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Hughes gives Chester-le-Street glory

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A captain's innings of 76 not out by Quentin Hughes helped see Chester-le-Street crowned ECB National Club Champions after victory over Spencer CC in the final at Derby.

Hughes' knock formed the mainstay of the County Durham club's 175 for nine, while he also grabbed three wickets as their opponents were bowled out for 151 well short of the winning post.

Chester-le-Street won the toss at Derby's County Ground and elected to bat on an overcast September 19 morning. On a slow wicket they were pinned down early on by some accurate Spencer bowling.

Alarm bells rang when Richard Waite was caught and bowled by Abid Jafri for only 10 at which stage Chester-le-Street had struggled to 31 for three.

Waite had scores of 90, 74, 152 and 110 to his name in earlier rounds of the competition and Spencer were fully aware of how big a scalp his wicket was.

This brought Hughes to the wicket and the consensus of opinion amongst the aficionados was that a score of between 170 and 180 would be a challenging total.

Hughes set about rebuilding the innings with some chanceless manipulation of the bowling. At the other end batsmen perished when they tried to force the pace with Andy Smith falling to a running catch on the boundary by Andy Mawson to make the score 74 for four.

Hughes continued on his steady way but when Andy Tye (10) was the eighth man out with the score only 127 Chester-le-Street looked to be struggling to set a decent target.

The skipper completed his fifty without hitting a boundary. He upped the tempo with support from Andrew Bell, who contributed a valuable 17 to a partnership of 36, as Chester-le-Street used up their full allocation of overs and finished with a useful total, with Hughes 76 having taken only 99 balls and containing just one boundary.

Given the pace of the wicket and the stranglehold exerted by the Spencer spinners this looked to be a total that gave Chester-le-Street a chance so long as they bowled well.

Opening bowler Jim Birt, who made early inroads into the Durham side's batting, finished with impressive figures of 3-17 from his full allocation of overs.

Spencer started their innings circumspectly and Chester-le-Street were enthusiastic in their appealing - so much so that some people wondered if the match was actually being played at Pride Park!

The decision of skipper Hughes to take on the task of bowling himself then swung the match towards his side as he took three wickets in the space of four runs as 28 without loss quickly became 32 for three.

Hughes bowled through taking 3-15 from his nine overs. Neil Baker, the Spencer skipper, then took the responsibility of rebuilding his team's innings and Spencer progressed to 91 for four as the match appeared to swing back in the Surrey side's favour.

Disaster struck as Baker attempted a third run and Smith's throw from the third man boundary beat Baker to the bowler's end!

A couple of overs later it looked as if hero Smith had turned into a potential zero as he dropped a skier - how cruel fortune can be in cricket.

However, Simone Birtwisle bowled Conor Radloff (19) and Chester-le-Street were once again favourites as Spencer were 110 for six with overs beginning to run out.

Luke Billingham was playing a good innings scoring at a run-a-ball but to swing the match back Spencer's way he needed to have someone stay with him Richard Waite (2-37) and opening Bowler Andy Tye (1-19) then took crucial wickets and Birtwisle (3-31) wrapped up things as he took the last two wickets as Spencer were dismissed for 151 at the end of the 43rd over still needing 25 runs to beat the Chester-le-Street score.

Chester-le-Street therefore ran out winners due in no small part to the innings played by their skipper Hughes, who played an uncharacteristic role as an accumulator of runs.

The bowlers from both sides used the conditions well to restrict their opponents and the fielding on show was of the highest standard not least Paul Byrne's spectacular catch at long-on as he dived backwards to grasp a ball that appeared destined to be the only six of the day.

The man-of-the-match award went to Hughes for his all-round performance with bat, ball and the impeccable marshalling of his troops in the field.

The presentation party consisted of Keith Loring, chief executive of Derbyshire CCC, Paul Bedford, ECB head of operations - non-first-class cricket, and George Hornbuckle, Nottinghamshire Cricket Board and ECB match manager.