Oxfordshire again proved Berkshire’s nemesis as they recorded back-to-back wins in the opening round of National Counties T20 matches at the Falkland club in Newbury.
Last season Oxfordshire ended Berkshire’s long unbeaten record in the National Counties Championship on their way to taking their three-day crown off them.
At Falkland it was Harrison Ward, the home-reared opening batsman who is now contracted to Sussex, who proved the match winner with 204 runs over the two T20 matches.
Ward opened the day with an unbeaten 74 from 36 balls which led Oxfordshire to a comfortable win with seven overs to spare.
Berkshire needed 40 from Andy Rishton to lift them to 143 for nine but that was soon made to look well below-par as Ward struck five sixes and six fours and shared an unbroken third wicket partnership of 85 with Ollie Clarke (35 not out).
Ward tucked into Berkshire’s bowling again after a break for lunch as he plundered 130 from just 59 balls with 92 of the runs – 12 sixes and eight fours – which dominated Oxfordshire’s 212 for seven.
Dan Lincoln led Berkshire’s spirited response with 94 from 45 balls, but they were still 32 short of victory when he was eighth out, LBW to Ollie Currill, and the 2018 champions were beaten by three runs.
Hertfordshire’s defence of the title they won three years ago got off to a mixed start with a loss and win against Lincolnshire at Grantham.
Tom Keast’s 62 was the centrepiece of Lincolnshire’s 135 for six in the opener and Hertfordshire then struggled against Dan Freeman and former Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Surrey left-arm quick Mark Footitt who had combined figures of 6-0-33-6.
Mason Hildreth took three for three in seven balls to slice through the tail and Hertfordshire were shot out for 93 and beaten by 42 runs.
But Hertfordshire bounced back in the second game thanks to the efforts of experienced all-rounder Tanveer Sikandar who followed an unbeaten 43 with three for 17 to set up a 28 runs win.
In Group One there were doubles for Staffordshire against Northumberland at Porthill Park and Cheshire against Shropshire at Oxton.
Captain Zen Malik’s 72 saw Staffordshire to a four wickets win in the opener after Stuart Poynter, the former Ireland and Durham wicketkeeper, had marked his National Counties debut for Northumberland with an aggressive half century.
Then Riki Wessels, the former Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire batsman, made a quickfire 66 for Staffordshire and disciplined bowling pegged Northumberland back to clinch a 52 runs win in the second.
Cheshire opener Rob Sehmi enjoyed a productive day with a half century in each match at Oxton.
Sehmi (61) and Sam Perry (51) shared an opening stand of 114 which put Cheshire well on their way to an eight wickets win in the opener.
Sehmi followed up with 70 from 39 balls to take Shropshire to 212 for five in the second and set up a 74 runs win.
Graham Wagg, the former Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Glamorgan all-rounder, followed up a half century in the opener with 45 in the second match with Andre Bradford marking his Shropshire debut with 53 in the first game.
Dorset also completed a double over Wiltshire at Bashley where England Under-19 all-rounder Tom Prest, who is on Hampshire’s staff, played a key role.
Prest’s unbeaten 40 led Dorset to an eight wickets win in the first match which he followed with 69 in the second which was much closer. A half century from captain Ed Young and 43 from Jake Lintott, back on National Counties duty from Warwickshire, got Wiltshire to within five runs of Dorset’s 161 for four.
Cambridgeshire started their campaign with a double in the East Anglia derby against Suffolk at Wisbech.
Nikhil Gorantla’s unbeaten 64 took Cambridgeshire to an eight wickets win with two overs to spare in the opener which was followed by a solid team effort and a 26 runs win in the second match.
Ben Claydon’s 56 at the top of the order proved in vain for Suffolk as former Leicestershire slow left-armer Jamie Sykes marked his return to Cambridgeshire after a four year absence with three wickets.
It was honours even at Brockhampton in the other Group Two match with Cornwall winning a tense opener by one wicket andHerefordshire taking the second in emphatic fashion with a 92 runs success.
Ben Ellis, with 35 not out, got Cornwall home in the first match but Ollie Walker, with a half century and Nick Hammond, with his second score of 41 in the day, took Herefordshire to an imposing 179 for two with an unbroken third wicket partnership of 89.
Cornwall crumbled to 87 all out with Alex Russell and Matt Pardoe returning combined figures of 6-0-23-6 for Herefordshire.
Wales NC’s first visit to Bangor produced two tight contests against Bedfordshire and a win apiece.
Bedfordshire won the first by one run after seamer Richard Edwards had taken four for 17 for Wales. Former Glamorgan batsman Connor Brown launched Wales’ reply with 44 from 32 balls but they were pegged back by three wickets from seamer Amrit Basra.
Wales needed 14 off the last over, bowled by former Warwickshire and Sussex all-rounder Aaron Thomason on his Bedfordshire debut.
Lukas Carey, one of three Glamorgan staff players in the Wales side, struck the fourth ball for six, scrambled two off the penultimate delivery but was snared by Thomason off the last.
Wales responded with a 19 runs win in the second match of the day, successfully defending a total of 140 for eight despite Thomason’s quickfire 32.
National Counties T20
Porthill Park: Northumberland 157-8 (Stuart Poynter 62, John Oswell 50), Staffordshire 162-6 (Zen Malik 72). Staffordshire won by four wickets. Staffordshire 173-9 (Riki Wessels 66, Ollie McGee 4-30), Northumberland 121-6 (Alasdair Appleby 40). Staffordshire won by 52 runs.
Oxton: Shropshire 124-4 (Andre Bradford 53, Graham Wagg 52), Cheshire 125-2 (Rob Sehmi 61, Sam Perry 51). Cheshire won by eight wickets. Cheshire 212-5 (Rob Sehmi 70, Nick Anderson 42 not out, Shropshire 138-8 (Graham Wagg 45). Cheshire won by 74 runs.
Bashley Rydal. Wiltshire 117-9 (Felix Organ 3-13), Dorset 118-2 (Tom Prest 40 not out). Dorset won by eight wickets. Dorset 161-4 (Tom Prest 69), Wiltshire 156-5 (Ed Young 58, Jake Lintott 43). Dorset won by five runs.
Brockhampton: Herefordshire 149-5 (Nick Hammond 41 not out), Cornwall 150-9. Cornwall won by one wicket. Herefordshire 179-2 (Ollie Walker 50 not out, Nick Hammond 41), Cornwall 87 (Alex Russell 3-10, Matt Pardoe 3-11). Herefordshire won by 92 runs.
Wisbech: Suffolk 135-5 (Jack Beaumont 47), Cambridgeshire 136-3 (Nikhil Gorantla 64 not out). Cambridgeshire won by seven wickets. Cambridgeshire 160-8, Suffolk 134-9 (Ben Claydon 56, Ben Clilverd 3-13, James Sykes 3-19). Cambridgeshire won by 26 runs.
Grantham: Lincolnshire 135-6 (Tom Keast 62), Hertfordshire 93. Lincolnshire won by 42 runs. Hertfordshire 139-6 (Tanveer Sikandar 43 not out), Lincolnshire 111-9 (Tanveer Sikandar 3-17, Zaman Akhter 3-24). Hertfordshire won by 28 runs.
Falkland CC: Berkshire 143-9 (Andy Rishton 40), Oxfordshire 144-2 (Harrison Ward 74 not out). Oxfordshire won by eight wickets.Oxfordshire 212-7 (Harrison Ward 130), Berkshire 209-9 (Dan Lincoln 94, Joe Thomas 3-27). Oxfordshire won by three runs.
Bangor: Bedfordshire 133-9 (Richard Edwards 4-17), Wales NC 132-8 (Connor Brown 44). Bedfordshire won by one run. Wales NC140-8, Bedfordshire 121-8. Wales NC won by 19 runs.