This was a match that will live long in the memory of everyone that was at the Lant to witness it. Aggressive and accurate fast bowling, resolute batting, and excellent fielding, from both sides, made it a marvellous spectacle to watch and, without doubt, a worthy contest between the two top sides in the league.
Invited to bat first after another uncontested toss, Berkswell, devoid of Ateeq Javid and Dan Mousley due to county commitments, found run scoring difficult against the Shrewsbury opening attack of Mike Barnard and George Garrett. Openers Mohammed Ahmed and Danial Chaudhry struggled to get the ball past the visitor’s fielders and the first three overs were all maidens. In the fourth over Chaudhry (6) managed to put runs on the scoreboard but was then hastily given out LBW to a ball from Garrett that appeared to be heading down the leg side. Chris Whittock also found it hard to put runs quickly on the board, but in partnership with Ahmed was able to see off the threat of Warwickshire paceman Garrett and they moved the score on to 31. However, a change of bowling saw Sam Ellis take over from Garrett and his change of pace was the undoing of Whittock (10). The batsman’s attempted pull shot to a short ball was played too early and he edged a catch through to wicketkeeper Matthew Swift. Youngster Awais Mohammed replaced Whittock and he also found it hard to break through the tight Shrewsbury fielding cordon. Over the course of the next six overs the two Mohammed brothers added another 20 runs with 18 of those being scored by Ahmed, but with the score now on 51 Awais (2) was caught and bowled by Ellis. Nick James (0) was dismissed from the first ball he received when he was bowled by Barnard and this wicket left Berkswell on 52 for 4 at the end of the 23rd over. Off the first ball of the 24th over Ahmed (33) was caught behind, and then when Tom Milnes (0) was caught at slip by Asharn Hodge the hosts had slumped to 55 for 6 in the 26th over. For Berkswell to salvage any hopes of setting a competitive total to bowl at, it was now imperative that wickets remained intact whilst runs were scored. Tom Lewis (7) and Richard Jones compiled a 20 run partnership in five overs, and then at 75 for 7 skipper Dominic Ostler joined Jones. The arrival of Ostler at the crease signalled the acceleration in run scoring that was necessary and as Ostler kept the scoreboard ticking over with ones and twos, Jones went big hitting a series of fours and sixes. As the runs began to accumulate the tension in the Berkswell camp eased and the pressure was now being felt by the Shrewsbury bowlers and fielders. An attempted reverse sweep ended Ostler’s 23 run innings when he was adjudged LBW with the score now at 144. Grant Thornton kept the scoring going adding another 38 runs with Jones, but the loss of Thornton (15) in the 52nd over brought in last man David Brignull. Unfortunately, he was unable to give the strike back to Jones and fell victim to another strange LBW decision off the last ball of the 52nd over. Jones, meanwhile, remained undefeated on 73 (from 79 balls) whilst, for Shrewsbury, Ellis claimed 6 for 29 off 9 overs.
With only a total of 182 to defend and 58 overs available to the visitors, it was essential the home side made early inroads into the Shrewsbury batting line up and this they did with Milnes bowling Will Parton (6) in the 7th over with the score on 24. Rob Foster and Rhodri Evans started the scoreboard ticking over with regularity and had moved the score on to 56 when Evans (13) edged behind to Whittock off Thornton. Llyr Thomas (1) was bowled at 57 by Jones, and at 71 Foster (30) was trapped LBW by Thornton. At this stage in the contest the visitor’s innings started to resemble Berkswell’s and run scoring became harder as the need to conserve wickets came into the game. Hodge and Swift held the innings together for ten overs adding 19 runs in the process, but Swift (12) gave a catch to Whittock off the bowling of Brignull and at 90 for 5 the tension started to increase. Hodge and Peter Clarke added another 14 runs, but in the 40th over Clarke (8) pulled a Brignull delivery into the hands of Thornton who ran in from fine leg to take the catch. At 104 for 6 and with eighteen overs left to bat the odds of victory were still with Shrewsbury, however, Hodge’s stay at the crease was interminably slow and when his wicket fell at 129 in the 49th over, Ostler taking the catch at slip off Milnes, his 28 runs had taken 97 balls to achieve. Ellis and Tyler Ibbotson kept Shrewsbury in the game and inched them towards the win with a 26 run partnership until, in the 53rd over, Ibbotson (12) fell victim to another LBW decision to give a wicket to left arm spinner James. Only another 6 runs were added to the total before Ellis (22) lofted a ball from Jones and was caught by Thornton this time fielding at mid-on. Even at 161 for 9, with four overs left, and with Garrett and Barnard, both capable of scoring runs, at the crease, the result of the match was still in the balance, and the tension increased even further when a run-out decision could not be given because the umpire was not in a position to definitely confirm if the batsman had or had not made his ground. At the start of the 57th over 13 runs were needed for a Shrewsbury win, and it appeared that the game was over when Garrett hit a ball from James straight to the fielder at deep long-off who made the catch only for him to drop the ball in the action of celebrating, and the umpire deemed the catch not to have been completed successfully. However, the fielder’s blushes were spared when, in the last over, with 11 runs needed, Barnard (7) lofted the second ball from Jones to deep long-on where Thornton made sure of taking the catch cleanly before celebrating his achievement and an amazing Berkswell victory whilst also bringing to an end an astonishing match. Jones completed an outstanding personal achievement in the match by finishing with bowling figures of 3 for 43 from 15.2 overs to go with his 73 not out with the bat.
The victory brought Berkswell another 24 points and means they now head the league table by 46 points.