Oxfordshire improved their prospects of topping Western Division One of the National Counties Championship and reaching next month’s final by dismissing Dorset for 129 on the opening day at Wimborne.
Despite fielding a much-changed side to the one that ended Berkshire’s seven-year unbeaten run last week, Oxfordshire soon had Dorset in trouble at 22 for four after their hosts had won the toss.
The experienced Gareth Andrew took three of those wickets and returned to add a fourth to finish with figures of 20-6-29-4.
Harry Fisher (50) and Jacob Gordon (18) added for the fifth wicket in Dorset’s only substantial partnership before Gordon was caught behind off debutant Ollie Currill, the Leamington and former Gloucestershire seamer, who finished with three for 24.
Oxfordshire openers Harry Smith – their acting-captain – and Marcus Campopiano laid solid foundations by putting on 70 before Smith went LBW to slow left-armer Rob Pack.
Freddie Smith and Tom Haynes both followed quickly, but Campopiano was unbeaten at the close with Oxfordshire 49 behind.
Berkshire and Cheshire were frustrated by overnight rain which delayed the start at the Falkland club in Newbury until 4pm.
Berkshire then made 124 for five in the 52 overs that were possible after they had been put in with David Wainwright, the former Yorkshire and Derbyshire slow left-armer taking four for 12 in 14 accurate overs.
Berkshire, seeking a record fifth successive title, were 57 without loss then 109 for two before late wickets left the match evenly balanced.
In Eastern Division One, leaders Suffolk were frustrated by Staffordshire player/coach Alex Mellor and afternoon rain at Copdock.
Mellor batted throughout the interrupted day for 98 not out, two away from his second Championship century of the season.
Mellor shared a second wicket partnership of 80 with Zen Malik and maintained his concentration after rain had restricted play in the afternoon session to just 22 balls to take Staffordshire to 206 for five.
Norfolk, eager to capitalise on any slip-ups by Suffolk and Staffordshire, had Cambridgeshire in trouble at 96 for six at Wisbech before Kieren Mackenzie struck a Championship-best 81 not out.
Cambridgeshire were eventually dismissed for 177 with Andy Hanby and Brett Stolworthy taking three wickets each.
Norfolk were 12 without loss when bad light brought an early close.
Shropshire’s former Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Glamorgan all-rounder Graham Wagg dominated an eventful day against Devon at Sidmouth in Western Division Two.
Twenty-one wickets went down in the day with Wagg taking five for 16 in 15 overs to dismiss Devon for 148 after they had won the toss.
It would have been much worse for Devon had Calum Haggett (47) and Matt Thompson (39) not added 81 for the fourth wicket.
Wagg then blitzed 109 from 69 balls – an innings that included 11 sixes and nine fours – which helped secure Shropshire a first innings lead of 30.
That looked an unlikely scenario when they slipped to 92 for nine with Haggett taking four for 51 and Matt Skeemer four for 25.
But Wagg and Ben Parker added 86 in eight overs to which Parker contributed six not out from 22 balls.
Opener Elliot Hamilton was dismissed cheaply for the second time in the day when Devon batted again.
Herefordshire, who have already won Western Division Two, were indebted to half centuries from captain Matt Pardoe and Zain Ul Hassan for their total of 235 against Cornwall at St Austell.
The pair added 100 for the fourth wicket, which lifted Herefordshire from 22 for three. The middle order sagged before James Rudge made an unbeaten 41 and then took the wickets of openers Olly Westbury and Alex Bone as Cornwall closed on 49 for three.
Former Herefordshire and Worcestershire slow left-armer Ben Twohig and off-spinner Ellis Whiteford took three wickets apiece for Cornwall.
Matthew Oswell made a maiden half century for Northumberland who were dismissed for 139 after Buckinghamshire put them in at Chesham in Eastern Division Two.
Oswell made 57 from 102 and with support from Ollie McGee (22) put on 62 for the ninth wicket after Northumberland had slumped to 60 for eight with Cameron Parsons (four for 43) taking half of the wickets.
Hertfordshire’s Eastern Division Two match against Cumbria at Hertford was abandoned under the competition’s COVID-19 protocols following a positive test in Cumbria’s squad.
It is the second match to be abandoned owing to COVID-19 following Norfolk’s Eastern Division One match against Suffolk at Manor Park last month which was called off before the start of the second day.
National Counties Championship (Day 1 of 3)
Eastern Division One
Wisbech: Cambridgeshire 177 (Kieran Mackenzie 81 not out), Norfolk 12-0
Copdock: Staffordshire 206-5 (Alex Mellor 98 not out) v Suffolk
Eastern Division Two
Chesham: Northumberland 139 (Matthew Oswell 57) v Buckinghamshire.
Hertford: Hertfordshire v Cumbria. Abandoned. Hertfordshire (8pts), Cumbria (8pts)
Western Division One
Falkland CC (Newbury): Berkshire 124-5 Cheshire
Wimborne: Dorset 129 (Harry Fisher 50), Oxfordshire 80-3
Western Division Two
St Austell: Herefordshire 236 (Matt Pardoe 85, Zain Ul Hassan 50), Cornwall 49-3
Sidmouth: Devon 148 (Graham Wagg 5-16) & 22-1, Shropshire 178 (Graham Wagg 109)