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Hall relishing final campaign at helm

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Cheshire - Andy Hall

Andy Hall, left, is hoping to mark his last year as Cheshire captain by lifting a trophy as he last did in 2007 with the championship crown

Cheshire skipper Andy Hall is hoping his last season in charge will be his best yet.

Hall will stand down as the county captain at the end of the campaign after an impressive 10-year stint in charge of one of the most successful minor county outfits in recent times.

Hall guided Cheshire to the 2007 Minor Counties Championship three-day crown and to two shared titles in 2001 and 2005.

And he also took Cheshire to Lord’s for the 2007 MCCA Knockout Trophy final against Suffolk, albeit they were pipped in the final.

There's undoubtedly going to be a large void left when Hall relinquishes the captaincy, but he sees a bright future for Cheshire with a string of ambitious youngsters ready to pick up the mantle.

"It would be great if we could finish the season by winning something, that would be the perfect way for me to finish as captain," said Hall.

"I've really enjoyed being captain, I've got lots of fond memories. But I just feel that after 10 seasons in charge it was time for a change.

"I'm happy about stepping down because we've got a lot of excellent players and the county is looking in good shape.

"But it's not the end for me; I'm going to keep playing and hopefully this season we can have a really successful season.

"People might look at us and say we've got quite an inexperienced side this season, but our aim is to win something. We all believe we can do that."

Cheshire begin their campaign in the 50-over Knockout Trophy on Sunday against Cumberland at Neston Cricket Club with an 11am start.

And, having reached the quarter-finals last season, Hall is hopeful his team can go all the way and finish their season with a showcase final at Lord’s on Thursday 25 August.

Andy Hall

Hall has no intention of retiring when he relinquishes the captaincy © David Bailey

"We got to Lord’s a few years ago, to play there is always a great incentive," added Hall.

"We played some good cricket last season to qualify, but we also played some ordinary cricket.

"It was a consistency problem, but we got to the quarter-finals and could have won that match."

Cheshire posted an imposing 285 at home to Lincolnshire, but their opponents pulled off a fine four-wicket victory.

"We posted a good score, but we thought we were probably 30-40 runs short," recalled Hall.

"We also dropped a couple of catches that match, so we only had ourselves to blame.

"But we're confident we can have a good run this year. We know we've probably got to win three of four qualifying matches to get into the quarter-finals.

"And of course the icing on the cake would be a final at Lord’s. That's a long way off, but you've got to aim to get there. It would be a great occasion for everyone involved with the county."

Cheshire face Staffordshire, Northumberland and Shropshire after their opening game against Cumberland, with a potential quarter-final with either Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk or Suffolk to look forward to on Sunday 19 June at Christleton Cricket Club.

And then there's the championship campaign to get their teeth into with matches against Herefordshire, Cornwall, Devon, Wales, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.

"Last season was a missed opportunity for us in the championship because we could have got to the final, but we didn't perform in the key moments we needed too.

"The Devon game [a 54-run defeat] stands out because we could have won that game and would have stood a good chance of getting to the final.

"You've really got raise your game for those key moments - and we blew it.

"But we'll come back stronger this season. The younger players are more experienced and have benefited from the matches they played last season.

"We've got a good squad of players are we're all hopeful of doing well. Everyone is really looking forward to the season."

Cheshire squad v Cumberland: Andy Hall (captain), Adam Worrall (wicketkeeper), Louis Bentley, Danny Berry, Lee Dixon, James Duffy, Warren Goodwin, Richard Logan, Adam Syddall, James Warrington, Richard Wilkinson, Danny Woods.