CHESHIRE LOOK FOR CHAMPIONSHIP CHEER

By Neil Goulding

CHESHIRE have been forced to make a late change to their Minor Counties Championship-chasing side which will do battle with Suffolk in Ipswich between September 11-13.

Chester Boughton Hall wicketkeeper Steve Ogilby has withdrawn at the last minute because of work commitments and has been replaced by Milnrow's Matthew Dawson.

Dawson has played one game for the J W Lees-sponsored Cheshire team this season, as well as starring for the second team.

The only other doubt for Cheshire is all-rounder Jason Whittaker. The Walshaw player, a schoolteacher by trade, has just celebrated the birth of this first child with partner Nichola, so could be forced to stay at home with his family.

"It's a blow losing Steve because he's such an important player to the side, especially because of his batting," admitted Gerry Hardstaff, Cheshire's chairman of cricket.

"But Matthew (Dawson) is a very good wicketkeeper and a player who has been pushing hard on Steve's heels for a regular place in the team."

Indeed, but the loss of Whittaker, Cheshire's leading all-rounder last season, would be a bad loss with just a few days to go until the county's biggest game for four years.

Cheshire shared the 2001 Championship final with Lincolnshire after a drawn game at Grantham's Gorse Lane ground, a match current captain Andy Hall played in.

Prior to that final Cheshire won the Championship final in 1967, 1985 and 1988. They also reached the 1993 final but lost by five wickets to Staffordshire in Worcester.

The 1985 final saw Cheshire beat Suffolk by 58 runs in Worcester, a result Hall would like to repeat.

"We've got a very strong squad and we're looking forward to the match," said Hall, whose side will be pitted against ex-England pace bowler Devon Malcolm, former Derbyshire duo Christopher Warn and Trevor Smith, and also ex-Essex bowler Andrew McGarry.

"We would have like Steve (Ogilby) to play because he's playing for us pretty much all season. I hope Matthew (Dawson) can come in and do just as good a job as Steve would have done.

"It would be a real blow if we lost Jason (Whittaker), but hopefully he's available and then we have more strength in our batting department."

Cheshire team: Andy Hall (captain, Bramhall); Robin Fisher (Chester Boughton Hall); Matthew Dawson (Milnrow); Mark Currie (Alderley Edge); Chris Schofield (Littleborough); Nick Cantello (Heaton Mersey); Danny Leech, Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park); Jason Whittaker (Walshaw); Dave Pennett (Harrogate); Guy Emmett (Bowdon). 12th man: Warren Goodwin (Chester Boughton Hall).


CHESHIRE CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP VICTORY AGAINST SUFFOLK

(Photo caption: Cheshire's Championship-chasing Minor Counties team.)

By Neil Goulding (Cheshire Press Officer, mobile 07931 376811)

CHESHIRE captain Andy Hall can't wait to take on Suffolk in this year's Minor Counties Championship final in Ipswich.

Hall's team meet Suffolk at Ransomes and Reavals Cricket Club in Ipswich between September 11-13, boosted by an impressive unbeaten run in the Western Division this term.

Three victories and three draws have been enough for the J W Lees-sponsored Cheshire side to edge Devon and Berkshire, respectively, by nine points to win the domestic title.

But next up is Suffolk, the Eastern Division winners who have former England paceman Devon Malcolm in their team, former Derbyshire duo Christopher Warn and Trevor Smith, and also ex-Essex bowler Andrew McGarry amongst their ranks.

"It's not going to be easy, but none of the games we've played this season have been easy, so we're really looking forward to the match," said Hall.

"It's been a few years since I've played in a Championship final, but we've been building towards getting there since I took over from Ian Cockbain as captain.

"We've made good progress in the last three seasons and now I believe we've found the strongest team we've had for a long time."

Cheshire shared the 2001 Championship final with Lincolnshire after a drawn game at Grantham's Gorse Lane ground, a match Hall played in.

Prior to that final Cheshire won the Championship final in 1967, 1985 and 1988. They also reached the 1993 final but lost by five wickets to Staffordshire in Worcester.

The 1985 final saw Cheshire beat Suffolk by 58 runs in Worcester, a result Hall would like to repeat.

"We've come this far and got nothing to lose," added Hall.

"We're confident we can win and we'll be giving it everything we've got.

"I don't think I've played against Suffolk before, but we've beaten some good teams this season - and I'm confident we can beat one more."

Suffolk lost just one match in the Eastern Division this season and last won the Championship final in 1977 and prior to that 1946.

Phil Caley's team go in search of their third title having won four of their six three-day domestic matches, but Gerry Hardstaff, Cheshire's chairman of cricket, is quietly confident his county can win their second Championship title in four years.

Hardstaff said: "It's a huge match for the team and a great achievement for the county to reach the final.

"I just hope we can win this last match and win the Championship, that would cap a great season for us."

Cheshire have been boosted by the return of former Nottinghamshire pace bowler Dave Pennett to their side, absent from their last match because of a knee-injury.

All-rounder Jason Whittaker is also back having missed Cheshire's game with the birth of his first child with partner Nichola.

Bowdon seamer Guy Emmett, a teacher a Millfield School, retains his place in the side after a solid bowling performance against Wales in Cheshire's last match in the Western Division.

Emmett keeps out promising pace aces Danny Jones and Tom Young, although Hardstaff admits they may still get a chance if Cheshire have any late withdrawls.

Warren Goodwin, of Chester Boughton Hall, will accompany the team to Ipswich as 12th man.

Former England and Lancashire leg-spinning all-rounder Chris Schofield, ex-Lancashire batsman Mark Currie and former Derbyshire all-rounder - three of Cheshire's star players - have all been selected for the county's final crucial match of the season.

Cheshire team: Andy Hall (captain, Bramhall); Robin Fisher, Steve Ogilby (wicketkeeper, Chester Boughton Hall); Mark Currie (Alderley Edge); Chris Schofield (Littleborough); Nick Cantello (Heaton Mersey); Danny Leech, Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park); Jason Whittaker (Walshaw); Dave Pennett (Harrogate); Guy Emmett (Bowdon). 12th man: Warren Goodwin (Chester Bougton Hall).