Cheshire looking to shine
By Neil Goulding (Cheshire CCC press officer 07813 859986)
CHESHIRE and Suffolk have both named strong 13-man squads ahead of Bank Holiday Monday's Minor Counties 50-over Knockout Trophy final at Lord's (11.00 am start).
Unbeaten all season, Cheshire clinched the Minor Counties Championship Western Division title on Tuesday after drawing their last three-day match of the season at home to fellow title-chasers Shropshire at Nantwich Cricket Club.
And with the return of former Derbyshire batsman Chris Bassano and ex-Yorkshire and Glamorgan batsman Ismail Dawood to their ranks, the county are gunning to keep their incredible treble title hopes alive.
Cheshire have won three Knockout Trophy titles since the competition's inauguration. They last won the competition in 1996 when Ian Cockbain was captain, guiding them to an impressive six-wicket win over Bedfordshire at Lords.
Prior to that a title came in 1987 under the captaincy of Neil O'Brien. That day Cheshire clinched victory by 36 runs over Bedfordshire at Macclesfield Cricket Club.
And in 1983 former skipper Arthur Sutton guided Cheshire to a famous eight-wicket win over Cambridgeshire at Christchurch Cricket Club in Oxfordshire.
"Everyone is looking forward to the match, it's a great occasion for the county," said current Cheshire county captain Andy Hall. "It's not very often you get the chance to play at Lord's, so we should enjoy the occasion."
But Hall, who starred for Bramhall at Lord's in 2001 when his club won the National Club Knockout Cup, is determined to make sure is ambitious players maintain their high standards to guarantee a second title.
"A few of the players have played at Lord's before, but playing at such a great venue will be great for everyone. It's just really important we don't let the occasion get to us and we go out and perform. At the end of the day when you're out there it's just another wicket and you should be concentrating on the bowler and not letting the occasion affect your performance," added Hall.
"We've had an amazing season up to now. Winning the Western Division makes me incredibly proud to be captain. It makes you think about netting in the winter and all the hard work that comes with achieving success. Long may our success continue."
And on the cusp of possibly re-writing the record books if they do win a hat-trick of titles, no wonder Hall is willing his team to keep their impressive winning run going until the end of the season.
The last and only county to win a title treble was Staffordshire, who achieved the magnificent feat in the 1991 and 1993 seasons respectively.
"We can't think about the treble right now, but if we win at Lords then it's time to start thinking about it. I hope it's going to be a great final. There's a lot of supporters coming down to watch us, so hopefully we can do them proud."
No fewer than six former first-class cricketers could feature in the match. Former Derbyshire trio Nathan Dumelow, Ben Spendlove and Bassano, as well as Dawood are in Cheshire's side, while Ben France, also formerly of Derbyshire, and current Essex first-team coach and ex-Yorkshire all-rounder Paul Grayson are in Suffolk's side.
Grayson played for the England International One-Day side during a distinguished first-class in which he scored 8,655 runs and took 136 wickets.
However, Suffolk will be without influential leg-spinning all-rounder Chris Schofield. The former England ace is back in the international fold with the 20/20 World Cup side and has also been starring for Surrey this season.
Schofield has played for Suffolk for two seasons and also played for Cheshire in 2005 when the two counties shared the Minor Counties Championship title.
Cheshire squad: Andy Hall (captain), Danny Leech, Chris Bassano, Ismail Dawood, Ben Spendlove, Nathan Dumelow, James Duffy, Jason Whittaker, Matthew Dawson (wicketkeeper), Adam Syddall, Chris Finegan, Danny Woods, Guy Emmett. 12th man: Chris Davis.
Suffolk squad: Phil Caley (captain), Tom Huggins, Ben France, Andrew Mawson, Paul Grayson, Chris Swallow, Chris Warn (wicketkeeper), Justin Bishop, Paul King, Phil Edwards, Martin Smith, Tobias Henbry, Nick Lee.