PACE-SETTERS Berkswell will head into Saturday’s crunch clash against neighbours Kenilworth Wardens in buoyant mood after extending their lead at the top of the Premier Division of the Birmingham League.
Berkswell’s four-wickets win at West Bromwich Dartmouth means they now have a 40-points advantage over second-placed Wolverhampton and lead third-placed Knowle & Dorridge by 49 points.
Wardens lie fourth ahead of their trip to Meeting House Lane.
Dartmouth elected to bat first last Saturday but were soon in trouble at 22 for two when skipper Kadeer Ali (0) was caught and bowled by Grant Thornton in the second over and Dan Bassett (15) mis-timed a pull from Tom Milnes for Tom Lewis to catch the dropping ball over his shoulder as he ran towards the boundary.
Ruki De Silva and Warwickshire’s Ateeq Javid then put on 39 before De Silva (10) was run out by by Nick James with a direct hit from cover to leave the hosts on 62-3 in the 22nd over.
Javid and Navdeep Poonia compiled a partnership of 53 in 16 overs, but Poonia (30) then drove a ball from young left arm spinner Mohammed Ahmed to Chris Whittock at mid-off.
Whilst Javid continued to bat with ease, his partners found the spin of Ahmed hard to cope with, and in the spinner’s next over he picked up the wickets of former England Test player Kabir Ali (0) bowled, then Rikesh Patel (0) stumped by Liam Gately to leave Dartmouth 116-6.
Ian Stevenson and Javid moved the score on to 148 by the 49th over, but Milnes had Javid (79) caught by Thornton at mid-on, and then trapped Mohammed Jan (0) lbw first ball.
With Stevenson (20) bowled by Ahmed and then Khayam Khan (4) being stumped by Gatel off Ahmed, Dartmouth were 169 all out. Ahmed finished with figures of 5-33 off 10.3 overs, and Milnes 3- 40 off 12 overs.
In reply, Berkswell openers, Oliver Haley and Darren Maddy, made steady progress before Maddy (17) edged a ball from Khan to Bassett at slip to leave the visitors 58-1 in the 15th over.
Continuing his rich vein of form Haley, now partnered by Whittock, kept up with the required run rate and together they added another 35 runs in seven overs until Whittock (11) was caught at short leg by De Silva, and the fielder repeated his actions two balls later to remove Tom Lewis (0) and leave Berkswell on 93 for 3.
With Dartmouth now resorting to the interchanging all spin attack of Javid, Kadeer and Kabir, the Berkswell batsmen, Haley and Milnes, were made to fight hard to keep the scoreboard ticking over. A period of 14 overs saw 41 runs added to the scoreboard before Milnes (17) was bowled by Kadeer.
Having reached 138 Berkswell lost two wickets with Haley (79) and then skipper Dominic Ostler (0) both being bowled by Kadir to leave the visitors still 32 runs short of victory and with only four wickets left. However, new batsman Thornton (18 not out) threw caution to the wind and took on the Dartmouth spinners despatching Kadeer and Javid for big sixes.
In the 45th over, James (12 not out) drove Kabir through the covers for the two runs needed to claim the win that moved Berkswell to a commanding lead at the top of the table.