Cricket correspondent Trevor Jordan explains how Berkswell miraculously turned the outcome of a rain affected game from almost certain draw to last gasp victory with a flurry of wickets in front of exuberant home supporters with only balls to spare:
Birmingham Premier League Division 1
Berkswell 276/6 dec v Coventry & North Warwicks 130 all out
A superb spell of spin bowling by Babar Khan kept Berkswell at the top of the of a closely fought league in what eventually turned out to be outstanding 146 run demolition of near neighbours Coventry & North Warwicks in a rain interrupted game. In a victory that was much tougher to acquire than the scoreline suggests due to rain, an enthusiastic Meeting House Lane crowd cheered Berkswell to an improbable victory as Babar Khan took a stream of increasingly frequent wickets, including a last-gasp hat-trick to claim victory with just eight balls of the game remaining.
Invited to bat first Berkswell had made steady progress through openers James and Phil Neale when rain forced the players back to the pavilion for a fifty minute break. Upon resumption of play, James Neale (14) was the first wicket to fall when he was caught at slip by Luke Reeves off the bowling of Harry Horsley – the scoreboard reading 43. Ben Williams joined Phil Neale in the middle and the pair began to pick up runs with Williams getting into his stride with a series of well timed cover drives for four. However, in the 28th over with the score on 108 Phil Neale (65) offered a catch to Marco Higgins to give Humais Butt his first wicket. Mohammed Akhlaq (3) was unfortunate to play on and be bowled by Butt sixteen runs later but the demise of Akhlaq brought skipper Dominic Ostler to the crease and he, with Williams, accelerated the scoring rate with 58 runs coming from the next ten overs before Williams (62) was caught by Harry Horsley giving Cov & N W skipper Mark Lilley a wicket. Jonathan Coleman replaced Williams and gave support to Ostler whilst the former Warwickshire star proceeded to plunder the visitor’s attack. Having added another forty runs in only 5 overs Coleman (8) became the fifth wicket to fall when he was caught and bowled by Horsley. Chris Cheslin then played second fiddle to Ostler as the skipper continued to take the bowling apart with well timed pull shots for four and powerful straight lofted drives for six. Having reached 89, however, Ostler was caught on the long-on boundary by Aaron Lewis and immediately declared with the homeside on 276 for 6 at the end of the 51st over.
The earlier rain delay reduced to 45 the number of overs the visitors could receive and openers Stefan Piolet and Aaron Lewis made slow progress against the bowling of Dave Brignull and Chris Cheslin. The breakthrough for Berkswell came in the 12th over when Lewis (11) was trapped LBW by Cheslin. Piolet and Matt Pickering consolidated the innings and the pair had added another fifty four runs in 14 overs when Pickering (28) was stumped by Phil Neale off Babar Khan who had replaced Brignull. The third wicket came soon after when Piolet (41) was caught at mid-wicket by Ostler to give Cheslin his second wicket with 29 overs gone. The wicket of Piolet was quickly followed by the demise of Reeves (15) – bowled by Babar Khan, and then Mike Pickering (0) was adjudged LBW first ball to give Khan two wickets in two balls, both wickets falling at 98. Harry Horsley survived the hat-trick ball but half of the Coventry side had now been dismissed within 30 overs. With the score on 118 Horsley (16) was given out LBW off Babar Khan and then seven runs later Mike Cook (4) was stumped by Phil Neale. With the scoreboard now reading 130 for 7,and only twelve balls left in the innings an amazing display by Babar Khan saw the spinner have a single taken off the first ball of the penultimate over, but then he trapped Ken Watkins (4) LBW, Humais Butt (0) LBW first ball and he then bowled Mark Lilley (0) also first ball to take three wickets in three balls and clinch victory for Berkswell with an outstanding hat-trick. Khan finished with figures of 13.4 overs 4 maidens 7 for 23.
A beaming Dominic Ostler commented: “What a great result for us and what a tremendous way to wrap up a game. Having amassed such a big total when we batted I was a bit worried Cov would be content to bat out their overs for a draw. Again our bowling regularly picked up wickets but with only two overs to go I was certain we’d end up with only getting them seven down, however, Babar showed what can happen when the will to win runs through a side. His performance was the icing on the cake for another fantastic team effort.”
DIVISION 1 TABLE (TOP FOUR)
BERKSWELL – 269 pts
KENILWORTH WARDENS – 261
BROCKHAMPTON – 249
OLD HILL – 247