Chad Keegan continued to take on title-chasing Cheshire almost single-handedly as Oxfordshire staged a fightback on day two of their Unicorns Counties Championship Western Division match at Nantwich.
The former Middlesex and Sussex all-rounder followed up his five-wicket haul in Cheshire’s first innings of 247 with a hard-hitting 84 in Oxfordshire’s reply.
It helped Oxon post 200 – a total which had looked unlikely after they had been a calamitous 18-5 on Sunday.
Keegan then struck first as leaders Cheshire were reduced to 39-3 at the close – a lead of 86.
Play didn’t get under way until 3.40pm following heavy rain, with Oxon resuming on 60-5.
Keegan and Shabaz Alam took the score to 91, before the Leamington left-hander was caught by Rick Moore at second slip off Adam Syddall (4-50).
Richard Kaufman, who had recovered from the illness that saw him leave the field on Sunday, came in next.
However, his stay was brief as a horrendous mix-up with Keegan allowed Khalid Sawas to run in from square leg and whip the bails off to run him out.
Keegan, meanwhile, continued his assault on the Cheshire attack.
His 97-ball knock contained nine fours and four sixes, including one which landed in the neighbouring cemetery, with the ball being lost.
His entertaining innings finally came to an end when he skied a delivery from Moore to Dan Brown at mid-off to make it 142-8.
Skipper Luke Ryan and Karl Penhale then frustrated the hosts by adding 55 runs for the ninth wicket.
Ryan was adjudged lbw to Moore for 32, who then bowled Penhale for 28 to wrap up the innings.
Cheshire were looking for quick runs at the start of their second innings in a bid to press for victory.
But Keegan struck an early blow by having Sawas caught by Liam Manley at deep backward square leg.
Penhale then had Calum Rowe, promoted to open the innings, caught behind by Jonny Cater, before shattering nightwatchman Syddall’s stumps with the last delivery of the day.
It kept Oxfordshire well in the game, and left Cheshire’s title hopes on a knife edge.
Scores: Cheshire 247 & 39-3, Oxfordshire 200 (C Keegan 84).
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