Holders Berkshire produced a typically resilient and resourceful performance to reach the final of the National Counties Trophy with a 62 runs win over Wales at NC at Port Talbot in the semi-finals.
Although Berkshire’s total of 182 for nine, in a match reduced by rain to 40 overs, appeared modest they defended it superbly with their quartet of spinners - left-armers Chris Peploe and Luke Beaven and off-spinners Euan Woods and Max Uttley - throttling Wales’ run chase.
Wales’ defeat means that their long wait for silverware continues. They remain the only one of the 20 National Counties yet to win any of the three competitions and are still waiting to make their first appearance in a final.
Berkshire will now meet Cumbria, who beat Cambridgeshire 3-2 in a bowl-out, in a rematch of the 2019 final at Wormsley on September 2.
Heavy rain in the Lake District meant that no play was possible in the Cumbria v Cambridgeshire tie at Keswick.
After a long wait the match was decided on a bowl-out and, for the second time in three years - the competition was not played in 2020 - Cumbria’s accuracy took them through to the final and ended Cambridgeshire’s unbeaten run in this season’s competition in heartbreaking fashion.
Rain also delayed play at Port Talbot where Wales, who won the toss, kept Berkshire in check with accurate bowling, excellent catching and sharp ground fielding.
Berkshire required a fifth wicket partnership of 84 in 17 overs between Andy Rishton (46) and Woods (30) to rebuild the innings after they had slipped to 43 for four.
After Woods went LBW to off-spinner Tegid Phillips Berkshire lost five wickets for 23 and were in danger of failing to bat out their 40 overs but Tom Nugent and Uttley added 32 valuable runs in an unbroken last wicket partnership that made Wales’ target more demanding.
Neath seamer Sam Jardine took four for 30 on his competition debut but the success of Wales’ three spinners in restricting runs was an indication of what was to come when they batted.
Openers Brad Wadlan, playing his first match for Wales in three years, and Tom Bevan initially prospered against the seamers but the game changed complexion with introduction of spun.
Bevan was stumped off Woods, Wadlan went LBW to Beaven and former Middlesex man Peploe filleted the middle order, taking three for 19 in his eight overs.
From 45 without loss, Wales slipped to 93 for eight. Even though Berkshire’s catching and fielding may not have been as slick as their hosts’, their experience of winning knockout matches proved decisive.
National Counties Trophy semi-finals
Port Talbot: Berkshire 182-9 (Sam Jardine 4-30), Wales NC 120. Berkshire won by 62 runs.
Keswick: Cumbria v Cambridgeshire. Match abandoned. Cumbria won 3-2 on a bowl-out.