Cricket: Bank Holiday triumphs blow promotion challenge wide open for Berkswell

Dominic Ostler’s brilliant Berkswell bagged maximum points from their Bank Holiday fixtures including a demolition job on 2nd placed Old Elizabethans on Monday to put the Meeting House Lane side right back in the promotion race, just two points adrift of 2nd place with two games remaining.

Saturday – Aston Manor (103 all out) lost to Berkswell (254 for 5)

Berkswell faced Aston Manor on Saturday and having been asked to bat first a damp green wicket, openers James Neale and Dave Brignull made cautious progress. Brignull (16) was first to fall with the score on 25 in the ninth over. Mohammed Akhlaq joined Neale and in the space of 11 overs moved the score to to 66 when Akhlaq (11) was trapped lbw by Khan.  The loss of Akhlaq brought England Under 18 star and Warwickshire 2nd’s opening bowler Tom Milnes to the middle. Together the new partners worked hard, with judicious shot selection over the next ten overs to consolidate the innings. With the score on 94 as the 30th over got under way the pair upped the tempo with a successful assault on on the Aston attack. Neale was the first of the pair to depart, having helped progress the score to 152 in the 41st over. Two overs and a scintillating 18 runs later, Milnes departed for 51 bowled by Van Niekerk.

Further solid partnerships, first between Wes Hartslief (16) and Dominic Ostler, then Ostler and Babar Khan (16 not out) maintained the momentum with Ostler’s fifty coming from only 25 balls. Ostler (56 not out) opted for an early declaration in the 50th over having amassed 254 for the loss of five wickets.

In reply the Manor were soon in trouble with Brignull claiming the wicket of opener Furnell (4) in the second over.  The home side never came to terms with the Berkswell attack and by the 14th over
Aston Manor had crumbled to 34 for 5 with Brignull picking up three wickets and Hartslief two.   A fifty five run partnership between Van Niekerk and Peter Evans in 10 overs momentarily restored
some order to the Manor’s batting, but when Evans (34) was run out with the score on 99 the resistance ended and the innings folded with the final four wickets falling in the space of 5 overs for the addition of only 4 runs.   For Berkswell Brignull picked up 3 for 28;  Hartslief 2 for 17; Babar Khan 2 for 21 and Sultan Khan 2 for 9.

Monday – Berkswell 172 all out beat Old Elizabethans 73 all out

On Monday Berkswell found themselves embroiled in a tempestuous encounter with 2nd placed Worcestershire side Old Elizabethans at Meeting House Lane. In a game notable for questionable umpiring which visibly undermined the confidence of both sets of players, along with aggressive, combative and extremely competitive behaviour from players, a game which was fascinating and hard fought for long periods ultimately ended in a comprehensive 99 run Berkswell victory, one which reduced their league deficit to a miserly 2 points.

Hartslief - claimed 3 wickets for 10 runs

Winning the toss Berkswell skipper Dominic Ostler bravely chose to bat first in a brave attempt to maximise points on a track he knew would be a difficult one on which to bat first. Brothers James and Phil Neale slowly picked up runs on a track that clearly favoured the bowlers, but the didn’t appear fazed by conditions, until Phil (4) edged the ball and was caught behind with the score on 19.  James Neale (15) looked in comfortable and was batting confidently until a misjudgment between the new batting pair saw him run out by a direct throw going for a quick single to backward point.  This put the home side on 26 for two in the 9th over.

Akhlaq and Milnes aimed to steady the innings with a degree of success as they added 21 runs in 10 overs but Akhlaq (14) then gave a catch to Macey at cover.  Hartslief (8) was run out in the next over to leave the homeside in a precarious looking position at 55 for 4, but a controlled display of batting between Ostler and Milnes steadied the innings.  Milnes (26) lost his wicket when caught at slip by Macey off Charlie Griffiths with the score on 94, and when Jon Coleman (0) was mysteriously given out caught, the sixth wicket had fallen with only 102 on the scoreboard.  The loss of Zaman (7) on 110 really brought pressure on the homeside to a head. Ostler and Babar Khan responded by knuckling down and grafting for 14 overs whilst slowly patiently putting on runs and mostly waiting for bad balls to gradually put some pressure back on to the Old Elizabethan bowling.

When Khan (18) eventually fell the duo had moved the score on to 158 and put the village side within 10 overs of batting out their allocation.   The loss of Ostler (53) in the 48th over with the score on 162 brought the innings to a virtual close but the last two batsmen, Brignull (8) and Sultan Khan (5 no), added a valuable 10 runs before Brignull was caught at deep square leg by Sprague in the 51st over..

The Old Elizabethan’s reply started disastrously as Hartslief trapped Boyle (0) lbw with the fourth ball of the first over and by the end of the 12th over the visitors had only reached 20. A change of bowling saw Milnes brought into the attack and, in an amazing spell of fast bowling paired with Brignull, changed the course of the game in the space of 8 overs.   In forty one balls lost three wickets without adding a single run, leaving them on 29 for 4 and effectively out of the contest with all their leading batsmen gone.  The loss of three more wickets at 42, 48 and 57 left Old Elizabethan’s reeling at seven down by the 24th over and this soon became nine down for 67 in the 29th.   The end came soon after and the innings folded at 73 with Hartslief returning 3 for 10; Brignull 1 for 23; Milnes 2 for 10; Babar Khan 1 for 23, and Sultan Khan 3 for 7.

A pleased Dominic Ostler said; “This has been a fantastic weekend for us.  We knew what we had to do to put pressure on the two teams above us and our performances this weekend have moved us closer. I’m delighted by the way the team responded to the call for 100 percent commitment to the task, and with two games to go we’ve given ourselves a great chance of gaining one of the promotion places.”

Berkswell’s final two games see them travel to Ombersley tomorrow (Saturday 4th September) and Berkswell play host to Water Orton on the last and potentially promotion deciding day of the season at Meeting House Lane on Saturday 11th September. Both games commence at midday.