“We needed that” - was skipper Dominic Ostler’s delighted reaction after his Berkswell side ran out victors in a close-fought home encounter against reigning Birmingham League champions Walsall.
Losing the toss, Berkswell were invited to have first use of a hard, flat track showing a tinge of green to encourage the bowlers, but opener Phil Neale (12) took a shine to the Walsall opening attack hitting three fours in quick succession off Josh Bowker. However, with the scoreboard reading 14 in the seventh over he edged Bowker and was caught behind by James Middleton.
The departure of Phil Neale brought Tom Lewis to the crease to partner James Neale and the pair proceeded to add another 71 runs in 18 overs before Lewis (45) was caught at short extra cover by David Powles off the bowling of Tim Maxfield. The loss of the home side’s third wicket came two runs later at 87 when Neale (26) was bowled by Ben McFarlane. Jack Cornick and Dominic Ostler now had the task of getting the scoreboard ticking over in the face of some tight bowling, but they were only able to add another nine runs in five overs before Cornick (4) was spectacularly caught at cover by Powles diving to his left.
The fifth wicket went down 12 overs later with the scoreboard showing 119 when Ostler (21), who had survived a confident lbw appeal the ball before, was given out caught behind by Middleton off the faintest of edges.
A 26-run partnership in six overs between Mohammed Akhlaq and Jonathan Coleman came to an end when Coleman (13) was also caught by Powles and two runs later in the same over Akhlaq (22) lost his wicket when caught behind by Middleton, Ben McFarlane (5-42) claiming the wickets.
Imran Arif (3) was then bowled by Powles to leave Berkswell on 149 for 8 in the 49th over, but Chris Cheslin (10 not out) and Dave Brignull (17 not out) held the tail together and added a vital thirty runs before the innings closed at the end of the 55th over.
In reply Walsall opened with James Middleton and Tim Maxfield but they were soon in trouble when Middleton (1) was trapped lbw by Arif in the fourth over to give Berkswell an early breakthrough. Seven overs later with the total on 33 and the visitors going well Maxfield edged a ball from Brignull hard to Ostler at slip, and despite juggling the ball, he managed to hold on to the catch at the fourth attempt.
The departure of the two openers galvanised the home side and Berkswell went on to secure a remarkable win.
A relieved but elated Ostler said: “After the disappointments of recent matches we needed a good win to restore our confidence, and to win in the way we did today against the league champions is a great achievement.
“All the team can be proud of their efforts and fighting spirit.”