Ollie Currill kept alive Oxfordshire’s dream of winning the National Counties Trophy for the first time with a stunning innings that clinched a dramatic three wickets win against Suffolk off the last ball of their quarter-final at Banbury.
Suffolk appeared to be on course to avenge their defeat in last season’s National Counties Championship when Oxfordshire slipped to 194 for seven in the 44th over chasing 282 for victory.
Oxfordshire still needed 55 runs from the last five overs but Currill launched a furious onslaught that saw him clobber 76 not out from just 35 balls.
Currill, who took a record seven for 12 in Oxfordshire’s National Counties T20 semi-final victory over Cheshire, had made 57 runs in his four previous innings in the Trophy competition.
The former Gloucestershire pace bowler still needed four from Jack Beaumont’s final ball of the match to clinch victory but he thumped it for his eighth six to take Oxfordshire through to the semi-finals.
Prav Chahal played an excellent supporting role in an unbroken eight wicket partnership of 90 in six overs by making 19 not out from 16 balls.
Defeat was particularly hard on George Rhodes, the Leicestershire batter/off-spinner, who marked his Trophy debut for Suffolk with 95 from 103 balls.
Rhodes shared a third wicket partnership of 80 with Alex Oxley (42) which, with a useful 45 from Darren Ironside, took Suffolk to what, until the last five over of the match, looked like being a winning total.
Rhodes then bowled his ten economical overs for 32 but it was slow left-armer Beaumont who took the brunt of Currill’s counter-attack which kept Currill in the hunt for their second white ball trophy of the season.
Holders Berkshire booked their place in the semi-finals with a comfortable 58 runs win over Wales NC at the Falkland club in Newbury.
Berkshire beat Wales at the semi-final stage last season and again proved their nemesis even though they have a less experienced side this season.
All-rounder Andy Rishton, last season Most Valuable Player in the competition, rescued Berkshire from an uncertain start which saw them wobbling at 106 for five with experienced seamer Richard Edwards taking three of the wickets.
Rishton made a competition-best 75 from 80 balls and lifted Berkshire to 278 all out with excellent support from two of the county’s young brigade.
Rhodri Lewis (39) added 66 for the sixth wicket with Rishton then Jafer Chohan weighed in with 48 from 43 balls in a seventh wicket partnership of 81.
Berkshire opened the bowling with slow left-armer Luke Beaven, who took two wickets, and although there were a series of cameos down the order, only Morgan Bevans (52) converted a promising start into something that threatened to challenge Berkshire.
Cumbria, beaten by Berkshire in the last two finals, also reached the last four with a six wickets win over Cambridgeshire at Exning.
Last season Cumbria beat Cambridgeshire on a bowl-out after rain washed out the semi-final at Keswick, but there could be no arguing about the manner of this win.
Cambridgeshire were kept in check by a superb opening spell of 8-2-13-4 from Sam Sharp, who finished with a competition-best four for 33, and required a seventh wicket partnership of 67 between Lee Thomason (58) and Ben Clilverd (58) to get them to 229 for nine.
Cambridgeshire then strayed with the new ball before James Sykes, the former Leicestershire slow left-armer, got a measure of control.
When Cumbria were 60 for three in the 13th over Cambridgeshire were back in the match but not for long as Matt Sempill (94) and Marcus Stables (70 not out) - both competition-bests- swept the visitors to victory with a perfectly-paced fourth wicket partnership of 162 in 33 overs.
Sempill fell just short of his century when Cumbria were only nine away from victory but Stables was still there when they got home with 15 balls to spare.
Dorset romped to a seven wickets win against Devon at North Perrott where former first-class batters Oli Soames and Sam Young dominated.
Ex-Hampshire opener Soames fell one run short of a maiden century for Dorset while Young, who left Somerset at the end of last season, was unbeaten on 67 when victory was secured with more than ten overs to spare.
The pair shared a third wicket partnership of 141 which helped Dorset to make light work of a target of 204.
Bournemouth seamer Ollie Breckon continued his encouraging start to his Dorset career with a five wicket haul in only his fifth match for the county.
Devon’s total was built around a fourth wicket stand of 72 between Matt Golding, who marked his seasonal debut with a half-century , and acting-captain Calum Haggett (32).
But the tail fell away tamely with the last five wickets tumbling for 25.
National Counties Trophy
Falkland CC: Berkshire 278 (Andy Rishton 75), Wales NC 220 (Morgan Bevans 52). Berkshire won by 58 runs.
Exning: Cambridgeshire 229-9 (Lee Thomason 58, Ben Clilverd 58, Sam Sharp 4-33), Cumbria 232-4 (Matt Sempill 94, Marcus Stables 70 not out). Cumbria won by six wickets.
North Perrott: Devon 203 (Matt Golding 62, Ollie Breckon 5-33), Dorset 204-3 (Oli Soames 99, Sam Young 67 not out). Dorset won by seven wickets.
Banbury: Suffolk 281-7 (George Rhodes 95), Oxfordshire 284-7 (Ollie Currill 76 not out, Ollie Clarke 57).Oxfordshire won by three wickets.