07:00PM, Thursday 12 September 2019
Berkshire head coach Tom Lambert faces one of his most difficult tasks of the season ahead of the MCCA Championship final against Staffordshire at Banbury which starts this coming Sunday.
With virtually a full squad to choose from, he must decide who plays and who does he disappointment by leaving them out.
"There is some head-scratching to be done this week," he admitted.
The unbeaten champions completed their Western Division programme last week with an emphatic 281-run win over Dorset at Wargrave.
And it was achieved by a side missing skipper James Morris, wicketkeeper/batsman Jack Davies, paceman Tom Nugent and spinner Luke Beaven - all having played the previous Wednesday when Berkshire crushed Cumberland in the MCCA Trophy final at Wormsley.
It also once again shows the strength in depth of the squad.
"I think we have used more players all competitions this season than we had in the previous two years or so and the squad effort has been particularly impressive," said Lambert.
"Players have been brought into the team and understood the roles we wanted them to do.
"A lot have contributed to our success, playing a part in getting us into two finals and from a personal point of view, this has been the most satisfying thing of all this season.
"It leaves me in a difficult position as I can only pick 11 to play this week, but hopefully it will prove the right team.
"They will represent the rest of the guys who have done so well in getting us there."
Unbeaten in Championship games in five years, Berkshire are playing in their fourth successive final and they aiming to equal the record held by Devon who lifted the title from 1994-1997, a sequence that was sandwiched by victories for Staffordshire in 1993 and 1998. Staffs were also successful in 2014.
Despite their incredible unbeaten run of 33 Championship games, Lambert said his side will be taking nothing for granted, commenting: "We just don't expect to turn up and win. The hard work starts in the winter and goes right through to the end of the season and the final.
"We now face an extra challenge, as we know very little about East Division champions Staffordshire, but we will do our best to get as much information about them as possible. You can be sure, we will show them the utmost respect, as we do to all the teams we play.
"Hopefully, we will give a good account ourselves at Banbury next week."
Staffs captain Kadeer Ali, the former Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Leicestershire batsman, said: “Berkshire are top opposition and it’s going to be a tough game. They are a strong side, they’ve won the competition for the last three years, but I’m sure we will give them a hard game.”
"Getting to the final is massive for us. We have been close for the last four years and we have got what we deserve now.
“We have been disappointed over the last few years because we have played some really good cricket, but I’m over the moon we have now got to the final."
The final starts on Sunday at 10.30am and is scheduled for four days.
Berkshire County Cricket Club have introduced a brand new award for their youth section.
It is the David Burden Shield, in memory of the highly respected Minor Counties umpire and a great supporter of local cricket who died in June.
It will be presented annually to the person, who in the opinion of Berkshire performance manager Tom Lambert and his assistant Stewart Davison has made an outstanding contribution to youth cricket on and off the field.
The first recipient is Adam Searle, who, says Lambert, has shown "tremendous effort and commitment" to the Berkshire EPP (Emerging Player Programme) flagship side. "He leads by example and his tactical nous is very good."
Lambert added: "The way Adam conducts himself is exceptional and we hope he will have a big part to play in the county club's future."
The off-spinner also plays for Marlow in the Thames Valley League and attends Sir William Borlase School.
Adam, who is the son of GB Olympic gold medalist rower Greg Searle MBE, was presented with the trophy and a Serious Cricket voucher by Anthea Heslop, the long-time partner of David Burden, at the Berkshire County Sports Club in Sonning Lane, last Friday (September 6th).
Anthea commented: "Adam is a very nice young man and I am pleased he is the first winner."
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