Berkswell cricketers sink Attock to claim Division One Championship

Trevor Jordan reports on Berkswell’s final Birmingham & District Premier League Division 1 encounter of the season at Meeting House Lane, Balsall Common on Saturday (17th September 2011):

Berkswell celebrate as they join Birmingham League elite

Berkswell Cricket Club made a small piece of history on Saturday as they climbed into the Birmingham & District Premier League’s Premier Division for the first time by claiming the Division One title on Saturday.

And the scale of this achievement should not be understated. The Birmingham League is the oldest cricket league in the world and is held in the highest of esteem across the UK and beyond, attracting quality cricketers from home and abroad. The League – which has attracted a raft of Test cricketers in recent years including stars such as Alan Donald, Wasim Akram, Andy Flower and Shoaib Akhtar – is an elite 4 division structure perched above a pyramid of feeder leagues (Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Staffordshire).

This latest feat marks the culmination of a remarkable rise from relative obscurity in 12 short years, when Berkswell were elected into the Warwickshire League Division 3 (of 7) in 1999 following their decision to leave the Tapster Pennant village cricket league after a period of almost uninterrupted dominance (including 5 consecutive titles). A period of almost continuous improvement followed, with promotion into the Birmingham League Division 3 in 2005. A warning shot of things to come followed in 2010 when Berkswell won the Birmingham League 20 over competition, whilst working successfully towards their promotion from Division 2.

Berkswell 226 for 2 wickets beat Attock 223 all out

A brilliant second wicket partnership of 175 between Phil Neale and Ben Williams ensured Berkswell were promoted as Division 1 champions to the Premier division following their eight wicket win over Attock.

Inviting the Moseley based visitors to bat first, Berkswell’s Chris Cheslin had M Q Khan (0) dramatically caught at square leg by Dominick Marks off the first ball of the match. A second wicket partnership of 44 between Saleem and Mehmood (10) came to an end when the latter was adjudged LBW, to give Cheslin his second wicket. This wicket was quickly followed by the departure of Saleem (24) caught by Jonathan Coleman off the bowling of Ben Williams to leave Attock on 47 for 3 in the 12th over. An 83 run partnership for the fourth wicket between Masood Ahmed (35) and Johangir Khan (44) moved Attock on to 130 before the loss of three wickets in the space of three overs, for only six runs, ripped out the visitor’s middle order – Cheslin and skipper Dominic Ostler doing the damage with the ball.

The seventh and eighth wickets fell for the addition of only 20 runs with Ostler and Babar Khan claiming the wickets but a fight back by the tailenders saw another 67 runs added before the innings ended on 223 all out in the 54th over – Cheslin picking up 4 for 68 and Ostler 4 for 37.

Berkswell were dealt a blow when James Neale (5) was caught behind in the 3rd over with the scoreboard reading 7, but this proved to be the last Attock success for 28 overs, as Phil Neale and Ben Williams set about taking the visitor’s bowling apart with growing authority. Both batsmen were in top form as they plundered the bowling and an impressive succession of fours rapidly advanced the score to 182 when Phil Neale (89) lost his wicket, caught by Zaman off Mehmood. The loss of Neale spurred Williams on to complete an impressive chance free unbeaten century containing 7 fours and 6 sixes – to steer Berkswell to within site of victory before leaving Tom Milnes (13 no) to hit the winning runs for the second week in succession and clinch the champion’s spot.

A jubilant Dominic Ostler said: “It’s been a fantastic season and I’m delighted for all the players who have been involved. Everyone of them has made a significant contribution to the team’s success and they can all be immensely proud of what they have achieved. Next year will be a challenge but I’m sure Berkswell will be a force to be reckoned with.”