Bedfordshire and Herefordshire secured the two promotion in the new National Counties Championship with comfortable victories over Northumberland and Wales NC in the penultimate round of matches.
Bedfordshire completed their season with an innings and 50 runs win over Northumberland at Jesmond. Their unassailable lead at the top of Eastern Division Two was confirmed while they were heading home down the A1 when Buckinghamshire were beaten by 158 runs by Cumbria at Furness.
Herefordshire’s 70 runs win over Wales at Eastnor was their third straight victory in the competition. Their place at the top of Western Division Two was guaranteed when Cornwall were beaten by six wickets by Shropshire at Bridgnorth.
Herefordshire will change places with Wiltshire whose relegation from Western Division One was confirmed after the final day of their last match of the season against Cheshire at Alderley Edge was washed out.
Slow left-armer Tom Brett was Bedfordshire’s match winner at Jesmond where he took six second innings wickets to finish with match figures of 11 for 70.
It was the third time that Brett had taken ten wickets in a Championship match and he helped send Northumberland from 118 for four to 180 all out.
Sean Tindale, with 44 from 39 balls, fired a few shots in defiance before Northumberland went down.
That result left Buckinghamshire needing to beat Cumbria to keep the promotion race going but they were already behind in the match.
Cumbria captain Gary Pratt completed a half century before he declared and left his bowlers with more than two sessions to dismiss Buckinghamshire.
Despite pockets of resistance down the order, including 43 from Cameron Parsons, Buckinghamshire were bowled out on the stroke of tea.
Herefordshire had to overcome stubborn resistance from Wales led by Oskar Kolk, who batted three-and a-half hours for 85, and Kieran Bull, who added 58 with Kolk in a stubborn seventh wicket stand.
Kolk was eventually prised out by Zain Ul Hasan who then had Aneurin Norman caught behind.
Herefordshire then had to wait for the result from Bridgnorth before they could celebrate promotion.
Shropshire did their neighbours a favour by turning the tables on Cornwall after they trailed on first innings.
Graham Wagg, bowling left-arm spin, took four wickets to finish with ten in the match to dismiss Cornwall for 149 and leave Shropshire with more than two sessions to chase 223.
They got there thanks to a classy century from Oxford University left-hander George Hargrave on his Championship debut.
Hargrave received solid support from Simon Gregory (33) who helped him add 54 for the third wicket and Wagg, who made a brisk 39 in a fourth wicket stand of 68.
Hargrave, who made a first-class century in the 2019 Varsity Match, reached three figures with successive boundaries off the last two balls of the match.
Cornwall’s defeat ended their hopes of overtaking Herefordshire who they host at St Austell in the final round of matches this Sunday.
Berkshire’s hopes of winning the Championship for a fifth season in a row suffered a major setback with a crushing 283 runs defeat against Oxfordshire at Thame in Western Division One.
It was Berkshire’s first defeat in 37 Championship matches, a sequence stretching back to August 19 2014 when Devon beat them at Exmouth.
Berkshire faced the prospect of batting most of the day to avoid defeat after Oxfordshire’s early declaration but they did not make it to tea.
Three wickets from Gareth Andrew helped reduce Berkshire to 52 for six. Despite a battling 68 from Euan Woods and resistance from Chris Peploe, Berkshire were dismissed for 141.
Oxfordshire now head the division and will take an eight points lead into their final match against Dorset at Wimborne on Sunday.
Berkshire, who are now third 13 points behind Oxfordshire, host second-placed Cheshire at the Falkland club in Newbury on Sunday. The top team in each of Eastern Division One and Western Division One will meet in the final at Tring from September 5 to 8.
National Counties Championship (Final day of 3)
Eastern Division Two
Furness: Cumbria 297 (Sam Dutton 56, Paul Hindmarch 52) & 196-6 dec (Gary Pratt 65 not out), Buckinghamshire 149 (Stephen Croft 57, Matt Sempill 5-32) & 186. Cumbria (23pts) beat Buckinghamshire (4pts) by 158 runs.
Jesmond: Bedfordshire 378 (James Kettleborough 106, George Thurstance 74 not out), Northumberland 148 (Jack Burnham 54, Tom Cant 53, Tom Brett 5-18) & 180 (Tom Brett 6-52). Bedfordshire (24pts) beat Northumberland (4pts) by an innings and 50 runs.
Western Division One
Alderley Edge: Wiltshire 146 (Ben Gibbon 5-43), Cheshire 294 (David Wainwright 102 not out, Henry Dobson 52). No play Tuesday - rain. Cheshire (11pts) drew with Wiltshire (8pts).
Thame: Oxfordshire 294-8 dec (Ollie Ebsworth-Burland 81, George Tait 71) & 270-7 dec (Ollie Ebsworth-Burland 117, Jonny Cater 66, Euan Woods 6-101), Berkshire 140 (Gareth Andrew 5-39) and 141 (Euan Woods 68). Oxfordshire (23pts) beat Berkshire (3pts) by 283 runs.
Western Division Two
Eastnor: Herefordshire 165 (Kieran Bull 5-59) & 239 (Zain Ul Hassan 69, Kieran Bull 5-70), Wales NC 128 (Awais Mohammed 5-52) & 206 (Oskar Kolk 85). Herefordshire (20pts) beat Wales NC (4pts) by 70 runs.
Bridgnorth: Cornwall 327 (Olly Westbury 124 not out, Matt Robins 73, Graham Wagg 6-53) & 149, Shropshire 243 (Xavier Clarke 78, Ben Lees 50) & 227-4 George Hargrave 101 not out). Shropshire (22 pts) beat Cornwall (7pts) by six wickets.