a great knock from him," praised Hall. "Considering it was his debut, you can't really have asked for a better innings.

"It was a really mature knock - and at a time when we were in real trouble.

"I just wanted to stick in with him and give some support. It was really important for the team that we put on a good standard, it's great that it was a new record.

"But more importantly it's given us a great chance of trying to force a result. It all depends on the whether though, hopefully it doesn't rain on the last day."

Oxfordshire first innings: 294-8, 90 overs (D Smith 82, S Hole 78, C Hunt 43, C Knightley 42, J Hawley 3-53, N Dumelow 2-74)

Cheshire first innings: 333-9, 90 overs (L Dixon 169, A Hall 48, S Hole 4-48)

Oxfordshire 2nd innings: 84-1, 26 overs

Points: Oxfordshire 7pts, Cheshire 7pts


By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC Media Officer, mobile 07813 859986)

Pictured: Neston seamer James Hawley impressed for Cheshire with three wickets

NESTON seamer James Hawley impressed with three wickets on the opening day of Cheshire's first MCCA Championship match against Oxfordshire yesterday.

But last season's Western Division winners will have to show plenty of character today after the hosts bravely fought back at Banbury Cricket Club.

Having lost the toss Cheshire were asked to field and they soon had the hosts wobbling at 95-5 having been 86-3 at lunch.

However, a spirited sixth wicket partnership of 123 between David Smith (82) and Stuart Hole (78) saw Oxfordshire get out of trouble at they closed on 294-8 from their allotted 90 first innings overs.

Craig Hunt (43) and Charles Knightley (42) were also in the runs for the home county, while off-spinner Nathan Dumelow weighed in with two wickets and both seamers Richard Logan and Adam Syddall both picked up a wicket each.

But it was Hawley, who earlier this season made his Knockout Trophy debut, who was the pick of the bowlers with a 3-53 return from 18 overs.

In reply Cheshire had to wait over an hour and half before they started their first innings because of rain.

And, when they did bat, they lost three wickets in 7.2 overs with the light fading badly.

In fact, Cheshire only started batting at 7.25pm with Hole this time impressing with the ball, the Warwickshire 2nd XI all-rounder claimed the scalps of makeshift opener Matt Dawson, Warren Goodwin and James Duffy.

Ben Spendlove and nightwatchman Syddall remained unbeaten at the close as Cheshire finished on 19-3.

"There's still a long way to go, but we're a little disappointed we didn't push home our advantage when we had them five wickets down," reflected Cheshire skipper Andy Hall.

"They were in trouble, but they've had a good sixth wicket partnership which has really turned the game round for them.

"But it was pleasing to keep them below 300 and I thought our bowlers worked really hard to get us our wickets. James Hawley bowled well, he's a promising young player."

Hall added: "We've lost a few wickets, but we've still got plenty of batting. It's up to all of us now to get our heads down and go and bat well on the second day."

Oxfordshire 294-8, 90 overs (D Smith 82, S Hole 78, C Hunt 43, C Knightley 42, J Hawley 3-53, N Dumelow 2-74)

Cheshire 19-3, 7.2 overs (S Hole, 3 wickets)

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC Media Officer, mobile 07813 859986)

Pictured: Hyde all-rounder Daniel Berry returns from injury for Cheshire's first three-day match of the season

CHESHIRE welcome back all-rounder Daniel Berry for their first MCCA Championship match of the season away to Oxfordshire (6-8 June).

Last season's Western Division winners take on Oxfordshire at Banbury Cricket Club, 11am start, with Hyde's Berry back in the frame having recovered from two injuries.

A bad hand injury and hamstring strain have limited Berry's participation in the MCCA Knockout Trophy so far this season.

But the 22-year-old, who topped the county's Championship batting averages last season - he finished with an average of 92.50 - returns to the frame ahead of the first three-day match of the new season.

However, Cheshire will be without Lancashire 2nd XI batsman Chris Tipper and Oulton Park all-rounder Rick Moore, both of whom are unavailable for selection.

Chester Boughton Hall batsman Warren Goodwin also returns to the side having missed Cheshire's fine win over Cumberland in their last match, a victory which guaranteed a Knockout Trophy quarter-final showdown away to Lincolnshire on Sunday 13th June.

Though, for now, Cheshire skipper Andy Hall is rightly focused on guiding his side to a winning start in the Western Division, against opponents they last played in the three-day format two seasons ago in a washed out fixture at Alderley Edge Cricket Club.

Since then Cheshire have only played Oxfordshire once and lost by two wickets to their hosts in the Knockout Trophy group stages last season.

"There's no easy games in this division, but we're putting pressure on ourselves to get off to a winning start," said Hall, whose side won the Western Division by 12 points last season.

"Oxfordshire will be a tough side to beat, but we expect that and we know how important it is to start well in this competition.

"There's not very much room for error, especially if the weather frustrates you during the season.

"We just need to win as many games as we can and start strongly, we'd really love to defend our title this season."

Cheshire will decide on their full XI on the morning of the match, with one player set to be left out of the 12-man squad.