Director of Cricket John Abrahams felt Shropshire were “outplayed in every area” after losing to Cheshire in a high-scoring NCCA Trophy match at Toft CC.
Cheshire, inspired by a century from Leicestershire batsman Harry Dearden, accumulated an imposing 365-8 after opting to bat.
Chasing such a total was always likely to be a tough challenge and so it proved as, despite half centuries from captain Graham Wagg and Xavier Clarke, Shropshire were bowled out for 266 as Cheshire won by 99 runs.
“We were outplayed really in every area of the game,” said Abrahams. “Cheshire came out and batted really well in the first 10 overs and set the tone.
“We helped them a little bit in that we didn’t maintain our discipline with the ball. There are still one or two deliveries that end in boundaries that we keep bowling.
“They used the pitch, the ground dimensions, much better than we did.
“People talk about scoreboard pressure and when you’re chasing a total of 360 plus in 50 overs, it’s never going to be easy.
“You obviously have to be positive and have to look to score runs and that introduces potential error.
“Xavier Clarke and Graham Wagg played really well, Mitchell Stanley batted really well towards the end, but it was always going to be a tough ask.”
It’s now one win and one defeat for Shropshire in the NCCA Trophy after they opened the campaign with a three-wicket victory over Northumberland at Oswestry last month.
Currently fourth in the table, Shropshire’s remaining group fixtures are against Staffordshire at Wem this Sunday before a trip to Netherfield to face leaders Cumbria the following weekend.
Abrahams added: “I think to give ourselves the best chance of qualifying we have to win the next two games. We can’t be reliant on other teams beating each other, although that’s happened up to now.
“If we want to keep it in our own hands, in our control, we’ve got to try and look to win the next two.
“There were one or two positives from the Cheshire match and we have to build on those on Sunday in what will be a fairly crucial match at this stage of the season.”
Shropshire handed a first-team debut to Worcestershire seamer Mitchell Stanley, a regular in the New Road club’s second team, against Cheshire.
Stanley, who has previously represented Shropshire, his home county, at various age group levels, struck early, bowling Cheshire skipper Rick Moore.
But Dearden, at No 3, quickly put on 49 for the second wicket with Alex Money (31), before sharing in a third-wicket partnership of 126 with Luke Robinson as Cheshire continued to score freely.
The productive partnership eventually ended in the 30th over when Robinson was caught by Simon Gregory off Matty Simmonds for 68 to leave Cheshire 208-3.
Dearden, who has played in the County Championship for Leicestershire this season, went on to reach three figures before departing for 100, bowled by Wagg, having faced 98 balls and hit nine fours and a six.
Ed Fluck (51no), Nick Anderson (28) and Jack Williams (24) also kept the scoreboard ticking to boost the Cheshire total to 365-8 from 50 overs.
Skipper Wagg claimed 2-50, with Stanley, who plays his club cricket for Shifnal, taking 2-55 and Oswestry all-rounder David Laird 2-72.
Shropshire, in reply, soon lost Will Parton for 18 and when he was quickly followed back to the pavilion by Ryan Lockley for 15, the visitors found themselves 48-2, with Chris Stenhouse (4-55) removing both openers.
Shropshire slipped to 91-4 before Clarke was joined in the middle by skipper Wagg for a fifth-wicket partnership worth 78, comfortably the best of the county’s innings.
Shifnal’s Clarke struck a run-a-ball 55, which included seven fours, but when Wagg then fell for 64 from 65 deliveries – with four sixes and four fours – Shropshire found themselves 191-6 in the 37th over.
Stanley followed up his efforts with the ball by impressing with the bat, cracking four big sixes in making 34 from 24 balls, before he was the last man out as Shropshire were dismissed for 266 in 46.4 overs.
Abrahams added the county were pleased to be able to include Stanley for the first time: “We welcomed Mitchell into the squad for his first game, his debut for the Shropshire senior side,” he said.
“The pitch wasn’t really conducive for his type of bowling, however towards the end of their innings, his last spell, he showed what he is capable of and there was a slight restriction of the scoring rate towards the end of the Cheshire innings which Mitchell contributed to.
“When he came into bat, he struck the ball straight, he struck the ball hard and his shot selection was really good, as was the execution of his shots. I hope he enjoyed the experience and we certainly enjoyed having him with us.”
Pictured: The scene at Toft CC as Shropshire met Cheshire in the NCCA Trophy.