BERKSWELL surged to the top of the Birmingham League Premier Division with a superb 214-run victory over hosts Himley on Saturday.
Having won the toss, Berkswell skipper Dominic Ostler had no hesitation in electing to bat on a track made for run scoring and so it proved as openers James Neale and Mark Best took full advantage and plundered the lacklustre Himley bowling attack.
With the scoreboard showing 192, the visitors lost their first wicket when Neale (92) offered a return catch to bowler Jamie Harris. The bowler held on to the ball and in so doing brought to an end an innings that was deserving of a century for the batsman.
The departure of Neale saw Nick James take up residence in the middle but, having waited with pads on for over 30 overs, his stay at the crease was shortlived as he drove a ball to Nathan Round in the covers who held the catch – James failing to score.
Tom Lewis (5) only lasted eight balls before he too lost his wicket so, from their strong initial position, Berkswell had lost three wickets for the addition of only 7 runs.
Thomas Milnes (18) eased the situation and added a brisk run a ball innings before losing his wicket when caught by Sergio Fedee. The next wicket fell at 244 when Best (111) was stumped by Jack Whittaker to end an innings full of style, composure and aggression – his second century in a week.
Ostler and Tanveer Ahmed put on a quick 20 runs before Ostler (19) lost his wicket and then Ahmed (21) followed 11 runs later.
Phil Neale (6no) and Chris Cheslin (17no) kept the run scoring going and enabled Berkswell to close their innings at the end of the 55th over on a magnificent 299-7. The pick of the Himley bowlers were Greg Wright (4-54) and Jamie Harris (3-64).
The Himley reply started positively with Jamie Harris and Worcestershire’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore putting on 43 for the first wicket but the partnership was broken when Kohler-Cadmore (17) was caught behind by keeper Phil Neale off the pace bowling of Pakistan international Tanveer Ahmed.
Four runs later Harris (25) was also making his way back to the pavilion when Neale held another catch behind, this time off the bowling of seamer Cheslin.
The loss of Harris signalled the start of an astonishing batting collapse by the home side as the next eight wickets fell for the addition of only 38 runs, with Cheslin demolishing the batting line-up with an outstanding display of bowling to blast Himley out within 27 overs.
Taking seven consecutive wickets he finished with figures of 7-27 off nine overs. James picked up 2-10 and Ahmed 1-32. Phil Neale was kept busy behind the stumps and recorded four catches to assist in the demolition of a shell-shocked Himley side.
An ecstatic Ostler commenting on his side’s performance said: “I sensed the side was up for this game and so it proved. Our openers, James Neale and Mark Best, batted brilliantly and set the foundation for the rest of us to bat with freedom.
“When we bowled Himley just couldn’t cope with the onslaught from Chris Cheslin and he just blitzed them. This was another magnificent team display and certainly one that sets us up nicely for the top of the table clash against West Bromwich Dartmouth on Saturday.
“I’m delighted with the way the whole team performed and everyone can, once again, be justifiably proud of their contribution.”
On Saturday Berkswell, who picked up 24 points, host joint leaders West Bromwich Dartmouth at Meeting House Lane in a fixture that may well have a strong bearing on the destination of the title. The match starts at noon.