OXFORDSHIRE chased down a competitive target with ease as they made a winning start to their NCCA Championship title defence at Cheshire.
Harry Smith’s 134 not out led the charge at Alderley Edge CC, the stand-in captain’s partnership of 97 with No 8 Prav Chahal steering the visitors to the required total of 257.
Oxon needed 138 to win at the start of day three, but the skipper sealed a four-wicket victory in the Western Division 1 opener as the clock struck 1pm.
Max Mannering was another star performer, claiming seven wickets in the match to continue his good form with the ball.
Oxon won the toss and elected to field, with Ollie Currill striking early to remove Henry Dobson lbw for 6.
Tim Hughes and Sam Perry put on 70 for the second wicket but Karl Penhale trapped the latter lbw, before Mannering claimed his first two dismissals as lunch approached.
He bowled Will Evans for a duck early in the afternoon session and Cheshire fell to 113/6 when George Tait removed Luke Young.
But captain Robert Sehmi stuck around until he was trapped lbw by Penhale for 91, with Mannering bowling Charlie Barnard to finish with figures of 5/67 as the hosts ended their first innings 246 all out.
Harry Smith was removed for a duck as the hosts’ reply started badly, but Jamie Harrison (51) and Freddie Smith (27) began to eat into the lead before both were removed in quick succession.
The away side reached 132/5 at the close, only to lose Callum Russell, Tom Condon and Currill early on day two as they slipped to 150/8.
Mannering (29) and Chahal (10) pushed Oxon to 189 all out at the halfway stage, 57 behind.
Cheshire knew they had to score quickly to give themselves a cushion and leave enough time to bowl the visitors out, but early wickets from Currill and Penhale saw them reduced to 29/3.
Sehmi again proved difficult to remove and put on 74 with Will Evans, before Mannering and Tait dismissed the pair in quick succession for 41 and 34 respectively as the momentum swung again with the hosts 107/5.
David Wainwright top-scored with 51, but Chahal mopped up Cheshire’s last three wickets late in the afternoon session to leave the hosts 199 all out.
Oxon were set a competitive target and suffered an immediate blow when Harrison was unable to bat due to an injury in the field.
Harry Smith set about chasing down the target of 257 and reached the close unbeaten on 78, with some determined partners helping Oxon to 119/3.
Tait and Currill fell within two overs of each other early on day three, with Chahal arriving at the crease when Russell was bowled by Wainwright.
Oxon were 162/6 and it could have gone either way, but Chahal and Harry Smith kept their cool to wrap up victory before lunch.