England Academy fast bowler Lauren Bell top scored and took a 4-fer as Berkshire came out on top in a low-scoring encounter with Devon at North Maidenhead.
On a blisteringly hot day, Devon won the toss and put Berkshire in, with Oli Rae opening the batting alongside Heather Knight. Knight made the early running, driving runs into the off side, but was then dismissed for 21 off an innocuous delivery from Emily Edgcombe, which bounced oddly on the dusty North Maids pitch and ballooned to midwicket where Daisy Meadowcroft took the catch.
Carla Rudd, fresh from 50 yesterday, then joined Rae in the middle, but her dismissal in the 13th over led to a collapse from 43-1 to 44-5 as left-armer Hazelle Garton began to rip through the Berkshire middle-order. Garton finished with 5 wickets for 18, and Berkshire looked out for the count when Bell came in at 9 to join Millie Allerton at 71-8.
But Bell put on a feisty 36 for the 9th wicket with Allerton (11 off 39 balls) and then another 16 for the final wicket with Emma Walker (2 off 24 balls), to finish with 33 – her highest score in county cricket – as Berkshire’s innings ended all out for 123 off 45.4 overs – some way short of the 242 they had made on the same ground the previous day against Wales.
Former Berkshire Beaver Alex Rogers opened the batting for Devon alongside Amy Wier, but both were dismissed for ducks, followed quickly back to the pavilion by acting-captain Felicity Leydon-Davis and Emily Edgcombe, as Bell, bowling with unplayable pace, and spinner Emma Walker, getting real turn on a helpful pitch, gave Berkshire just the start they needed, reducing the visitors to 9-4.
With a low total to defend Berkshire could ill-afford to give anything away, but a slightly off-colour spell with the ball from Heather Knight, who was possibly experimenting with some new deliveries a few of which did not come out right at all (one in particular barely reaching the batsman on the second bounce), allowed Georgia Hennessy to lead a fight-back.
Hennessy made a stubborn 44 as Devon started to turn the tide; but the return of Bell finally brought her knock to an end, caught behind by Carla Rudd. Bell’s final victim of the day was Devon keeper Amanda Higginbotham, caught by Knight, to leave Bell with figures of 8 overs, 2 maidens, 4-17.
It was still nervous times though for Berkshire, as the Devon tail blocked everything that moved, allowing extras to keep the asking-rate manageable, before the last two wickets fell to ring catches off Lissy MacLeod and Phoebe Graham, with Devon all out for 102 at the death.
Afterwards, Berkshire captain MacLeod praised Bell’s contribution:
“Lauren Bell saved it with the bat – she changed the innings, and then bowled brilliantly in the opening spell gaining crucial wickets – she was outstanding today.”
The win means Berkshire, who lost every game on their way to relegation from Div 1 last season, are now 2-from-2 in Div 2 this term, and well-placed as they look to fight their way back to the top tier next year.