By Neil Goulding

JASON Whittaker and Matthew Dawson led the way as Minor Counties champions Cheshire extended their winning start to the season yesterday.
Both batsman hit half centuries as the county beat Shropshire in the MCCA Knockout Trophy by a faster run rate in a rain-affected meeting at Neston Cricket Club.
Wicketkeeper Dawson top-scored with an unbeaten 59, while all-rounder Whittaker weighed in a with an important 52 as Cheshire, having been put in to bat, recovered from 100-6 to post a respectable 219-7 in their allotted 50 overs in their second group match.
Dawson and Whittaker, who both hit one six and four fours in their innings, shared in a spirited seventh-wicket stand of 103, before the latter was dismissed in the penultimate over of the match.
At one stage Cheshire were struggling at 23-3 and then having been forced to take an early lunch at 60-3 from 19.5 overs, resumed and lost three more wickets for 40 runs.
However, Danny Leech (35) and Nathan Dumelow (23) chipped in with useful runs to make sure of defendable target.
In reply Shropshire were struggling at 49-3 when heavy rain brought an abrupt end to proceedings.
Whittaker the pick of Cheshire's bowlers with 2-8 from 5.4 accurate overs, while fellow seamer Adam Syddall claimed the other scalp in a spell of 1-18 from seven overs.
Cheshire's run rate of 4.38 was far superior to their visitors' 2.66, making it two wins out of two for last year's Trophy finalists.
"To recover from 100-6 was a very valiant effort, it just shows the strength in depth we've got," praised team manager Sandy Scrimgeour.
"We didn't expect to get a game because it rained all the way to the ground, so credit to Neston for getting the game on.
"It's another good win for us. If we win our next group match then we should qualify for the quarter-finals."
Cheshire skipper Andy Hall praised his side for the "character" they showed - and is now willing his ambitious charges to beat Oxfordshire at Great and Little Tew this Sunday.
And with Bedfordshire and Cumberland rained off in the other match in Group A, another victory would assure Cheshire qualification to this year's quarter-final stages.
"We had a mini-batting collapse, but we showed a lot of character to get back on track," said Hall. "Jason and Daws batted really well to get us out of trouble.
"It was going well with the ball until the heavens opened! We can't have asked for a better start, hopefully we can beat Oxfordshire to qualify for the next stage."
Last season Hall guided his team to the MCCA Knockout Trophy at Lords, but it was opponents Suffolk who took the crown.

Cheshire 219-7, 50 overs (Dawson 59no, Whittaker 52, Leech 35)
FOW: 5, 12, 23, 66, 99, 100, 203.
Shropshire 48-3, 18.4 overs (Syddall 1-18, Whittaker 2-8)
FOW: 30, 41, 48.

Result: Cheshire (2pts), who lost the toss, beat Shropshire (0pts) on a faster scoring rate.

Cheshire team: Andy Hall (capt, Bramhall), Danny Leech (Oulton Park), Warren Goodwin (Chester Boughton Hall), Ben Spendlove (Oulton Park), James Duffy (Hyde), Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park), Jason Whittaker (Alderley Edge), Matt Dawson (wkt, Bramhall), Danny Woods (Hyde), Adam Syddall (Bowdon), Daniel Berry (Hyde). 12th man: David Hurst (Neston). Scorer: Jim Law.

Cheshire are kindly sponsored by AB Nutrition Ltd and therightmoveabroad.com