Captaining Shropshire against a star-studded Hampshire side skippered by Shane Warne still, 15 years on, brings a smile to Guy Home’s face.
“It’s just an amazing memory and something that will always be with you,” says Home, recalling that special day, May 4, 2005, when Shropshire hosted Hampshire in the first round of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy.
A large and expectant crowd flocked to Whitchurch’s Heath Road ground to watch Shropshire face a team also including the talents of Kevin Pietersen – what a summer he would go on to enjoy – and Warne’s Australia team mate Simon Katich.
The trio all featured in the Ashes in the months that followed – with Pietersen emerging much the happier after helping England to a famous series victory.
But first Hampshire’s big names had a date in north Shropshire, an occasion to relish, perhaps even more than usual for Shropshire, considering it was the final season that Minor Counties teams would be allowed to take part in a competition which had delivered so many memorable days for the county’s cricketers and supporters over the years.
Hampshire may have ran out comfortable seven-wicket winners, but it was still a day to remember for Home and his Shropshire team mates as they were given the opportunity to line up against some outstanding players.
“It was an amazing draw to get Hampshire with the players they had in their team,” says Home, a middle order batsman who played his club cricket for Wroxeter, Shrewsbury, Wellington and Shifnal. “Playing at Whitchurch was lovely because it was one of my favourite grounds when I played for Shropshire.
“We were looked after fabulously whenever we went there. The ground was always immaculate and the tea ladies were always amazing with their catering.”
Home closely studied the Hampshire XI selected to face Shropshire ahead of the match as the size of the task awaiting the home side quickly became clear.
As he recalls: “As well as Warne and Pietersen, they had Dimitri Mascarenhas, Sean Ervine, John Crawley, Shaun Udal and Simon Katich, so seven of them had played international cricket.
“There’s always excitement on a big day like that, but obviously there were quite a few nerves as well when you are the underdogs in a big way, as was the case for ourselves.
“The marquee was up, there was a lot of people there, and it’s one of the great days of your career as an amateur cricketer.”
Home, a farmer from Upton Magna, near Shrewsbury, hoped to win the toss and ask Hampshire to bat first, but it did not go according to plan as Warne instead called correctly and opted to bowl.
On meeting Warne for the first time, Home says: “I wouldn’t say it was daunting because he was so friendly.
“We went out for the coin toss in our blazers and he came over and introduced himself as Shane.
“After he won the toss and decided to field, I can remember I spent the next 10 minutes trying to persuade him to bat, so the crowd would have the chance to see a bit more of their stars, but unfortunately he wasn’t for changing his mind!”
Richard Logan, who is now the operations manager for the National Counties Cricket Association, quickly reduced Shropshire to 9-2 as openers James Ralph and Chris Martin both went early.
Wickets continued to tumble – Gary Fellows, Duncan Catterall, Home and Duncan Bowett – as Shropshire found themselves up against it at 55-6.
Jono Whitney, batting at number eight, cut loose to make 39, hitting a six and four boundaries in the process, but Warne ended his entertaining knock, the spin king eventually picking up 3-20, as Logan also claimed three wickets, to leave Shropshire all out for 132 in the 43rd over.
“It was extremely tough going,” reflects Home. “Jono Whitney got 39 and played very well. He was supported quite well by Mark Downes, who got 16, and Duncan Catterall, with 17, but that was about it I’m afraid.
“Jono was a cricketer I always thought should have probably gone on to play first-class cricket because his ability was immense when he clicked. He was a very talented player.”
As for his thoughts at the halfway stage, Home was realistic, admitting: “After being bowled out for 132, I was thinking we were probably about 200 runs light!”
Hampshire were ruthless when they replied, with Pietersen, promoted to opener, providing most of the fireworks.
He raced to 76 from 49 balls, cracking no fewer than six sixes and seven fours, before Fellows held onto a catch off Catterall to send Pietersen back to the pavilion, the batsman receiving a warm ovation from an appreciative crowd.
It was left to Zimbabwe international Ervine and wicketkeeper Nic Pothas to see the job through as Hampshire advanced to 133-3 inside 22 overs.
“I was fielding at first slip and Pietersen played absolutely brilliantly,” says Home. “Derek Kenway also opened the batting and I can remember he had just gone through a slightly bad run of form at the time – then Chris Martin, who was fielding at mid-on, produced one of the most fabulous one-handed catches I had seen for a while.”
The match over, Home and his Shropshire team mates enjoyed a drink with the Hampshire players before they set off to make the long journey back to the south coast.
“All the Hampshire players came into the marquee after the game and had a drink,” he adds. “They were so friendly and I couldn’t really speak highly enough of them.
“From the start to the end of the day, everyone from Hampshire was fantastic, signing lots of autographs for youngsters.”
The Hampshire match was Home’s third and final experience of facing first-class opposition in the competition after also lining up for Shropshire against Gloucestershire at Shrewsbury School and Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
“It’s sad that playing Hampshire was the last time that Minor Counties teams like Shropshire were allowed to take part in the competition,” says Home.
“Shropshire had some amazing occasions over the years against first-class sides. I was in the crowd for the win against Yorkshire at St Georges in 1984 and also went to the county’s first Gillette Cup match against Essex at Wellington in 1974 when the likes of Peter Bradley, Rob Burton and Steve Johnson all played.
“It was like the FA Cup in football as it gave the minnows the chance to come up against first-class sides and to play against top international cricketers.”
Home has many happy memories of playing – and captaining – Shropshire, with his family having a proud history of representing the county.
Guy’s dad Jim, his son Tom, brother Ed and nephew Charlie, who is part of the county’s current squad, have ensured the Home name has often appeared on the Shropshire team sheet over the years.
“We’ve got a great allegiance to Shropshire County Cricket Club as a family,” he adds. “We have had many, many happy occasions both playing and watching.
“I loved being captain. It was a very proud moment for me to be captain of Shropshire for four years. I really enjoyed every minute of it and had a great team around me.”
As for Hampshire, their win at Whitchurch was the start of something special, as they ended up winning the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy in 2005, eventually beating Warwickshire in the final at Lord’s.
Report by Stuart Dunn
Pictured: Captains Guy Home and Shane Warne with umpires Richard Kettleborough and Jeff Evans ahead of Shropshire’s Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy match against Hampshire at Whitchurch in 2005.