HEREFORDSHIRE have retained their NCCA Western Division 1 status despite a crushing defeat by new champions Berkshire at Falkland CC.

Herefordshire’s batting twice proved insufficient against the Berkshire attack as they went down by an innings and 20 runs.

But a rain-affected draw in the clash between Dorset and Cheshire consigned Dorset to the wooden-spoon position and preserved Herefordshire’s top-flight status.

After winning the toss and batting first, Herefordshire made a good opening as Ben Chapman-Lilley (29) and Josh Dell (10) posted 45 for the first wicket.

But the introduction of spin from both ends within the first hour of play was soon to prove Herefordshire’s downfall.

And although Nick Hammond (22), Matt Pardoe (29) and Dave Ball (24) all got into the 20s, they were unable to press on to a substantial score and the best batting of the innings came from teenager Ollie Walker who was ninth out for a patient 46.

So after being dismissed for a disappointing 192, Herefordshire needed a couple of early breakthroughs to get back into the match and Roshan Venkataraman (2-45) duly provided these in an impressive opening spell.

But with opener Imran Malik (73), Andy Rishton (50) and Charlie Dunnett (67) all passing the half-century mark, Berkshire were able to advance to an imposing 374-9 from their 90 overs.

Herefordshire’s own spin pairing of Chapman-Lilley (2-45) and Pardoe (2-59) helped to control the scoring.

After a promising start, Herefordshire’s second innings foundered during a short spell of play between rain interruptions when four wickets fell in around 30 minutes thanks to a combination of good bowling and injudicious shots.

The overnight pairing of Pardoe (46) and Venkataraman (49 not out) batted well in the first hour of the third day’s play before Pardoe hoisted a full toss to Dunnett, the only player in the deep on the leg side.

After that, it was simply a matter of time and the other wickets quickly fell to leave Venkataraman one short of a deserved half-century.

Elsewhere in the Worcestershire County League Division Two catching was crucial as Burghill, Tillington and Weobley recorded a seven-wicket win over Himley.

They say catches win matches and we took seven, none better than the diving effort from skipper Mark Preece to get rid of dangerous opening bat Greg Wright. This was the catalyst for our bowlers to put the brakes on and stifle the scoring rate as the visitors fell for 122.

Oscar Darke was once again the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 4 for 13 off 8.1 overs.

Burghill knocked the runs off for the loss of three wickets in 30.4 overs. Luke Powell scored a patient 42 and Whizz Ettinger was unbeaten on 34.