A fine partnership between David Laird and Matty Simmonds was the highlight for Shropshire as the county’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the NCCA Trophy ended with defeat against Staffordshire.
Laird and Simmonds, who both compiled unbeaten half centuries, shared an unbroken stand of 110 for the eighth wicket as they lifted the Shropshire total from 112-7 to a competitive 222-7.
Charlie Home then bowled 10 tight overs, taking two wickets, following lively opening spells with the ball from Ben Parker and Sam Ellis.
But Staffordshire, led by half centuries from Zen Malik and Peter Wilshaw, chased well to progress to 225-3 with 20 balls to spare to complete a seven-wicket victory at Oswestry CC.
The result means Shropshire’s hopes of a top two finish in Group One of the One Day Trophy are now over ahead of the final group match against Cumbria, the leaders, at Netherfield on Sunday.
Director of Cricket John Abrahams said: “It’s easy to say you always look for positives, but the performance just convinces me more that there is potential in the squad with some good, skilful players.
“What we are not doing is playing as a team. We’re producing some good performances within a match, with the examples in this match the two half centuries lower down the order from David Laird and Matty Simmonds, the opening spell from Sam Ellis and Ben Parker, and Charlie Home’s 10-over spell.
“They were genuinely positives we can take from the match, but what we need to look to do is put together all the good individual performances to contribute to a good team performance.”
Abrahams admitted it’s disappointing that Shropshire’s qualification hopes in the NCCA Trophy are now over.
“Regardless of the result in our last game, we cannot unfortunately progress to the later stages of the Trophy,” he said. “We will try to win the last game and then we will move on to the three-day competition.”
Shropshire, asked to bat first by Staffordshire, quickly slipped to 25-3. Charlie Home, who made 28, was the only one of the top six to reach 20 as the hosts fell to 89-6 and then 112-7.
Oswestry’s Laird, playing at his home club ground, was joined in the middle by Simmonds at the start of the 32nd over, with the duo leading a Shropshire revival with an excellent partnership.
Laird was first to reach 50 and ended unbeaten on 58, which came off 78 balls and featured two sixes and four fours.
Bridgnorth all-rounder Simmonds hit the final ball of the innings for six, having earlier struck half a dozen fours, as he also ended 58 not out, from 57 balls.
Malik (2-31) and Alex Coates (2-37) both claimed two wickets for Staffordshire, with the efforts of Laird and Simmonds pleasing Abrahams.
He said: “We could have been 120 all out and the game over more quickly, but they both showed what they’re capable of when given the opportunity.
“The coaching staff, the players, were all absolutely delighted that they have shown to themselves as much as anything, and the rest of us, that they are capable of scoring runs at this level.
“For all of us it was pleasing to see. Both are popular players within the group and part of our philosophy is that we enjoy each other’s success, so that was really good to see.”
Promising seamer Parker, the former Worfield bowler who is now part of Worcestershire’s Academy, was handed his first-team debut by Shropshire.
Both Parker and Ellis asked questions of Staffordshire openers Alex Mellor and Wilshaw during lively opening spells, but it was spinner Home, who took 2-21 from 10 overs, that eventually made the breakthrough, striking twice in the same over.
He removed Mellor, the former Warwickshire batsman, for 25, following an opening stand of 75 with Wilshaw, and then also dismissed Louis Allison, thanks to a fine catch from Will Parton.
Wilshaw went on to make 77, from 104 balls, with a six and 11 fours, before being bowled by Tyler Ibbotson.
But the impressive Malik teamed up with Michael Hill to share an unbroken partnership of 56 to guide Staffordshire to their victory target in the 47th over.
Malik hit two sixes and nine fours in his unbeaten 80 from 83 balls, with Hill, who struck the winning boundary, ending 31 not out.
Abrahams added: “David Laird and Matty Simmonds took us to a defendable total and one of our objectives at the start of the season was to be more competitive.
“Even though it wasn’t as competitive as I would have liked it to have been, it did make it into a match where we took the opposition into the 47th over to score the runs.
“We saw how Staffordshire bowled at the start of our innings and we looked to replicate that, just to consistently hit a good line and length and make it as difficult as possible for the batsmen to score.
“Sam and Ben did that absolutely brilliantly and effectively set the tone for us. Even though they didn’t get wickets, their spells contributed to those two wickets falling in the same over.
“Charlie bowled with intelligence, accuracy and patience. He tried consistently to bowl his best delivery and to make it difficult for the batsmen to score.
“He was not only rewarded with his two wickets but also a very economical run rate.”
Abrahams was also keen to thank Oswestry for staging their second Shropshire fixture of the season.
He said: “Oswestry agreed to host the match at very short notice and, following the great example that they set when they staged the Northumberland match last month, it was exactly the same.
“Our thanks go to all of the officials at Oswestry, particularly groundsman Dave Vart for preparing the pitch at such short notice.”
Pictured: Oswestry Cricket Club hosted Shropshire’s seven-wicket defeat against Staffordshire.