CHESHIRE CROWNED WESTERN DIVISION CHAMPIONS

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

CHESHIRE have won the Minor Counties Championship Western Division for the first time in four years after a dramatic finish to their three-day clash with Wales at Chester Boughton Hall.

Andy Hall's team dismissed Wales for 207 in their second innings thanks to five wickets each for Nathan Dumelow (5-87) and Chris Schofield (5-88), leaving the home side a victory target of 240 with 32 runs having been added on from the visitors' first innings lead.

Cheshire fell two runs short of the victory line after an exciting finish, but with arch-rivals Berkshire only managing a draw at home to Herefordshire, the domestic title was won.

With just 33 overs to get the runs, Cheshire battled bravely to get as close as they did to victory, but ten draw points eventually proved enough having led Berkshire by 11 points going into the last match of the campaign.

Opening batsman Danny Leech led the way with 88 from 92 balls, an innings which included one glorious straight six and ten boundaries.

Skipper Hall weighed in with 59 from 43 balls, while cameos from Nick Cantello (24), Cheshire's first innings centurion, and Schofield (27) gave the hosts plenty of impetus for their testing run-chase.

The J W Lees-sponsored Cheshire side eventually left themselves needing 14 runs from 10 balls, and then 11 off the last over of the match.

But despite some lusty hitting they fell agonisingly short. Thankfully Berkshire could not beat Herefordshire and the Cheshire players were able to celebrate a well-deserved triumph.

Victory will now see Cheshire meet Suffolk for the chance to be crowned the outright Championship winners.

The pair go head-to-head in Ipswich between September 11-13, Cheshire looking to win their first title since 2001 when they shared the title with Lincolnshire after a drawn three-day game at Grantham.

"It's a fantastic achievement winning the Western Division," said a delighted Hall.

"I'm so happy for all the players. Although we just missed out on beating Wales we've had such a good season, we deserved to win the title.

"To even get close to Wales' total was a fantastic effort. Danny Leech batted exceptionally well in our second innings and our bowlers did a great job in bowling the opposition out.

"Everyone is really looking forward to playing Suffolk in the final. We'll go into that match with plenty of confidence because we've not lost this season in the league and have nothing to fear."

Indeed. Cheshire face this year's Eastern Division winners in 19 days time with every chance of winning their second piece of silverware of the season having been unbeaten in six matches this term.

"It should be a great final," said Gerry Hardstaff, Cheshire's chairman of cricket.

"It's great for Cheshire cricket that we have won the Western Division, but of course we'd like to go one step better and become the overall Championship winners.

"Winning the Western Division is the end of a great season, but we've got the chance for more success if we can beat Suffolk.

"I can't honestly ever remember us playing Suffolk in the Minor Counties, but we've got nothing to lose and we will approach the game with a lot of confidence."

Hardstaff was at the helm when Ian Cockbain's side shared the title four years ago, but this time he is hoping their is only one winner.

"It has been a great season, but to win the Championship would be the icing on the cake for everyone concerned with the county club," added Hardstaff.

"I'm delighted for the captain and the players. We've built a side over the last four years which has been based around youth and experience.

"It's very rewarding to see all the hard work that's be done pay-off, from the players improving to everything involved with the county club."

Former Derbyshire all-rounder Dumelow was Cheshire's best performer with the ball in their last three-day game.

The off-spinner returned match figures of 10-139, while former Lancashire and leg-spinning all-rounder Schofield finished with eight wickets in the match (8-168).

Cantello led the batting stats with 134 runs in two innings, his average after four innings an impressive 54, while Leech starred with his attacking 88 under pressure.

Cheshire team: Andy Hall (captain, Bramhall); Danny Leech, Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park); Mark Currie (Alderley Edge); Chris Schofield (Littleborough); Steve Ogilby (wicketkeeper), Robin Fisher, Alex Kegg (Chester Boughton Hall); Tom Young (Hyde); Nick Cantello (Heaton Mersey); Guy Emmett (Bowdon). 12th man: Warren Goodwin (Chester Boughton Hall).

FINAL SCORECARD (All three days)
Minor Counties Championship - Western Division (Chester Boughton Hall,):

Wales 1st innings: 259 all out, 83.5 overs (N Dumelow 5-52, C Schofield 3-80, R Watkin 77).

Cheshire 1st innings: (Overnight 66-3, 26 overs) 227-9 declared 75.4 overs (N Cantello 110 no, H Waters 4-26).

Wales 2nd innings: (Overnight 3-0, 3 overs) 207 all out 73.4 overs (N Dumelow 5-87, C Schofield 5-88, M O'Shea 89).

Cheshire 2nd innings: 238-7, 33 overs (D Leech 88, A Hall 59, C Schofield 27, N Cantello 24).

Cheshire lost the toss and were asked to field.

Result: Match drawn, Cheshire 10pts, Wales 10pts.

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CHESHIRE FACE LAST DAY CONUNDRUM - Day 2 Report

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

CHESHIRE batsman Nick Cantello scored a maiden century to gave his county a fighting chance of victory with one day remaining of their crucial Minor Counties Championship Western Division clash with Wales at Chester Boughton Hall.

Heaton Mersey opener Cantello, playing only his second game for Cheshire after scoring 83 on debut, spearheaded a gutsy batting display from the hosts after they had slipped to 85-5 having resumed on their overnight score of 66-3.

Cantello finished unbeaten on 110 as Cheshire declared on 227-9 after 75.4 overs, a sporting declaration which captain Andy Hall believes has allowed his side to chase victory.

Play started at 4pm after heavy rain meant the Filkins Lane pitch was unfit for action, but 60 overs were eventually scheduled in for the day and Cheshire left themselves 32 runs behind their visitors

Wales started their second innings and reached three for no wicket until bright sunlight called an early halt to proceedings.

Hall and his team will be hoping Wales set them a winning target on the last day so they can at least challenge for a victory rather than see the match drift to a draw.

Cheshire are 11 points ahead of Berkshire at the top of the Western Division and their arch-rivals had the second day of their home clash with Herefordshire rained off.

Therefore Berkshire require 17 wickets for victory at Reading today (Tuesday) if they are to leapfrog Cheshire in the table.

"We want to win the match but it's very even at the moment," said Hall.

"Nick Cantello batting brilliantly and rescued from a precarious position. It was a great knock considering it's only his second game in the team."

Gerry Hardstaff, Cheshire's chairman of cricket, admits a draw is the "more likely" conclusion, but hopes Wales will look for more than a draw giving his side the opportunity to win as well.

"Hopefully Wales set us a target to chase, but whatever that is it's going to be really tough.

"We were struggling when we resumed our innings, but Nick Cantello played an excellent innings.

"He's played well for the 2nd team this season, so he deserves his chance. I'm very pleased for him."

Cheshire team: Andy Hall (captain, Bramhall); Danny Leech, Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park); Mark Currie (Alderley Edge); Chris Schofield (Littleborough); Steve Ogilby (wicketkeeper), Robin Fisher, Alex Kegg (Chester Boughton Hall); Tom Young (Hyde); Nick Cantello (Heaton Mersey); Guy Emmett (Bowdon). 12th man: Warren Goodwin (Chester
Boughton Hall).

SCORECARD
Minor Counties Championship - Western Division (Chester Boughton Hall, Status after day 2 of 3):

Wales 1st innings: 259 all out, 83.5 overs (N Dumelow 5-52, C Schofield 3-80, R Watkin 77).

Cheshire 1st innings: (Overnight 66-3, 26 overs) 227-9 declared 75.4 overs (N Cantello 110 no, H Waters 4-26).

Wales 2nd innings: 3-0, 3 overs

Cheshire lost the toss and were asked to field.


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CHESHIRE WITH WORK TO DO Day 1 Report

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

CHESHIRE spinners Nathan Dumelow and Chris Schofield gave the county side plenty to smile about after the opening day of their crucial Minor Counties Championship Western Division clash with Wales at Chester Boughton Hall.

But although the spin twins wreaked havoc against the visitors, Cheshire still have plenty of work to do in their quest to win the match - and the league title for the first time since 2001.

Having seen Wales reach 182-2, former Derbyshire off-spinner Dumelow (5-52) and ex-England and Lancashire leg-spinner Schofield (3-80) did the damage as Wales were dismissed for 259 from 83.5 overs.

Ryan Watkin (77) top-scored for Wales, but late replacement Guy Emmett (1-35) from 20 overs made sure the visitors were always pegged back.

In reply the J W Lees-sponsored Cheshire side lost three wickets for 18 runs and finished the opening day at 66-3 from 26 overs.

The home side lost openers Mark Currie and Danny Leech, as well as skipper Andy Hall.

But with 64 overs remaining in their first innings Cheshire still have plenty of time in which to compile a substantial lead.

Hall is adamant his side must win their match, especially having heard that title-rivals Berkshire, 11 points behind them in the table, have got off to a flyer in their home clash with Herefordshire at Reading Cricket Club.

"We have got to concentrate on our own performance and not worry what Berkshire do," said Hall.

"If we win this match then even if Berkshire win we have won the title.

"The match is very evenly-balanced and the second morning will be very crucial.

"We are missing Dave Pennett and Jason Whittaker, but even with them in the side we would have settled for bowling Wales out for 259 in their first innings."

Indeed, and Hall paid tribute to his bowlers for a battling performance which saw them achieve full bonus points.

"It was unfortunate to lose three wickets at the end of the day, but we bowled very well and showed a lot of character when Wales were well-placed," added Hall.

Earlier in the day former Nottinghamshire paceman Pennett failed a late fitness test on an injury to his right knee, so Chester Boughton Hall captain Alex Kegg was drafted in.

With Whittaker missing as well, left-arm seamer Guy Emmett was handed the chance to shine.

"Guy and Alex did well for us," praised Gerry Hardstaff, Cheshire's chairman of cricket.

"We obviously miss Dave [Pennett] because he's the heartbeat of the team, and Jason [Whittaker] as well because of his batting and bowling, but the new players have done well.

"There's still a lot of work to do though, so it's important someone scores runs on the second day and we can get a decent lead."

Cheshire team: Andy Hall (captain, Bramhall); Danny Leech, Nathan Dumelow (Oulton Park); Mark Currie (Alderley Edge); Chris Schofield (Littleborough); Steve Ogilby (wicketkeeper), Robin Fisher, Alex Kegg (Chester Boughton Hall); Tom Young (Hyde); Nick Cantello (Heaton Mersey); Guy Emmett (Bowdon). 12th man: Warren Goodwin (Chester
Boughton Hall).

SCORECARD
Minor Counties Championship - Western Division (Chester Boughton Hall, Day 1 of 3):

Wales 1st innings: 259 all out, 83.5 overs (N Dumelow 5-52, C Schofield 3-80, R Watkin 77).

Cheshire 1st innings: 66-3, 26 overs

Cheshire lost the toss and were asked to field.


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HALL WANTS WESTERN DIVISION TITLE

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

CHESHIRE captain Andy Hall admits his side are "in the box seat" in their quest to win the Minor Counties Championship Western Division.

But even though his side are 11 points clear of Berkshire at the top of the table with one game to play, nothing less than a victory is good enough for the county skipper.

Cheshire meet Wales in their last three-day match, to be played at Chester Boughton Hall between 21-23 August.

Victory would assure Cheshire the title, their first since 2001, but with Berkshire breathing down their necks Hall doesn't want his side to settle for a draw.

"We really are in the driving seat, but we can't go into the game thinking about getting a draw because that's a negative attitude to have," said Hall.

"We've got go into the match wanting to win. If we do then it doesn't matter what Berkshire do, we will have won the story."

Indeed. Berkshire host Herefordshire at Reading in their last match of the campaign knowing anything less than a victory would see the title go to Cheshire.

"Berkshire drew with Devon in their last match, which is a great result for us," added Hall.

"We are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and I think that stems from not having lost a game in the Western Division this season.

"Wales will be a trough team to beat, but we've already beaten some very strong sides this season and so we're not worried about who we play.

"You've got to beat the best teams if you want to win the league and we're relishing the challenge."

If the J W Lees-sponsored Cheshire side do triumph over Wales they are likely to play either Suffolk and Cambridgeshire in this year's Championship final (11-13 September), the two teams who can only win the Eastern Division title.

However, Hall is not looking that far forward just yet!

"We've got to focus on beating Wales. If we do that then we can look forward to trying to win the Championship.

"To do that this season would be a remarkable achievement."

A view shared by Gerry Hardstaff, Cheshire's chairman of cricket, who added: "The team is playing with a lot of confidence and that has stemmed from our first win of the season.

"Wales are an unknown quantity because they get a lot of players from Glamorgan 2nd XI, but we've got a great chance of getting to the Championship this season. It really is in our own hands."

Cheshire have made two changes to the team which defeated Oxfordshire by 125 runs in their last match at Nantwich Cricket Club.

Opener Danny Leech replaces Matt Dawson in the line-up, while promising Hyde bowler Tom Young gets the call up for Danny Jones, absent because of exam commitments.

Nick Cantello, the Heaton Mersey batsman who scored 82 on debut, retains his place in the side, keeping out fellow prospects Warren Goodwin and James Duffy.

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


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