COUNTY CRICKET: A SUPERB spell of bowling from seamer James Hibberd propelled Wiltshire to an unlikely victory over Buckinghamshire in the Minor Counties Knockout Trophy on Sunday May 14.

Hibberd who was on a hat-trick at one stage, strangled the life out of the visitors as Bucks fell 23 runs short of their modest victory target. Earlier, Chippenham all-rounder Liam Dawson scored his maiden half-century for the county as Wiltshire recovered from a disastrous start to post 144.

That score didn't seem nearly enough until Richard Bedbrook threw the ball to vice-captain Hibberd, who turned the match on its head with five wickets for 18 runs. A delighted Hibberd said: "We knew we were up against it and that we all had to work hard and dig in.

"It was my kind of wicket today and I knew we had a good chance because there were two low scores on the pitch the day before. "We've got a very strong squad at the moment, with some big players who like the big occasion. On our day I think we can beat anybody."

Having won the toss, Wiltshire decided to bat first and found themselves in deep trouble at five for three. After 28 overs the hosts had slumped to 43 for six, with Bucks' opening bowler Simon Stanway returning the remarkable figures of 10-8-3-1.

Hampshire Academy player Dawson, batting at number five, played an innings of great maturity, beyond his 16 years, before he was out off the penultimate ball of the innings. Dawson was supported by all-rounder Hibberd (16), skipper Bedbrook (17) and Alex Senneck, who made 21 not out.

Former Surrey star Phil Sampson took four for 32 for Bucks. In reply, the visitors made a solid start and had reached 37 for one before the introduction of Hibberd changed the match.

His probing line starved the batsmen of room outside the off-stump and frustrated them into playing big shots on the seamer-friendly County Ground wicket. James Golding, Alex Senneck and Dawson all picked up wickets to leave Bucks in desperate trouble on 88 for nine, before a spirited last wicket stand took the final score to 122.

Teenager Dawson admitted afterwards that he was feeling nervous as Bucks edged ever closer to their target of 145. He said: "I started thinking about the Ashes towards the end of the match when Bucks came back at us. It was quite tense at the end.

"On a wicket like that you just have to graft and score runs when you can. In my innings I didn't hit many big scoring shots but I worked the ball around for singles." Captain Richard Bedbrook conceded he thought his team would struggle to defend 144, but hailed Hibberd's performance as "absolutely superb."

He said: "It was a little bit tense towards the end. You're always aware that a few big shots to the short boundary can take the game away from you. "This win gives us something to play for next week now."