By Neil Goulding

CHESHIRE shared the Minor Counties Championship title with Suffolk yesterday after an enthralling last day at the Ransomes Sports Ground in Ipswich

Andy Hall’s team trailed by 42 runs overnight, but soon found their feet with a solid batting display which assured there was no danger they would lose the final.

Having mustered 148 in their first innings, Cheshire did decidedly better in their second innings.

Hall’s men batted for nearly three sessions to post 279 all out - a lead of 226.

In order to win Suffolk had to score at over 14 runs per over, with only 16.2 overs at their disposal.

Victory was never on the cards despite having some dangerous batsmen and both captains did the gentlemanly act – they shook hands and shared the title before Suffolk started their second innings.

Hall, who led his team to six matches unbeaten to reach the final, led the way with an impressive knock of 61 from 108 balls, an innings which included 8 fours and lasted 108 minutes.

Nathan Dumelow, one of Cheshire’s star performers this season, continued his fine form with the bat, scoring 80 from 120 balls.

The former Derbyshire all-rounder was dropped having scored nine, a miss which proved costly as Cheshire would have been left struggling at 101-6.

However, Dumelow didn’t let that deter him from going on to guide Cheshire to safety.

The powerful right-hander went on to hit 13 fours and his innings, which lasted over two hours, was probably one of the most important he has played for his county in his debut season.

Added to his three wickets in the first innings, it was fitting the talented all-rounder scooped the man-of-the-match award.

Former Nottinghamshire all-rounder Dave Pennett chipped in with a useful 26 before a wonderful catch from Tim Webley, off the bowling of Andrew McGarry, the ex-Essex seamer, saw him dimissed. By then Cheshire were in a comfortable position.

Earlier opening batsman Danny Leech battled for 3 hours 7 minutes to score 27, an innings which took an astonishing 147 balls.

At 124-1 at lunch the J W Lees-sponsored Cheshire side still had plenty of work to do, just 71 runs ahead.

With a lead of 168, with four wickets and 33 overs remaining, a victory for either side was still on the cards, but Cheshire refused to give their hosts a sniff and shared the title for the second time in four years.

In 2001, when Hall was playing under captain Ian Cockbain, Cheshire drew with Lincolnshire at Grantham after their opponents batted them out of the match.

“It was always going to be difficult to win the match with the first day being washed out because of rain,” said Hall, who saw his side lose four wickets for 11 runs in seven overs, a wobble which made sure they had to bat on.

“But it’s a great achievement sharing the title this season. We’re undefeated and although it would have been much more special to win the title outright, we’ve battled for everything this season.

“I’m so proud of all the players. We’ve got the nucleus of a team which can be very successful for the next few years.”

Indeed. A view echoed by Gerry Hardstaff, Cheshire’s chairman of cricket, who added: “We’ve rebuilt this team and so it’s very satisfying to see us do so well after all the hard work from everyone associated with Cheshire cricket, especially the players who have performed magnificently.

“We were never really in a position to declare and to give ourselves a chance of bowling Suffolk out, so we had to make sure we didn’t lose.

“It’s been a long, hard season and we’ve been unbeaten, which is a hell of an achievement. Hopefully there’s many more successful years to come.”

Hardstaff also paid special praise to skipper Hall and Dumelow.

“Andy and Nathan batted very well just when we needed them,” said Hardstaff. “It’s been that way all season and I’m delighted for them both and the rest of the players.

“Andy has been building a better side and Nathan is one of those new players. He deserves his man-of-the-match award. He’s played well in this match, but all season as well.”

Minor Counties Championship 3-Day Final (Final scoreboard, Ransomes, Ipswich)

Cheshire 1st innings: 148 all out, 46.1 overs (D Pennett 41, D Leech 28, A McGarry 4-40, J Bishop 3-29).

Suffolk 1st innings: 201-9, 50 overs, innings closed (C Schofield 6-78, N Dumelow 3-75, P Caley 51 not out, T Catley 27).

Cheshire 2nd innings: 279 all out, 93.4 overs (N Dumelow 80, A Hall 61, A McGarry 3-89, J Bishop 3-65).

Suffolk 2nd innings: Did not bat

Result: Match drawn, Championship title shared

Man-of-the-match: Nathan Dumelow (Cheshire)


By Neil Goulding

CHESHIRE trail Suffolk by 42 runs, but have all ten second innings wickets left after the second day of the Minor Counties Championship Final in Ransomes.

Andy Hall's team found it tough going having won the toss and elected to bat on a greet seamer-friendly wicket.

The Western Division winners eventually posted 148 all out from 46.1 overs, both sides allowed an allotted 50 overs in the first innings.

Dave Pennett, the former Nottinghamshire all-rounder, top-scored with an important 41 from 44 balls, an innings which included three 4s and one six.

Opening batsman Danny Leech (28) also made a useful contribution, while former Essex seamer Andrew McGarry (4-40) was the pick of Suffolk's bowlers.

In reply Suffolk were 52 for no wicket, until Cheshire's spinners got to work and the home side lost three wickets for three runs.

At 86-5 and 152-8 it looked as though Cheshire might restrict their hosts to a very slender lead, but an unbeaten 51 from long-serving Suffolk captain Phil Caley rescued his team as they finished on 201-9, a lead of 53.

Former England and Lancashire leg-spinning all-rounder Chris Schofield was Cheshire's star bowler with 6-78 from 19 unchanged overs, while ex-Derbyshire all-rounder Nathan Dumelow (3-75) was also in the wickets.

Cheshire should have batted for 13 overs at the end of the day, but openers Leech and Mark Currie only had to dig in for 7.1 as bad light brought a premature end to proceedings.

Hall's team will look to bat positively today and hopefully, by mid-afternoon, have set Suffolk a teasing total to chase so a result can be forced out of this game.

"Batting was very hard in the morning, but we stuck at it and then worked hard with the ball,"

said Hall.

"At one stage I thought we were only going to be a few runs behind, but their captain batted well at the end of the innings.

"Chris and Nathan bowled extremely well and then Mark and Danny made sure we didn't lose a wicket in the evening.

"The match is finely poised, but hopefully we can get ourselves in a winning position today at some point."

A view echoed by Cheshire chairman of cricket Gerry Hardstaff, who added: "It's been a hard day.

"Our batsman found it hard work on a bowler-friendly wicket, but our spinners bowled well and we've still got a good chance of winning the final.

"A lot will depend on how we bat in the morning, but if we do then I'm sure we get into a winning position by later in the day."

Cheshire can bat as long as they want today and if they do not feel satisfied with setting Suffolk a total to chase, the overall honours could be shared, exactly what happened when they drew with Lincolnshire in the 2001 final in Grantham.

Minor Counties Championship Final (Day 2 of 3, Ransomes, Ipswich)

Cheshire 1st innings: 148 all out, 46.1 overs (D Pennett 41, D Leech 28, A McGarry 4-40, J Bishop 3-29).

Suffolk 1st innings: 201-9, 50 overs (C Schofield 6-78, N Dumelow 3-75, P Caley 51 not out, T Catley 27).

Cheshire 2nd innings: 11-0, 7.1 overs (Bad light stopped play)

Final day starts at 11.00.