By Vithushan Ehantharajah
A former England spinner has been the mainstay of Berkshire’s bowling attack this summer, but it was a partnership between two club batsmen that secured a six-wicket victory over Hertfordshire in this year’s minor counties knockout final at Lord’s.
In a match reduced by rain to 36 overs per side it was no surprise when Berkshire captain Bjorn Mordt put Hertfordshire in to bat upon winning the toss. In bowler-friendly conditions, Berkshire – making their third appearance at Lord’s in seven years – started solidly as their opponents stumbled to 30 for 2 in the opening five overs.
Despite several Hertfordshire batsmen getting starts, the combination of Steve Naylor’s medium pace, Chris Peploe’s left-arm spin and former England spinner Shaun Udal’s experience halted any charge. Peploe was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 3 for 38 as Hertfordshire ended on a respectable 194 for 9.
In reply, Berkshire and Henley CC’s openers Michael Roberts and David Barnes got off to a steady start, helped by improving conditions and some wayward bowling from Will Rudge. Although temporarily pegged back by Nick Walker and Nick Lamb, Roberts and Barnes were soon at their fluent best, picking up where they left off in the semi-finals, where they put on 195 for the first wicket.
Barnes fell for 50 off 61 balls (after a stand of 135) and despite a mini-collapse of three wickets for five runs during the batting powerplay, captain Mordt strode to the crease to finish the job. Man-of-the-match Roberts finished unbeaten on 97.
While Berkshire’s path to the final was assured – they won their group and made light work of Wales in the quarter finals and Cumberland in the semis – Hertfordshire’s route was not as clear. Having only qualified for the knockout stages on run-rate, they scraped a nine-run victory against a fancied Devon side in the quarter-final. However, a seven-wicket win in the semi-final against Cambridgeshire offered a boost in confidence going into their first MCCA final in 20 years.
For Berkshire, victory goes some way to avenging defeat to Devon three years ago. “We knew if we played good cricket then we’d win this game,” said Mordt at the end of the match, trophy in hand. “The partnership between Roberts and Barnesy was superb – we said that one partnership would win this – but our fielding was first rate. The boys were totally pumped; some of these guys have never played at Lord’s before and you don’t need much more motivation than that.”
As for Roberts, he was able to see the bigger picture despite ending three short of a Lord’s century. “It’s all about the win really. If someone had said I’d get 97 today then I would have taken their hand off. That being said, I’m not sure how I’ll feel this time next week, or even tomorrow. But I know I’ll feel a lot better knowing we won.”
Minor Counties Trophy final 2011. August 25, Lord’s
Berkshire won the toss
Hertfordshire 194-9 (Chris Peploe 3-38)
Berkshire 196-4 (Michael Roberts 97*, David Barnes 52)
Berkshire beat Hertfordshire by six wickets