A DISMAL second-innings batting display cost Herefordshire what had seemed a certain victory in their MCCA Championship clash with Oxfordshire at Brockhampton.

A superb unbeaten 156 from Dave Ball, followed up by Jamie McIlroy’s best bowling for the county – 6-33 including a hat-trick – had left Herefordshire with just 122 in their second innings to make to secure their third win on four outings this season.

But only skipper Matt Pardoe (35) got past 11 as, led by former Worcestershire seamer Gareth Andrew’s 5-45, Oxfordshire swept aside the home team’s batting to notch an unlikely 14-run win.

It had looked an uphill struggle on the first morning as Oxfordshire, after winning the toss in ideal batting conditions, reached 108 before the first wicket went down.

But Pardoe led by example with the ball as wickets began to fall, aided by three outfield catches by McIlroy as he picked up 4-61.

Barney Morgan (3-44) cleaned up at the end as Oxfordshire closed on 302.

Herefordshire’s reply started shakily with Pardoe, Alex Phillips and Tom Cummins all back in the pavilion before close of play.

But, on the second morning, Ball, in a fourth wicket partnership of 178 with Benny Ellis-Dabrowski (61), set up what should have been a solid first innings lead.

In a forerunner of the second innings, however, despite Ball standing firm with 22 boundaries in his highest score for the county, wickets fell steadily at the other end as Herefordshire were all out for 346.

Oxfordshire seemed to be getting back into the game at 163-5 in their second innings.

But McIlroy scorched through the lower order, at last gaining some reward for a series of fine spells this season which had given him little tangible return.

The Brockhampton left-armer, aided by five catches in the innings by his club team-mate and wicket-keeper Ian Bullock, was responsible for the last five wickets going down for an additional two runs, winding up the innings with his first Herefordshire hat-trick.

All looked set fair at this point but Oxfordshire’s rally leaves the county side in fifth place in the nine-team Western Division with two games remaining.