Cheshire's 2022 Western Division 1 season will be long remembered for a defining match against ultimate overall winners, Berkshire.
With Rob Sehmi's side rooted to the foot of the division after two of their four games, a dramatic win at Nantwich changed the County's fortunes before being assured of their 2023 status with a draw at Dorset - a game in which Sehmi surpassed 1,000 runs for the season across all National County competitions.
It all started with defeat at Alderley Edge to Oxfordshire in a game where Cheshire had more than just a few moments. Having made 246 in their first innings (Sehmi 91), Oxfordshire fell short with 189 after Dave Wainwright had taken 4-58 and Charlie Barnard 3-36. This ended up being Barnards's final Cheshire game of the season due to Lancashire restrictions and saw the return of Ben Gibbon, released by Worcestershire for the match.
Cheshire's second innings saw a slightly disappointing 199 (Wainwright 51, Sehmi 41) but a decent lead which was eventually overhauled as Harrison Smith hit a fine 134, the visitors chasing down 256 (Wainwright 3-56).
No bounce-back at Brockhampton gainst Herefordshire but at least the emergence of a quality opening bat in Widnes' Ali Chugtai. Cheshire went down by four wickets after scoring 238 (Sehmi 88) and 282 (Chugtai 129, Nick Anderson 65). Once again they were then undone by a solid fourth innings as the hosts matched Cheshire all the way and saw it through. Their first innings of 257 saw a level contest at half way after Wainwright had grabbed 3-68 but Henry Cullen's 73 not out saw a four wicket win despite Andrew Dufty taking 4-97 in his championship debut.
To make matters worse for Cheshire, skipper Sehmi suffered a broken finger behind the stumps and was ruled out of the forthcoming 'showcase' game with Warwickshire, desperately trying to get fit for the last two championship matches.
Propping up the table and staring relegation in the face, the last thing Cheshire then wanted was a home game with high flying Berkshire. This game though was the highlight og the summer and can be read about in full here
It was last day heroics with Cheshire fighting back - Jackson taking 3-8 and then Wainwright (3-17) and Dufty (4-2) closing the game down.
Cheshire had amassed 451-8 (Sehmi 1108, Andrew Jackson 93, Wainwright 89*) and 220 (Wainwright 63*). Berkshire were 117 behind on first innings (334- Wainwright 4-95)and at tea on day three, were set to open their second innings and bat out the last couple of hours of the day, 337 behind.
That innings will long live in the memory as first JAckson steamed in then Wainwright and Dufty whirled away, squeezing as many overs into the last hour as possible. A jubilant Cheshire dismissed Berkshire for 84 with six minutes left. All this with Cheshire starting the final morning on 15-3 and looking very much second favourites.
So to a shoot out of types at Wimborne as Cheshire took on Dorset. The Berkshire result had put Cheshire in the driving seat and the pressure was on Dorset to stay up. In the end poor weather drastically restricted the amount of cricket played and Dorset will play in Division 2 next year.
Chugtai made 64 and Sehmi 73 (chalking up his 1,000 runs) in a total of 385-8. The hosts weren't going quietly though and replied with 357 (Wainwright 3-105). Cheshire were in no mood to contrive an 'exciting finish' and then closed the game down with a professional 183-4 (Henry Dobson 87, Sehmi 60).
Cheshire finished third in the division behind Berkshire and Oxfordshire and can look forward to locking horns with those two, Herefordshire and newly promoted Devon in 2023.