BERKSHIRE made it four Western Division wins out of four this season by crushing Devon by an emphatic 320-run margin at Falkland CC this week – and now look well placed to retain the title, writes Dave Wright.

Delighted skipper James Morris described it as a “ruthless performance” from his side, saying: “If you could choose how a game would unfold, then this was it - an A-template performance.”

The defending national champions have now gone four complete seasons without losing at home in the Unicorns Championship, as their remaining two fixtures are both away.

“As long as we stay faithful to our brand of cricket, we are confident our run will go on,” commented Morris.

Berkshire, producing yet another professional performance, outplayed a young Devon side in all departments after Morris had won the toss on Sunday and elected to take first use of a good batting wicket.

Waqas Hussain led the run spree with a magnificent innings of 192, his highest for the county, producing a masterclass of attacking strokes. Occupying the crease for 286 minutes, the former Henley and Slough star faced 247 balls, striking two sixes and 21 fours.

He and Archie Carter put on 146 in 45 overs for the first wicket, with the Wokingham teenager hitting 53, his first half-century in a Championship game.

Hussain also featured in stands of 84 with Andy Rishton, who contributed 40, and 123 with Morris, who made a lively 76 off 62 balls, taking Berkshire to a highly respectable 90-over total of 424-7.

The Devon batsmen, however, never looked comfortable, crumbling from 40-2 to 78-8, eventually finishing with a very poor 103, with Joe Hagan-Burt remaining unbeaten on 17, his side’s top score.

Tom Nugent, playing his first championship game of the season, took 4-42 off 12 overs and Chris Peploe 3-26 from 11.

Despite the 321-run lead, Berkshire opted not to enforce the follow-on and instead went looking for quick runs in the second innings to take the game well beyond the reach of the visitors.

Hussain was again their star performer, making 76 off 71 balls, while Morris was next highest with 31.

Berkshire reached 184-8 in 36 overs before declaring and setting the depleted visitors an impossible 506 to win.

To their credit, the West Countrymen’s top order batted with more determination and concentration than they had earlier in the game, reaching reached 98 in 27 overs before losing their first wicket.

But the departure of openers Josh Mailling (58) and George Allen (44) in quick succession, both dismissed by Peploe, triggered off something of a collapse to 152-5. They finished the second day on 180-7 and it took Berkshire just 14 balls to polish off the tailenders on Tuesday morning.

Peploe, now past the 200-wicket mark in championship games for the county, secured another five-wicket haul for impressive match figures of 8-89, while fellow spinner and Datchet teammate Ollie Birts claimed 4-55 in the second innings.

Morris commented: “Spin was always going to be the predominant weapon we had for each innings and Peps and Birts both bowled beautifully throughout.”

Devon, still without a win this season in the championship, have not seen the back of Berkshire for this month, as they will meet in the semi-finals of the MCCA T20 competition at Wormsley on Sunday, August 26 (10am start). The winners will face Cheshire or Norfolk in the final later that day.

Berkshire’s next championship game is against Cheshire at Boughton Hall CC on August 19-21.