CHESHIRE are counting down the days to their mouthwatering Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy first-round tie against Hampshire, writes NEIL GOULDING.
Cheshire County League outfit Alderley Edge will stage the match on Wednesday, May 5 with Andy Hall's team playing for the chance to host Holland or Gloucestershire in the next round if they win.
Cheshire earned their lucrative draw against a first-class county after defeating Bedfordshire in an exciting clash at Wardown Park, Luton, last season.
Cheshire chairman Gerry Hardstaff said: 'It's great to be playing Hampshire, especially if Shane Warne is going to be playing for them. It's a chance for the players to prove themselves on the big stage and, hopefully, it should be a good experience for them.'
Cheshire have not made it past the qualifying stages of the C&G competition for the last two years.
But Hardstaff, who fondly remembers the county beating Northamptonshire in the late 1980s, is hoping another upset is on the cards this time around.
'Arthur Sutton was captain of the team that won that day, so we have managed to beat a first-class county before,' added Hardstaff. 'We played Kent a couple of years ago at Bowdon, and they were in trouble at 65-5, but they got themselves out of jail. We by no means disgraced ourselves and we are looking to play well this time.
'We will be approaching the match with an open mind and it's a nice feeling for everyone involved with the county club that we are back playing on this stage.'
Cheshire's 2004 Minor Counties Championship Western Division fixtures are as follows: May 23-25 v Berkshire (away, Newbury); June 13-15 v Devon (home, Oxton); June 27-29 v Dorset (away, Bournemouth); July 11-13 v Wiltshire (home, Alderley Edge); August 8-10 v Oxfordshire (away, Banbury); August 22-24 v Shropshire (home, Chester BH). Minor Counties Cricket Association Knockout Cup second round: June 20 v Berkshire (home, Cheadle Hulme).