Academy duo Lewis Evans and Charlie Walker named in Shropshire squad for opening Championship match of the season

Promising duo Lewis Evans and Charlie Walker, who both played for Shropshire’s Academy side last week, are named in a 12-man squad for the county’s opening NCCA Championship match of the season against Herefordshire.

The three-day match starts at Shifnal Cricket Club on Sunday (11am) as Shropshire target a successful season in Western Division 2.

It’s a first senior call up for Shrewsbury left-arm spinner Evans, who is also capable of contributing valuable runs lower down the order.

Bridgnorth seamer Walker was named in Shropshire’s first-team squad for the first time for the county’s last match, the NCCA Trophy game at Cumbria, when he was 12th man.

He has been a consistent wicket-taker for Bridgnorth in the Birmingham League this season and impressed when he has represented the academy.

John Abrahams, Shropshire’s Director of Cricket, said: “Lewis Evans was involved the first winter that we took over and even though it was indoors, he impressed with both bat and ball.

“He’s bowling with control, his batting has improved, and that’s why we have included him in the squad. Being a left-arm leg spin bowler means he offers something different for us.

“We’ve tried to strike a balance in the squad of spinning all-rounders and seam bowlers like Charlie Walker, who is enjoying a good season with Bridgnorth.

“We will wait until we get to the ground on Sunday to decide what bowlers the pitch will suit best before naming the final XI.”

Sentinel all-rounder James Shaw, who played in the ultimately abandoned NCCA Trophy match at Cumbria earlier this month, is named in Shropshire’s Championship squad for the first time, while there’s a return to the squad for Shrewsbury wicketkeeper Matt Swift.

Sam Whitney had been scheduled to captain Shropshire for the first time since his appointment as the county’s Championship captain.

But the leg spinner is continuing to recover from a shoulder injury and Abrahams believes the Herefordshire match has come too soon for him to play, so Graham Wagg will captain the side.

“It’s disappointing for Sam,” said Abrahams. “We had a chat and even though he bowled for Bridgnorth last weekend and his shoulder is improving all the time, we felt that it was just a bit of a risk to play a three-day game should his injury worsen during the course of the match.

“Sam will continue with his rehabilitation and bowl a few more overs for Bridgnorth this Saturday.

“Hopefully he will be available for our next match against Wales which starts the following weekend.”

Abrahams added a number of players are unavailable for selection because of work commitments as Shropshire look to make a bright start to their three-day campaign.

Having previously operated with 10 clubs, the Western Division of the NCCA Championship has been restructured to become two divisions of five featuring promotion and relegation.

After meeting Herefordshire, Shropshire will also play Championship matches against Wales, Cornwall and Devon.

Abrahams said: “It’s a fresh start in the middle of the season to make an impact as individuals and as a team.

“Hopefully some of our experiences during the Trophy matches will stand us in good stead.

“Having played Herefordshire in friendly matches, we know that they are a strong competitive team and we will need to be at our best.”

The first ball will be bowled at Shifnal at 11am on Sunday, with admission free for spectators on all three days.

Shropshire, from: Ryan Lockley (Oswestry), Ben Lees (Bridgnorth), Xavier Clarke (Shifnal), Simon Gregory (Bridgnorth), Graham Wagg (Biddestone, captain), Matt Swift (Shrewsbury), Matty Simmonds (Bridgnorth), James Shaw (Sentinel), David Laird (Oswestry), Sam Ellis (Formby), Lewis Evans (Shrewsbury), Charlie Walker (Bridgnorth).

Pictured: Shifnal will host Shropshire’s opening NCCA Championship match of the season against Herefordshire which begins on Sunday.