RESURGENT Buckinghamshire are on the brink of reaching the Minor Counties T20 Finals Day this season.

They need only a point from their double-header against Shropshire at Gerrards Cross this Sunday to top Group Two and progress to the semi-finals, which will be played on ‘home’ soil at Wormsley on Sunday 25th August.

Bucks have gone 10 years since they last won the three-day Minor Counties Championship and it is 29 years since they won the 50-overs Minor Counties Trophy in their only appearance in the final.

They did not win a three-day match in 2016 or 2018, but the green shots of recovery sprouted last season when Bucks won four of their six Championship matches and five of their eight T20 matches.

Bucks have already equalled last seasons number of wins and points total in six T20 matches and, as Oxfordshire have already completed their group programme, know that one win, a tie or washout against Shropshire will be enough to take them to Finals Day.

“We built a bit of momentum last year and we seem to have taken that into this year which is pleasing,” said Bucks captain Tom Hampton.

“The squad is slightly older and they've all played a bit more cricket, but we changed a few things too.

“There has been a mind-set change. We got fed up of probably not taking it as seriously so we put a few things in place to be a bit more professional in a few areas and that has helped.

“The squad is hitting the right stage with their careers at the same time and we've a good group of experienced players with some good youngsters coming to the party.

“A few things have fallen into place quite nicely. If we were to get to Finals Day it would be quite an achievement.

“Last year we were hopeful of getting through the group. It’s a tough group with Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire in it. We fell a little bit short and let ourselves down in a couple of matches.

“We found it difficult winning two games in a day which a lot of counties do. That's something we talked about for this year, the importance of getting things right for the second match as well.

“There a few older blokes in the side who have suffered a few average years and getting to Finals Day would definitely mean a lot to them. It shows that we're improving as a county and there are some good cricketers in the side.”

Hampton, who played county cricket as a seamer for Middlesex and Gloucestershire either side of his first stint with Buckinghamshire, has brought valuable first-class experience alongside Garry Park, the former Durham and Derbyshire all-rounder, and batsman Saif Zaib, who plays for his native county when his commitments with Northamptonshire permit.

Bucks have also strengthened their squad with the arrival of former Lincolnshire batsman Conrad Louth, who plays his club cricket alongside Hampton for High Wycombe.

“Conrad moved to the area last year and played in the local leagues, but he made us aware during the winter that he was probably not so keen on doing the travelling back to Lincolnshire,” Hampton said.

“He has been the icing on the cake for us in the T20s.”

As someone who has played county second team and Minor Counties cricket, Hampton is well-placed to assess the strengths of both and he believes that the standard of the latter is improving.

“There's not a lot of difference between county second team cricket and Minor counties, especially in white ball cricket,” he said.

“There has been more of a shift to white ball cricket, so guys who have come out of the first-class game and gone into other jobs are more likely to make themselves available for Sunday cricket rather than the three day game.

“You do come across some very good cricketers, ex-professionals and guys who have played a lot of county second team cricket, in Minor Counties.

“The quality is there and the ECB are pushing it. Presumably they recognise that there are a lot of good cricketers playing Minor Counties. It seems to be a better standard at the moment than when I got picked up by Gloucestershire.

“It’s a route into first-class cricket. Sometimes counties want to have a look to see whether someone is ready for first-class cricket and, if that means them playing another season or two of Minor Counties to develop, that's not a bad thing.”

Minor Counties T20 fixtures

Sunday June 16 (11am and 2.30pm)

Group One

New Brighton: Cheshirev Lincolnshire. Knypersley: Staffordshire v Cumberland

Group Two

Falkland CC: Berkshire v Herefordshire. Gerrards Cross: Buckinghamshire v Shropshire.

Group Three

Bedford: Bedfordshire v Cambridgeshire. Harpenden: Hertfordshire v Norfolk.

Group Four

North Devon CC: Devon v Cornwall. South Wilts CC: Wiltshire v Dorset.