Leaders Berkshire inflict first Championship defeat of the season on Shropshire

Shropshire tasted defeat for the first time in the Unicorns Championship this season as they were beaten by 322 runs at Western Division leaders Berkshire.

Set an imposing victory target of 416 on the final afternoon, Shropshire, having opened the season with back-to-back Championship wins, were bowled out for 93, with Berkshire’s former Middlesex spinner Chris Peploe helping himself to five wickets.

Bryan Jones, Shropshire’s chairman of selectors, felt, with the exception of Alexei Kervezee’s magnificent 166 in the first innings, it was a disappointing batting display throughout from the county at Finchampstead.

He thought Shropshire showed plenty of determination in the field, with Bridgnorth leg spinner Sam Whitney claiming nine wickets in the match, but stressed Berkshire, double winners last season, showed their quality and were full value for their victory.

Jones said: “Alexei played brilliantly for us on the second day – it was a magnificent innings, but we’ve got to offer him support and our next highest score in the match was 26, which was obviously not good enough.

“We stuck to our task well in the field and it was a good effort from Sam to pick up nine wickets in the match.

“But, all in all, it was obviously disappointing and we came up against a well run outfit who showed just why they are arguably one of the strongest teams in Minor Counties cricket.”

Shropshire, who remain well placed in second in the table, will now look to respond positively when they head to Bournemouth early next month to take on Dorset in a three-day clash which starts on August 5.

Jones added: “We’ve lost some ground on Berkshire but we’re not out of it after winning two of our first three matches. Hopefully our lads will go and score runs for their clubs this weekend and we’ll look forward to the game at Bournemouth.”

Berkshire opted to bat first on the opening day and kept the scoreboard ticking over to rattle up a competitive total of 399.

Richard Morris led he way with 116, from 165 balls, as he put on 141 for the fifth wicket with Dan Lincoln, who made 66, while opener Andy Rishton scored a brisk 55.

Whitney persevered to claim 4-111 from 31.2 overs while Ross Aucott, with 3-45, was also among the wickets.

Bridgnorth wicketkeeper Simon Gregory impressed, taking four catches and completing three stumpings.

Shropshire closed on 55-1 and quickly lost two more wickets on the same total when play resumed on Monday morning.

That brought Kervezee to the crease and the former Worcestershire star, fresh from hitting a century in the last Championship match at Herefordshire earlier this month, stepped into the spotlight once again.

He was eventually ninth man out having compiled an excellent 166, which came from 178 balls and included 20 boundaries and a six, as he helped lift the Shropshire score up to 287.

Holding a lead of 112 runs, Berkshire set about adding to that advantage as they batted for a second time, with Waqas Hussain (61) and Euan Woods (55) extending the home side’s advantage to 282 by the end of day two.

Berkshire decided to bat until just before lunch on the third and final day before declaring on 303-8, with Whitney plugging away to pick up 5-133 from another long spell.

Shropshire lost Omar Ali cheaply in the six overs they faced before lunch and then afterwards Peploe got to work, claiming 5-35, and Akbar Raja also got in on the act with 3-6 towards the end as the visitors, for whom Aucott top scored with 21, were dismissed for 93 inside 51 overs.

Pictured: Sam Whitney took nine wickets in the match as Shropshire were beaten by Berkshire.