Oxfordshire, Dorset, Cheshire and Cambridgeshire booked their places at National Counties T20 Finals Day at Tring Park on May 22 on a tense final day of group matches.
Oxfordshire sat out the final round of matches and had to watch from afar before their place in the semi-finals was secured following a day of dramatic twists and turns at Ampthill where Bedfordshire hosted Berkshire.
Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Berkshire all finished level on ten points but Oxfordshire won Group Four by virtue of their superior net run rate which was just 0.02 ahead of Bedfordshire’s and 0.22 better than Berkshire’s.
Although Oxfordshire started the day as group leaders their hopes of progressing to Finals Day receded when Berkshire beat Bedfordshire by Having started the day as leaders of Group Four, Oxfordshire were displaced by Berkshire after they beat Bedfordshire by 24 runs in the opener at Ampthill.
Bedfordshire were favourites to win the group when they piled up 193 for nine in the second match and then reduced Berkshire to 137 for nine with their trio of spinners, James Cronie, Tom Brett and Kashif Ali returning combined figures of 9.2-0-57-7.
But the last wicket pair of Luke Beaven and Mungo Russell took 16 from the penultimate over bowled by former Warwickshire and Sussex seamer Aaron Thomason which meant Bedfordshire could not better Oxfordshire’s net run rate.
Nor could Berkshire score enough runs to take them past Oxfordshire so, after all the drama, all they and Bedfordshire had done was to knock each other out.
Bedfordshire’s near-miss was particularly hard on Ali who impressed with bat and ball scoring 123 runs in the day and taking four wickets.
Dorset were the first side to qualify for Finals Day after they beat Cornwall in the opening match at Wadebridge.
Cornwall needed to win both matches to take Group Two, instead they were beaten twice with their former batter Sam Young in outstanding form for Dorset.
Young, who was released by Somerset at the end of last season, made 74 to set up an 18 runs win in the first match and then plundered 103 not out from 60 balls in the second.
Young shared a third wicket partnership of 134 with Harry Broderick (58) and Dorset eased to a 47 runs win.
In the other Group Two match Cornwood seamer Matt Skeemer became the first Devon bowler to take four wickets in four balls in any format, but he still finished on the losing side as Herefordshire completed a double at North Devon CC.
Skeemer’s four wickets came in the last over of Herefordshire’s innings but by then they had built a commanding total thanks to Matt Pardoe’s half century. Devon were unable to capitalise on Skeemer’s haul and were beaten by 40 runs which followed an eight wickets defeat in the opener.
Cheshire wrapped up Group One with a double over Northumberland at the South Northumberland club in Newcastle, although they were given a scare by their hosts in the second match.
Opener Alasdair Appleby struck 102 not out from 62 balls to take Northumberland to 184 for one in the opener but Cheshire chased it down with eight balls and eight wickets to spare thanks to the second half centuries of the day from Rob Sehmi and Sam Perry.
In the first match the pair shared an unbroken opening stand of 102 to set up a ten wickets win and they followed up with a partnership of 81 which laid the foundations for victory in the second.
Cheshire’s double meant disappointment for Staffordshire who also beat Cumbria twice at Carlisle. An unbeaten half century from former Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire batsman Riki Wessels saw Staffordshire to a ten wickets win in the first match.
Former Warwickshire seamer Grant Thornton was the unlikely hero in the second as he made 40 not out to sneak a two wickets win with a ball to spare. Staffordshire appeared to be heading to defeat when they slumped to 68 for eight but Thornton and Jack Redman added 56 for the ninth wicket to complete an unlikely victory.
Cambridgeshire ended Hertfordshire’s reign as T20 champions by edging them out on net run rate to win Group Three.
Hertfordshire led the group after they beat Cambridgeshire by four wickets in the first match at Welwyn Garden City where former Essex batsman Kishen Velani saw them home with a half century on his first appearance of the season.
But Cambridgeshire turned the tables in the second match with James Sykes, the former Leicestershire slow left-armer taking four wickets in a seven runs win.
Ben Seabrook’s half century proved important for Cambridgeshire and although captain Reece Hussain responded in kind, Hertfordshire’s net run rate over eight matches was 0.49 inferior to Cambridgeshire’s.
Lincolnshire missed an opportunity to join Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire on ten points after they were beaten by six wickets byNorfolk in the first match of the day at Manor Park.
Tom New, the former Leicestershire batter/wicketkeeper, made an unbeaten half century before Lincolnshire ended their campaign with a 52 runs win in the second match.
Slow left-armer Ryan Findlay took four wickets but his haul proved in vain as Norfolk were restricted to 98 for seven in reply.
Wales NC ended their T20 campaign with a double over Buckinghamshire at High Wycombe in Group Four.
A half century from Morgan Bevans and three wickets on debut from St Asaph seamer Jason Foulkes set up a 20 runs win in the opener.
Tom Bevan (78) and former Glamorgan batsman Connor Brown (72) then shared an opening partnership of 143 in the second match which took Wales to 191 for four.
But Buckinghamshire ran them close, losing only three wickets in coming three runs short with half centuries from Elliot Callis and Conrad Louth.
National Counties T20
Carlisle: Cumbria 107-7; Staffordshire 108-0 (Riki Wessels 65 not out). Staffordshire won by ten wickets. Cumbria 120-6 (Peter Wilshaw 3-7), Staffordshire 124-8 (Grant Thornton 40 not out). Staffordshire won by two wickets.
South Northumberland CC: Northumberland 139-5 (John Oswell 53), Cheshire 142-0 (Rob Sehmi 86 not out, Sam Perry 51 not out). Cheshire won by ten wickets. Northumberland 184-1 (Alasdair Appleby 102 not out, John Oswell 45), Cheshire 189-2 (Sam Perry 63 not out, Rob Sehmi 53). Cheshire won by eight wickets.
Wadebridge: Dorset 188-4 (Sam Young 74), Cornwall 170-8 (Lewis Goldsworthy 48). Dorset won by 18 runs. Dorset 199-3 (Sam Young 103 not out, Harry Broderick 58), Cornwall 152-8 (Christian Purchase 45, Simon Woodruff 3-45). Dorset won by 47 runs.
North Devon CC: Devon 140-6 (James Horler 49), Herefordshire 143-2 (Phil Harris 63 not out). Herefordshire won by eight wickets.Herefordshire 171-8 (Matt Pardoe 61, Matt Skeemer 4-39), Devon 131-9 (Sam Read 41, James Rudge 3-22). Herefordshire won by 40 runs.
Welwyn Garden City: Cambridgeshire 163-6 (Ben Seabrook 48, Lee Thomason 41 not out), Hertfordshire 164-6 (Kishen Velani 56 not out). Hertfordshire won by four wickets. Cambridgeshire 166-6 (Ben Seabrook 69), Hertfordshire 156-9 (Reece Hussain 55, James Sykes 4-31). Cambridgeshire won by seven runs.
Manor Park: Lincolnshire 146-6 (Joe Kendall 70, Brett Stolworthy 3-20), Norfolk 147-4 (Tom New 62 not out). Norfolk won by six wickets. Lincolnshire 150-7 (Ryan Findlay 4-16, Cameron Gravelling 3-30), Norfolk 98-7. Lincolnshire won by 52 runs.
Ampthill: Berkshire 163 (Toby Albert 44, Euan Woods 43, Kashif Ali 3-19), Bedfordshire 139-5 (Kashif Ali 58 not out). Berkshire won by 24 runs. Bedfordshire 193-9 (Kashif Ali 65, Eddie Ballard 4-30, Andy Rishton 4-30), Berkshire 162 (James Cronie 4-18). Bedfordshire won by 31 runs.
High Wycombe: Wales NC 161 (Morgan Bevans 62), Buckinghamshire 134-8 (Alexei Kervezee 40, Jason Foulkes 3-18). Wales NC won by 20 runs. Wales NC 191-4 (Tom Bevan 78, Connor Brown 72), Buckinghamshire 188-3 (Elliot Callis 57, Conrad Louth 57 not out, Ross Richardson 45 not out). Wales NC won by three runs.
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