CRICKET National Counties T20 finals day preview

NCCA-Logo MasterOxfordshire captain Jonny Cater is looking forward to being back in familiar surroundings for National Counties T20 Finals Day at Tring Park today. 

It was at Tring that Oxfordshire won the National Counties Championship last September when they beat Suffolk in the final and they go back there to face Cheshire in the first semi-final on Sunday (10am) with Dorset facing Cambridgeshire in the second match at 1.30pm. 

“We are quite lucky because Tring Park play in the Home Counties League so some of us have played there for our clubs,” Cater said. 

“To have played in a four-day final there last year and been successful brings back some happy memories for us. 

“We feel at home there. It’s a good place to play and with it being so close to us it makes the trip there on Saturday logistically easier for us than the other counties. 

“Everybody travels so well these days that it shouldn’t be an issue for them but it’s certainly handy for us.” 

Oxfordshire secured their place at Finals Day by the narrowest of margins as they edged out Bedfordshire by a superior net run rate of just 0.02 to win Group Four. 

Oxfordshire sat out the final round of group matches but what was supposed to be a Sunday off for Cater and a day with the family proved to be anything but as he monitored events at Ampthill, where Bedfordshire faced Berkshire in a double-header, via his mobile phone. 

Bedfordshire appeared to be heading to Finals Day when, having lost the opening match, they were easing to victory and had Berkshire nine wickets down. But an over from former Warwickshire and Sussex all-rounder Aaron Thomason swung the net run rate calculation in Oxfordshire’s favour. Although Bedfordshire won comfortably enough it was Oxfordshire who topped the group and clinched a return visit to Tring. 

“I know Richard Kaufman who is now involved with Bedfordshire and he was telling the net run rate requirements at Ampthill,” Cater said. 

“I would be telling a lie if I wasn’t looking at it. I was 100 per cent following it. 

“I was at home with the family on one the free Sundays you have as a National Counties cricketer. But I was still looking at cricket scores on my phone so I’m not sure how productive it was in the end. 

“We knew that Berkshire needed to get a certain score without winning the game and that Bedfordshire had to bowl Berkshire out below a certain score themselves. They didn’t quite get over the line so we qualified and it was a very interesting day. 

“It looked like Bedfordshire were going to do it, but with every county in the group stage, they can bat down the order. We have come across Berkshire for years and we know what they can do down the bottom of the order so we knew they had it in them. 

“In the back of our minds, when Berkshire still needed 20-plus runs with one wicket in hand, you always felt it was in Bedfordshire’s hands and they would go through on net run rate. 

“I was actually on the phone to Rupert Evans, our head coach, at the same time and he couldn’t quite believe what was going on.” 

Having won their first title in 32 years last season, Oxfordshire have the opportunity to win more silverware on Sunday. To do so they will need to overcome a strong Cheshire side, who lost only one of their eight matches in Group One, and produce a better showing in the final they did in three of their four second matches of the day in the group stage which ended in defeats by Wales NC, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. 

“We felt we shot ourselves in the foot in our last group match against Bedfordshire at Wormsley which we lost,” Cater said. 

“That has been a bit of a theme of our campaign. We started really well in every first game of our group matches but in the second match we seem to lose a little bit of momentum for whatever reason. 

“We feel that we have played really good cricket in our first match but then fallen away a little in the second match. 

“So, it’s nice to have the opportunity to be involved this weekend.” 

Oxfordshire will have Harrison Ward and James Coles, two graduates from their strong youth system who are now contracted to Sussex, available for Finals Day having helped their native county through the group stage. 

“James excelled in the COVID year when he made a century in a friendly against Berkshire. That is what pushed him forward to making first-class appearances for Sussex that year,” Cater said. 

“Over the last two years Harrison has developed into quite a destructive opening batsman at this level. When he made his Championship debut for us against Herefordshire at the age of 15 he was quite lean. 

“He needed to bulk out and he just didn’t have that strength. He was quite a different player then but he has adapted himself and become quite a destructive white ball cricketer. 

“It’s been great to have him in our side and he has been integral to our success this year, particularly with the volume of runs he got in the two games against Berkshire. 

“It’s great to have those lads back. They are Oxfordshire born and bred, they love playing for us and they are looking forward to this weekend like everybody else is.” 

National Counties T20 Finals Day 

Tring Park CC 

Sunday May 22 

10am: Oxfordshire v Cheshire 

1.30pm: Dorset v Cambridgeshire 

4pm: Final 

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