Cheshire crowned Western Division champions

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)

CHESHIRE have been crowned the new Western Division champions after they drew at home to Shropshire in their final three-day Minor Counties Championship match yesterday.

Andy Hall’s brave battlers dug deep to keep their fellow title-challengers at bay at Nantwich Cricket Club.

Opening batsman Danny Leech was the hero with a gutsy unbeaten 65 in the home county’s second innings as the hosts held on with five wickets to spare.

Ahead by 11 points before the match, Cheshire finished the season 10 points ahead of their closest rivals after an exciting final day’s play.

And with victory now lock horns with Eastern Division winners Northumberland in next month’s four-day Minor Counties Championship final.

Resuming on 126-5 overnight, Cheshire were eventually bowled out for 240, a slender lead of five runs.

And with overs running out in the day, Shropshire had to force the issue and get quick runs to leave themselves with time to bowl Cheshire out in their second innings. Nothing less than a victory would do for them to win the title.

Thanks to a superb century from Atiq Rehman (109 not out), whose 52-ball innings allowed the visitors to declare on 190-6 from just 22 overs.

That left Cheshire needing 186 for victory in 42 overs, although Hall’s men knew batting out the overs would be enough to secure a draw and their second Western Division title in three years.

“I’m delighted for everyone, it’s a very special feeling winning the title,” beamed Hall, whose side were in trouble at 15-3 at tea.

“We’ve had a great season and, although we probably didn’t play our best this week, we’ve played some excellent cricket all season.

“The team spirit has been brilliant this year and everyone has stepped up when we’ve been in difficult positions.”

Cheshire are now on course to win an incredible treble, having also reached the final of the Minor Counties 50-over Knockout Trophy at Lords on Bank Holiday Monday 27th August.

“To have not lost this season is an excellent achievement, long mayit continue,” added Hall.

“Now we can look forward to trying to beat Suffolk at Lord's and then hopefully beat Northumberland in the Championship. It’s an exciting time!”



Shropshire 1st innings: 235-8 dec (R Foster 103 not out, A Gray 37, N Dumelow 4-71, C Finegan 2-30)

Cheshire 1st innings: 240 all out (W Goodwin 65, M Dawson 33, N Dumelow 32, D Leech 29, J Duffy 24, S Taylor 4-81).

Shropshire 2nd innings: 190-6 dec (A Rehman 109 not out, E Foster 40, J Whittaker 3-44, C Finegan 2-44)

Cheshire 2nd innings: 123-5 (D Leech 65 not out, J Duffy 24 not out)

Result: Cheshire (9pts) drew with Shropshire (10pts).

Cheshire still favourites for title...but with work still to do

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)

CHESHIRE are still favourites to win the Minor Counties Championship Western Division despite a minor batting collapse on the second day of their crucial three-day clash with title-challengers Shropshire.

Having restricted Shropshire to 235-8 declared in 55.4 overs, Cheshire were cruising at 104 for no wicket at Nantwich Cricket Club.

But once opener Warren Goodwin was dismissed for a fluent 65, the floodgates opened and the hosts lost four wickets for just two runs.

The 2005 Western Division champions ended the day on 126-5 from 54 overs, still 109 runs adrift of their title challengers, who are second in the table and 11 points behind in this final group match of the season.

Cheshire have a maximum of 36 overs left from their first innings to bat on the third and final day with five wickets in hand.

And with that leaving both counties with another innings each to have in a day where 102 overs are possible, Andy Hall's team are still in the driving seat to progress to this year's four-day Minor Counties Championship final next month.

Cheshire started well and had Shropshire in trouble at 29-2, 99-4 and 108-6, until a seventh wicket partnership of 77 between centurion Rob Foster (103 not out) and Andy Gray (37) saw the visitors post a respectable score on a decent wicket.

Off-spinner Nathan Dumelow (4-71) was the pick of Cheshire's bowlers, while seamer Chris Finegan chipped in with 2-30 from 13 accurate overs.

In reply Goodwin and Leech (29) battled well for an excellent century stand for the first wicket.

But before the close skipper Hall and former Derbyshire batsman Ben Spendlove both perished without scoring, while Oliver Sadler was also dismissed cheaply. Cheshire slumping from 104 for not wicket to 117-5.

"We bowled well and then batted well, but unfortunately we've made life a little harder than we would have liked," reflected Cheshire skipper Andy Hall.

"We've just got bat out our overs now and hopefully get a few runs ahead of Shropshire, that will probably put the game out of their reach.

"But we can't afford to celebrate yet, there's still a lot of hard work left to do."

Shropshire 1st innings: 235-8 declared, 55.4 overs (R Foster 103 not out, A Gray 37, N Dumelow 4-71, C Finegan 2-30)
FOW: 29, 29, 98, 99, 108, 108, 185, 220.

Cheshire 1st innings: 126-5. 54 overs (W Goodwin 65, D Leech 29, S Taylor 3-41).
FOW: 104, 115, 116, 116, 117.

Points thus far: Cheshire (3pts) trail Shropshire (4pts) by 109 runs with five first innings wickets remaining.

Skipper back as Cheshire gun for title treble

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)

SKIPPER Andy Hall makes a welcome return to the Cheshire Minor Counties side on Sunday as the Western Division leaders look to win their first title of the season.

Hall, who averages an impressive 78.25 with the bat in the three-day Championship matches this season, has been absent for his side's victory against Wiltshire and drawn match with Oxfordshire.

But after waiting patiently on the sidelines for over a month, the 34-year-old has recovered from his wrist injury and is relishing the chance to guide his team to silverware as Cheshire take on second-placed Shropshire at Nantwich Cricket Club (August 19-21).

Cheshire have not lost a game this season in the Championship (four wins, one draw) or in the MCCA 50-over Knockout Trophy where, after a string of impressive one-day performances, deservedly find themselves in this year's showcase final at Lords against Suffolk.

"It's been a brilliant season so far," said Hall. "We've stuck together as a team and the confidence has always been there.

"I found it hard not playing, but I thought Nathan Dumelow did an excellent job as captain. Thankfully my wrist's healed so I can get back playing.

"I'll be honest, it's frustrating not playing, but I'd rather be fit for these big matches. We've done the groundwork, but now it's time to perform when it matters."

Cheshire, who shared the Minor Counties Championship with Suffolk in 2005, lead Shropshire in the Western Division by 11 points.

And Hall knows a win or a draw will be enough to guarantee his side this year's title.

If the Western Division crown can be secured, then Cheshire will qualify for the Championship final against this year's Eastern Division winners.

And with the Knockout Trophy final to look forward to, the county could be in line for an unprecedented incredible title-treble this term.

"It would be amazing to win one title, let alone three," added Hall. "But we find ourselves in a great position. All we can do is take one game at a time and not carried away.

"We've done a lot of good things this season - and if we can maintain the high standards we've shown, then there's no reason why couldn't win everything. There's a lot of hard work left before that happens though!"

Cheshire 14-man squad: Andy Hall (captain), Matthew Dawson (Bramhall); Danny Leech, Ben Spendlove, Chris Bassano, Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park); Oliver Sadler (Nantwich); Ismail Dawood (Urmston); James Duffy, Danny Woods (Hyde); Warren Goodwin (Chester Boughton Hall); Jason Whittaker (Walshaw); Adam Syddall (Bowdon); Chris Finnegan (Neston). 12th man: Chris Davies (Oxton).