Berkswell Cricket Club stole promotion from their nearest league rivals Old Elizabethans on the final day of their Birmingham League Division 2 season at Meeting House Lane yesterday (11th September) to confirm 2010 as the most successful in the club’s 114 year history. Berkswell’s emphatic 156 run home win against 5th placed Water Orton was enough to leapfrog them into 2nd place above Worcester rivals Old Elizabethans who were surprisingly held to a frustrating and costly draw over at Telford’s against bottom side St Georges.
Knowing that victory was almost certainly the only hope of winning a final day promotion spot, Berkswell found themselves in early trouble when they were put in to bat on a slow pitch, with James Neale caught behind for 4 in only the 3rd over. But new batsman Mohammed Akhlaq and young Warwickshire Academy player Phil Neale knuckled down against some increasingly wayward opening bowling. Neale’s soon began to look particularly authoritative, as he began placing the ball with immaculate timing through the off-side and mid-wicket, whilst being particularly severe on a number of short deliveries with a flurry of powerful pull shots behind square leg. His assuredness and domination were soon confirmed as he brought up his fifty in only fifty three balls.
For Water Orton, seasoned campaigner Lesroy Irish (3-36) sent the jitters through the Berkswell middle-order as he reduced them from an imposing looking 112 for 1, to 132 for four by snaring Akhlaq (29), Hartslief (4) and England Under 18 star Tom Milnes (7) in the space of 5 overs. Skipper Dominic Ostler then joined Neale and quickly reasserted Berkswell’s authority on proceedings with an increasingly combative display, by the time Ostler reached his fifty from only 37 balls he was already well on his way into an astonishing and blisteringly spectacular assault. Clearly batting with only one thing on his mind, an early declaration, Ostler (101 not out) chased down partner Phil Neale (104 not out) to complete his century only moments behind Neale, with Ostler’s second fifty of absolute carnage coming from only 16 balls. Ostler’s century, which he completed with a six of blistering power over mid-wicket, enabled to him to declare unbeaten with the score on 265 for four, having belted 8 fours and eight sixes from only 53 balls.
In reply the visitors came up against a side fired up for victory and in a devastating piece of fast bowling from Warwickshire’s Tom Milnes, and South African Wes Hartslief, they were reduced to 19 for 6 in only the eighth over. At that stage Milnes and Hartslief had figures of 4-9 and 2 for 7 respectively before Water Orton staged a partial recovery as Dawes (29) and Harris (25) put together a 38 run partnership. But when Brignull claimed the wicket of Dawes to make it 57 for 7, soon followed by a further scalp for Hartslief (3 for 20) the writing seemed to be on the wall, except for lingering doubts and worried faces brought on by approaching rain clouds. All that became academic when Babar Khan (2 for 28) eventually ended tail-end resistance as he spun out the last 2 men to close the innings on 109 in the 37th over, just moments before a heavy shower descended. For Berkswell Milnes finished with 4 for 23, Hartslief 3 for 20, Khan 2 for 28 and Brignull 1 for 25.
With the hard work done on the pitch Berkswell’s players and spectators then endured two hours of tension amidst conflicting reports and uncertainty about events as they transpired in Telford – before finally realising they’d stolen 2nd place from Old Elizabethans, thanks to an heroic battling display from Shropshire side St George’s. This was a cruel fate for Old Elizabethans, who had been in permanent residence in first or second place since the very first game of the season, but which may have had psychological roots in the crushing and timely defeat handed to them by Berkswell the previous weekend.
An elated Dominic Ostler said,
“We have played fantastic cricket since the middle of June and, out of the eleven matches, we have won ten and only lost once, to Champions Evesham. I’m delighted to be back in Division 1 after relegation last year and all the team can be proud of what they’ve achieved this year, especially as it included winning the Birmingham League T20 competition. It was a nervous couple of hours waiting to hear what had happened to our rivals Old Elizabethans, but once we’d heard they’d only drawn the celebrations really began.”
The combined successes of winning promotion, the Birmingham League Twenty 20 competition, alone make this an imperiously successful season for the club, but with various promotions for Saturday and Sunday XI’s, successful junior sides, including a final for the Under 15s at Dorridge next weekend, Club Chairman Patrick Milnes was keen to emphasise the scale of achievement.
“Without doubt everything that’s happened this year confirms what I said at the end of last season, that our relegation last season should not disguise the overall upward curve of this club. I’m pleased to say this has been confirmed by the overwhelming success achieved across the board by so many of our teams, not forgetting our Under 15s, who still have a final to play next weekend. I’m incredibly proud to stand here as Chairman of this cricket club and I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone, from players, to youth coaches, groundsmen, helpers, volunteers and spectators who have all contributed to this amazing success!”
Berkswell are already looking forward to trading blows with new opposition in Division 1 next season, including Walmley and Kenilworth Wardens, both of whom found themselves relegated from the Premier Division this season and feel much better equipped to stay in the Division this time of asking. And skipper Ostler views next season with a healthy degree of optimism,
“We’ve certainly learned from our previous season at this level and can take that experience, along with a greater level of maturity, to be competitive in that Division. Our success against Premier Division and Division 1 opposition in the T20 competition has also given our younger players heaps of confidence. It would probably be fair to say some of those victories, especially the one against Knowle and Dorridge, helped trigger the incredible run of victories that overhauled the huge gap to second place in the second half of the season.”