CHAMPIONS Berkswell are two games away from completing an unbeaten season in Birmingham & District Premier Division One, after beating Walsall by 20 runs.
Setting a target of 164 after being bowled out in the 43rd over, the Swell were below their best but still managed to recover to see off the visitors and earn their 14th win of the campaign.
Ateeq Javid (1) was run out from the first ball of the match, foreshadowing the struggles the champions were to experience throughout the encounter.
Daniel Mousley (19), Danial Chaudhry (1) and Tom Lewis (1) all struggled to get the hosts going and were dismissed cheaply, until number three Chris Whittock (54) took control of the innings alongside Nick James (32).
The fifth-wicket pairing hit 70 between them, though the middle-to-late order that resumed batting duties were unable to match the duo’s efforts as Berkswell floundered to 163.
Walsall equally struggled to begin with in reply, with James Middleton (16) and Billy-J Cox (3) caught from Thomas Milnes (1-26) and Richard Jones (2-34) deliveries respectively.
Grant Thornton (3-26) snuffed out the promising partnership that was building between Shoaib Akhtar (56) and Dannyjo Cox (19) after dismissing the latter at 62-3, prompting a middle-order collapse.
Javid (2-28) and Thornton took full advantage with a couple of wickets each as Walsall crumbled to an 89-7 score, prior to a revivial led by Akhtar and tailender Luke Stynes (19).
The pair hit 45 between them, but were both out in the space of two balls, which allowed James (2-5) to finish off the game and trap James Rogers (1) lbw for victory.
Berkswell host fifth-placed Knowle & Dorridge on Saturday (noon) in their penultimate fixture of the season.