Berkswell made the trip to Broomfield and were confronted with the usual Smethwick conditions - overcast threatening skies, and an unpredictable wicket.
Deciding to bat first having won the toss, Berkswell lost Ateeq Javid to the first ball of the innings when he was caught at point; and then Danial Chaudhry (13), LBW, in the 7th over with the score on 37, both batsman falling to deliveries from Sajid Ahmedazai. A thirty minute break for rain then interrupted the flow of the innings, and upon resumption of play, Chris Whittock and Nick James added another 19 runs until Whittock (33) was bowled by a ball from Arfan Khan that kept surprisingly low, the batsman playing the ball on to his stumps. Khan then claimed a second wicket when, in the 13th over, James (20) was also bowled, but this time the rising ball just clipped the bails. With the conditions making things difficult for the batsmen, Tom Lewis and Mohammed Ahmed dug deep to halt the loss of wickets, and over the next 16 overs they worked hard to put runs on the scorebard, waiting patiently for any loose balls to put away. Having moved the score on to 108, Ahmed (17) was dismissed and in the 30th over Richard Jones joined Lewis. Run scoring was still proving to be a challenge especially as left arm spinners Gurinder Singh and Sukhjit Singh were extracting considerable turn and bounce from the wicket. However, the cautious approach taken by the two batsmen started to pay dividends and the partnership added another 80 runs, with Lewis also reaching his half century off 99 balls. When Jones (29) was caught in the 50th over, and with only 5 overs left in the innings, the need to up the scoring rate was required if the visitors were set a reasonable total. Tom Milnes (1) was stumped at 193, but Lewis and Grant Thornton managed to find the boundary with powerful strokes and increased the score to 210. In the 54th over Thornton (14) was caught, but Awais Mohammed (4 not out) and Lewis (79 not out) were able to add another 12 runs off the final seven balls of the innings. For Smethwick, Gurinder Singh was the pick of the bowlers returning 4 for 53 from his 17 overs.
The interruption for rain during the Berkswell innings reduced the number of overs available to Smethwick to 46, and this probably paid a large part in the final outcome of the match. In the first over of the Smethwick reply, Tom Milnes claimed the wicket of opener Omar Masood (0) caught behind by Whittock. Amrinder Brar and Hamza Ahmed added runs to the scoreboard - Brar being particularly aggressive against the pace bowling of Jones, although the bowler was finding it hard to keep his footing in the damp conditions. However, the 21 run partnership was broken when Brar (17) was also caught behind to give Milnes another wicket. The introduction of Thornton into the attack, replacing Jones, had an immediate effect with him having Rawait Khan (1) caught behind with the score on 23. At 24, Milnes picked up his third wicket that of Sunjay Sharma (0) being caught at slip by Dominic Ostler. With the hosts now at 24 for 4 in only the 13th over, and all but one of the top order batsmen all removed, it appeared that Berkswell were on track to record a maximum points victory. This looked even more likely when, off his first ball, James had Faisal Shahid (16) caught at long off by Awais Mohammed to leave the hosts on 49 for 5 with 25 overs still left in the innings. Having progressed the score to 62, Hamza Ahmed (19) was bowled by James, and at 66, Sukhjit Singh (2) was caught by Mohammed Ahmed to give James a third wicket from his first four overs. An eighth wicket partnership of 51 between Gurinder Singh and Ahmedazai then held the Berkswell bowlers at bay for the next 15 overs and considerably lessened the chance of a visitor’s victory. However, the hopes of a win were rekindled with the reintroduction of Milnes into the attack with the bowler having Singh (43) caught in the gully by James in the 43rd over, and then in the last over Thornton had Yadvinder Singh (4) caught behind to give Whittock a fourth catch. With just three balls balls remaining. and the final wicket still to fall, last man Khan made his way to the wicket. Somehow, he just managed to keep out the first ball he received and then survived the last two balls to deny Berkswell the win they richly deserved and which, had the weather not reduced the Smethwick innings by 9 overs, they, almost certainly, would have achieved. Tom Milnes returned figures of 4 for 20 from 12 overs; Nick James 3 for 23 from 11; and Grant Thornton 2 for 38 from 10. Despite only coming away with a winning draw, the 17 points gained means the lead at the top of the table is still an impressive 39 points.
On Saturday, Berkswell play host to Barnt Green, and the match starts at noon.