Cheshire won the inaugural T20 competition in 2015 and were losing finalists in 2018 when the tournament was relaunced in 2018.
For 2022, Nick Anderson finally got the opportunity to lead the side in this format, having originally been selected pre-Covid in 2020. There was no National County cricket that year and no T20 competion in 2021 so this was third time lucky for the Didsbury man.
The rules restricting 'pro's' saw Cheshire choose Harry Dearden for the 2022 white ball games, new father Dave Wainwright havng an early season rest to prepare for the red ball.
Boasting a powerful line-up, Cheshire were well fancied from the off and cantered through the eight group games, losing just one, at Leek against Staffordshire.
First brace of games was at Oxton against Shropshire, a week before the Cheshire County League actually got underway. An eight wicket win with Rob Sehmi (61) and Sam Perry (51) flying high, set the tone for the remaining games. There was 70 for Sehmi second time around with wickets spread across what looked like a powerful attack led by Mike Finan,
A trip to Leek to take on Staffordshire saw a debut for Hyde CC's talented Charlie Barnard who took 2-17 in a six wicket win and three catches - including a steepler at third man off the third ball of the game. Welcome to National Counties cricket! Will Evans topped scored in this one with 41.
A wake-up call then followed with a 30 run loss as Cheshire were dismessed for just 90. Barnard had claimed 2-16 in this one and Cheshire simply took their foot off the gas.
A quick turn-around saw the side back to winning ways 24 hours later on Bank Holiday Monday at Toft. A powerful Cumbria line-up included Lancashire and England's Richard Gleeson but two great performances ensured 17 and 5 run wins. Perry hit 54, Alex Money scored his highest Cheshire total to date with an unbeaten 42. Rob Sehmi hit a 42 too. Contributions across the bowlers saw a broad choice for the skipper with Andy Jackson, Steve Green and the skipper himself all shining.
On to South Northumberland CC to take on Northumberland - with an eye on Cumbria's game elsewhere - and potentially finish top of the table and make Final's Day. And it was an all-round professional performance too.
139 was comfortably chased down as Sehmi (86*) and Perry (51) stylishly ensured a ten wicket win, set up by Anderson's 3-25.
When the hosts struck 184-1 in the second game, the openers simply rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. This time it was an eight wicket win - Sehmi 53 and Perry 63*. A convincing set of games with Cheshire now through to Final's Day to be joined by Cambridgeshire, Dorset and Oxfordshire.
Tring Park proved a great venue and Cheshire were in semi-final one with Oxfordshire. Andy Jackson led the way with 3-37 as the second favourites - behind Cheshire - mustered just 156. At 92-2 and cruising, the wheels suddenly came off. Somehow Anderson's side imploded and a joyious, and somewhat bemused, Oxfordshire got home by 20 runs. Nobody at the ground saw that coming.
Two blips in a great run though. Sehmi and Perry cemented a great opening partnership but there were contributions across the squad. Anderson had some great firepower at his disposal and with luck of availibility, could look forward to the forthcoming KO Trophy games with relish.
To be continued....