HEREFORDSHIRE remain strongly in contention to claim a place in the quarter-finals of the NCCA 50-over competition despite a nine-run defeat by Dorset at Brockhampton on Sunday.

The county side top their group by virtue of a superior run-rate, ahead of Dorset and Devon with all three sides on four points.

Herefordshire have, however, completed their group gameswith the other four sides facing off in the final round of matches on Sunday.

Dorset and Devon meet on July 4, with the winners sure of topping the group.

Wiltshire take on Cornwall and the winners there will need a substantial increase in their net run rate to overhaul Herefordshire.

Bad weather, could of course derail all plans with a washout of the Dorset/Devon clash handing both sides a point and seeing them both qualify.

In a game of many twists and turns, Dorset made a flying start after winning the toss and choosing to bat at Brockhampton.

Openers Felix Organ (51) and Oli Soames (26) quickly had 53 on the board before Barney Morgan was introduced into the attack.

The Kidderminster seamer had Soames caught by James Rudge and bowled number three Greg Willow before having Organ brilliantly caught by Ian Bullock in an excellent spell of 3-23.  

Alex Russell, after going for 12 in his first over, then went for just 17 in his next nine as, along with skipper Matt Pardoe (3-22), the slower bowlers put a brake on the rate and picked up wickets through the middle-order.

Simon Woodruff (63 not out) kept the runs flowing and the 16 he plundered from the final over of the innings, bowled by Tom Hage (1-42), took the visitors’ tally to 194-8 and ultimately proved decisive.

Pardoe (58) and Ben Chapman-Lilley (33) gave Herefordshire a superb start with an opening stand of 92.

But, with the next five batsmen falling for single-figure scores, in the face of a fine spell by Rob Pack (5-20), Herefordshire slumped to 136-7.

Morgan (22) and Bullock (24) rallied the innings with abattling stand of 42 only for Bullock to fall with 17 needed.

Rudge smashed a massive six but he and Morgan both fell to Woodruff in the 49th over to leave the home county tantalizingly short of their target.