BERKSHIRE have won the 2016 Unicorns Counties Championship. They lifted the title by defeating Lincolnshire by 28 runs on a tense final day following a thrilling final at Wormsley, writes Dave Wright.
It was an outstanding all-round team performance as they repeated their win over the same opponents in the 2008 final.
Berkshire, who have not lost a championship game for more than two years, overcame early problems to post 332 in their first innings. They were tottering on 70-6 before 17-year-old Euan Woods produced a match-changing performance with an outstanding 142 not out off 176 balls. He and fellow left-hander Chris Peploe (73) put on 146 for the seventh wicket.
Following Peploe's dismissal, Stewart Davison joined his Henley team-mate Woods and they added another 82 to the total before Davison fell for 27.
On their first visit to the crease Lincs batted doggedly but the Berkshire bowlers stuck to their task and bowled out the Eastern Division champions for 284 with Peploe taking 5-101 off 31 overs.
Berks' second innings followed a similar pattern to the first with the main batsmen falling cheaply, but once again the lower order dug their team out of trouble, Davison made 52 and Woods 41 with good support coming from tailenders Matt Carter (23) and Tom Nugent (18no) , taking them to 237 all out and leaving Lincolnshire requiring 286 to win.
They stumbled to 125-7 by close of play on the third day, but offered plenty of stiff resistance on Wednesday with Carl Wilson making 49 in 182 minutes and then Matt Carter - yes, there was one on both sides - occupying the crease for 195 minutes in making 59.
Carter had been involved in a bizarre accident on Tuesday when he was accidentally struck in the mouth by the ball as Dominic Brown, having caught Peploe on the fine leg boundary, threw it back in towards his celebrating team-mates. Carter was left with two broken teeth.
But he recovered well enough to resist Berkshire for some time and it wasn't until mid-afternoon when James Morris and his men sealed a famous victory..
Peploe finished with 5-74 to give the spinner 10 wickets for the game.
But it was Woods who deservedly took the man of the match award.
Berkshire's director of cricket Danny Hall said: "In the context of the game, Euan's 142 not out was the finest innings I have seen in Minor Counties cricket and I have been around for a long time."
Hall gave special praise to skipper Morris, Peploe and coach Tom Lambert, but said their success has been down to a big team effort, with every player contributing throughout the season.
Morris believes his talented side can continue to be successful, adding: "Our aim now will be to retain the championship and also win the knock-out cup. I believe we have the ability to win both competitions and that will be the aim next season."
Summary Berkshire 332 (89.3 overs) and 237 (76.1 overs).
Lincolnshire 284 (90 overs) and 257 (123.4 overs),