Berkshire coach Tom Lambert expects – and needs – a reaction from his players to suffering their first National Counties Championship defeat in seven years.
Berkshire were outplayed by Oxfordshire, who have been their bogey team in white ball cricket in recent seasons, by 285 runs at Thame this week and know that only a maximum points victory over Cheshire in their final Western Division One match at the Falkland club in Newbury, starting on Sunday, will keep alive their hopes of progressing to the four-day final next month.
Even then Berkshire will still need Dorset to do them a favour by denying Oxfordshire victory at Wimborne in an intriguing round of matches that sees all four of the sides in action this weekend in with a chance to clinching top spot. Wiltshire, who completed their Championship programme with a rain-blighted draw against Cheshire at Alderley Edge are already relegated.
“Oxfordshire completely outplayed us so there didn’t to be too much of a post-mortem or finger-pointing,” Lambert said.
“We were going to lose at some stage and we lost in a right royal manner. Oxfordshire did to us what we have done to other teams for the last seven years. We were not good enough and we have to take that on the chin.
“We have put ourselves in a position where we have quite a lot of work to do to qualify for the final.
“But, having said that, we are still going into the last game as we have done the last five years, with an opportunity to win the Championship.
“It’s not how we would want it – in our own hands. It’s not in our own hands. We can only concentrate on doing our job against Cheshire and hope that Dorset can do us a few favours.”
Berkshire’s defeat by Oxfordshire was their first in 37 Championship matches, a remarkable unbeaten sequence that went back to August 2014.
They won the title four seasons in a row between 2016 and 2019 and, after last year’s COVID cancellation, they are still hoping to make history by lifting the Championship for a fifth season running.
“Oxfordshire deserved their win. They played really well and asked questions of us which, for once, we didn’t really have answers to,” Lambert said.
“It’s a good thing in some ways. We had to lose at some stage and losing isn’t something we have done for a long time.
“How we react to losing will be a good test for us. It’s not something we have experienced. We need to come back and we need to be as good as we can be against Cheshire, do our job which is probably going to be a maximum bonus points win, which won’t be easy against a very good Cheshire side and then put a bit more pressure on Oxfordshire.
“We have been in this position for five years running going into the last game where we have a Championship to play for. I guess to some extent the pressure is on Oxfordshire to back up the win against us with a win against Dorset.
“If they do that there is nothing we can do about it and they will deserve to win it. If they don’t and they open the door then we have got a chance.”