CAPTAIN James Morris hit the nail on the head when he said: “It is going to take a very good side to beat us,” writes Dave Wright.

Berkshire extended their unbeaten run in Unicorns Championship matches to 17 games (12 wins, 5 draws) when hammering Herefordshire by 10 wickets in two days at Finchampstead this week, earning them the maximum 24 points.

The current leaders are well on course to retaining the Western Division title with two fixtures remaining – away to Oxfordshire and then Devon.

Although Herefordshire, who won at Finchampstead in 2014, made a promising start on Sunday, reaching 79 without loss, their young side never stood a chance of stopping a very confident Berks, even though the hosts were missing three key players, Richard Morris, Ollie Wilkin and Waqas Hussain.

“It was a pretty ruthless performance by us from start to finish,” said Morris.

The opening day saw Herefordshire collapse from 119-3 in 47 overs to 141 all out in the 61st. Euan Woods took 4-18 off 13 overs, while Chris Peploe was at his economical best, recording 3-24 off 21.3 overs.

Young paceman Ethan Bamber weighed in with three late wickets, including two in the same over, to finish with 3-51 off 17.

Bamber was brought in late to the side when made available by Middlesex and took the place of spinner Ali Raja.

Berkshire had a new opening pair of batsmen in Sam Burgess and Andy Rishton.

While Burgess fell for 11, Rishton shouldered the extra responsibility in a sensible fashion, playing himself in before pushing along the score.

He went on to make an excellent 74 before playing on Matt Pardoe. He faced 117 balls and found the boundary on 11 occasions, being the third man out with the total on 109 in the 38th over.

Scoring did not come easy with the Herefordshire bowlers keeping it tight and not giving much away.

Berkshire, 127-3 off 50 overs overnight, took their first-innings total to 334-8 before the end of their 90 overs on Monday.

The fourth-wicket pair of Archie Carter and skipper James Morris added 83 before the former was run out for 39, having spent 155 minutes at the crease – giving the teenager valuable experience and confidence at this level of cricket.

Morris, who had also batted very steadily, went on to score 79, while Dan Lincoln made 22 off 28 balls, Peploe 36 (35), Stewart Davison 26 (27) and Joe Thomas 18 (12).

Herefordshire, with a first-innings deficit of 193, were soon in trouble second time around, losing both openers for 18 with a third wicket going down at 48.

But, unlike the previous day, the visitors then got their heads down to frustrate Berkshire. Benny Ellis-Dabrowski and Nick Hammond added 83 for the fourth wicket before the latter edged a Peploe delivery into the hands of keeper Davison for 53.

Ellis-Dabrowski occupied the crease for 208 minutes in scoring 79 before lofting a simple catch to Rishton off the bowling of Tom Nugent. He faced 194 deliveries but scored off just 44 of them.

Ellis-Dabrowski was the eighth man out with the total on 199 and his side added 16 more runs before being dismissed for 215 in 75 overs.

Berkshire, having taken the extra half hour at the end of the day, were left needing 23 to win and Peploe knocked them off by himself in two overs, with a six and four boundaries in his 25.

However, it wasn’t a game full of explosive cricket. Over the two days, a mixture of steady bowling and cautious batting led to well over 1,000 deliveries failing to produce a run.

Skipper Morris said: “Finchampstead is not an easy place to get 20 wickets in a match, and for us to do it in two days is very pleasing. It was a reward for our bowlers and the energy we showed in the field.

“The momentum we are now showing is something special. We are on a good, long unbeaten run and it is going to take a very good side to beat us.

“We are in a good place in the table going into the next round of games in two weeks time and hopefully, we can take another step towards making it two finals for us this season.”

Berkshire play Lincolnshire in the Unicorns Trophy final at Wormsley on August 23, while the play-off final between the Western and Eastern Division champions is at Banbury starting the following Sunday.

Summary Herefordshire 1st innings: 141 (Pardoe 48; Woods 4-18) Berkshire 1st innings: 334-8 (J Morris 79, Rishton 74, Carter 39, Peploe 36).

Herefordshire 2nd innings: 215 (Ellis-Dabrowski 73, Hammond 53; Nugent 3-25).

Berkshire 2nd innings: 25-0 (Peploe 25no).