Robbie Clarke’s brilliant, unbeaten century guided Shropshire through to the quarter finals of the Unicorns Trophy as they completed an impressive chase to beat Staffordshire by one wicket.
Clarke, the Oswestry captain, followed up hitting a ton for his club in the Birmingham League a day earlier by once more reaching three figures to inspire Shropshire to an excellent win in an exciting clash at Himley.
Shropshire will now travel to Norfolk in the last eight of the competition.
Responding to Staffordshire’s 265-8, Shropshire had it all to do at 129-6, but then Clarke, batting at No 6, shared in a century stand for the seventh wicket with Sam Whitney.
Clarke, a late call up to the side to replace the injured Jack Edwards, held his nerve to end undefeated on 107 from 92 balls, hitting six sixes and 11 fours in the process, with Bryan Jones, Shropshire’s chairman of selectors, quick to salute his efforts.
“The reason cricketers turn up to play is because at some stage they will perform a wow bowling performance or a wow batting performance and we saw one today,” said Jones. “It was a matchwinning hundred, arguably one of the best I’ve seen for Shropshire. For somebody to get 100 on the Saturday and then 100 on the Sunday is a top effort.
“It was a great partnership between Robbie and Sam, and then Jack Twigger did well coming into a very tense situation to help see us over the line.”
Staffordshire had earlier opted to bat on winning the toss and openers Kadeer Ali and Sam Kelsall put on 53 for the first wicket before Ali was trapped lbw by Mike Barnard for 25.
Shrewsbury man Barnard, who delivered 10 tight overs for 2-22, struck again, bowling Tim Maxfield for eight.
Staffordshire then lost three wickets with the score on 144, starting with Peter Wilshaw, caught by Barnard off Ross Aucott for 19.
Whitney ran out former Nottinghamshire batsman Kelsall for 73, which came from 81 balls, before Ryan Hassett fell lbw to Alexei Kervezee.
Gurjit Sandhu claimed the sixth home wicket when he had Brinder Phagura caught behind by Simon Gregory for 19 to leave Staffordshire 180-6.
Then Michael Hill and Dan Richardson quickly put on 62 for the seventh wicket before Richardson was removed by Aucott for a rapid 39.
Aucott, who bowled seven overs for 3-49, had Michael Hill caught by Omar Ali for 44 before the home side’s innings closed on 265-8.
Shropshire, in reply, quickly lost Omar Ali, the star turn of their first round win over Herefordshire, but Steve Leach and Will Parton then moved the score along to 79 before Leach was trapped lbw by Richardson for 46.
The visitors were soon in trouble at 111-5 with Kervezee and Aucott both out cheaply before Parton went for 33, also falling lbw to Richardson (3-45).
Simon Gregory was next man out for nine, but then Clarke and Whitney set about reviving Shropshire’s hopes with a fine partnership of 108, which was eventually ended when Whitney, the Bridgnorth skipper, was caught by Hill off Mitchell Spencer (3-38) for 24.
Sandhu and Barnard quickly came and went to leave Shropshire on 251-9 as last man Twigger, making his county debut, walked out to join Clarke in the middle.
Wellington seamer Twigger, who chipped in with five valuable runs, played an important role supporting Clarke to see Shropshire over the line before the Oswestry man struck the winning runs to steer Shropshire to 266-9 with 13 balls to spare.
As for taking on Norfolk in the quarter finals, chairman of selectors Jones added: “To beat Herefordshire and now Staffordshire, arguably two of the strongest sides in the competition in the last few years, means we can play with a bit more confidence. There’s no reason we can’t go to Norfolk and put in another really good performance.”
Shropshire will resume their Unicorns Twenty20 campaign next Sunday when they travel to Colwall to face Herefordshire.
Pictured: Robbie Clarke hit 107 not out for Shropshire against Staffordshire at Himley.