3 weeks ago
By Dave Wright
9-wicket win over Oxfordshire
Berkshire got their Unicorns Championship campaign up and running with a comprehensive nine-wicket victory over neighbours Oxfordshire.
The defending title holders were left requiring just 91 runs after bowling out the visitors for 179 in their second innings and they reached their target with Waqas Hussain cracking an unbeaten 57.
Andy Rishton was left on 19, having produced his best bowling figures for the county earlier in the day with six wickets.
Three glorious days at Wargrave this week produced two sparkling centuries, one for Oxon skipper Jon Cater, followed by another from opener Hussain.
Cater, who had won the toss, came to the rescue after seeing his side slide from 111-0 to 181-7, his unbeaten 114 off 172 balls taking Oxon to 299-8 in their 90 overs with 118 coming in an unbroken ninth-wicket stand with Joe Thomas (25).
Chris Peploe was the pick of the Berks bowlers, taking 4-114 after a marathon shift of 40 overs, which was certainly stamina-sapping in the boiling conditions.
Berkshire also made a brisk start to their innings with Hussain and Brandon Gilmour piling on 95 in 15 overs before the latter was lbw when one run short of his half-century
The good-sized crowd continued to be entertained by a run fest with Rishton cracking 44, Richard Morris 82, James Morris 30, Joe Thomas 34 not out and Peploe 20.
But the batting honours went to Hussain, who made a superb 105 off 178 balls with the help of 14 boundaries to follow up his century for the second team against Isle of Wight last week.
Berks closed on 388-7 off their 90 overs, a healthy lead of 89.
The champions then strengthened their grip on the game as they took three wickets for 28 runs with all falling to catches by Joe Thomas behind the stumps, two off the bowling of Rishton and one from Hussain.
Oxon suffered two more dismissals before wiping out their deficit with paceman Rishton and left-arm spinner Peploe causing the damage.
Like in the first innings, Cater offered stiff resistance, making 67 off 180 balls after occupying the crease for 237 minutes.
But once he was bowled by Rishton, the tailenders offered little resistance and their 10th wicket fell at 179.
Rishton finished with 6-48 off 23.1 overs, his best-ever figures for Berkshire, and Peploe 3-44 off 35, with Hussain taking the other wicket for two runs.
Berkshire had only 15 runs on the board when Gilmour (11) was trapped lbw by Gareth Andrew, the former Somerset, Worcestershire and Hampshire player.
But that was the only wicket to fall as the champions cruised home in 15.4 overs with Hussain remaining unbeaten on 57 off 49 balls with three maximums and eight boundaries and Rishton 19 from 34 deliveries. Hussain hammered three balls out of the ground as he finished off the game in great style.
Considering they were missing a number of players, this was an excellent performance and shows the strength in depth that exists in the Berkshire squad.
Their next championship fixture is away to Wiltshire at Corsham on July 8-10.
Updated 18:53 - 26 Jun 2018 by Dave Wright