Captain Sam Whitney was disappointed with the result but highlighted some positives as Shropshire’s National Counties Cricket Association Championship season opened with defeat against Wiltshire.
Shropshire were beaten by 173 runs on the third and final day, with Whitney left reflecting on what might have been after Shropshire had led at the halfway stage.
Wiltshire took control of the match in their second innings as, inspired by an unbeaten 150 from Tom Morton, they kept the scoreboard ticking over before declaring on 406-8.
That left Shropshire a victory target of 377 and, despite an unbeaten 75 from Andre Bradford, wickets fell regularly at the other end, with Wiltshire captain Ed Young and Keron Bennett-Thomas both taking four wickets, as the visitors were dismissed for 203.
Shropshire are quickly back in action as they start a three-day Championship match against Wales at Oswestry on Sunday.
Reflecting on his side’s performance at Corsham, Whitney was pleased how Shropshire performed with the ball on the opening day as Wiltshire were bowled out for 223.
Shropshire then moved 30 runs ahead, but the skipper felt his side could have opened up a bigger advantage in the first innings to put themselves in a stronger position as the match developed.
He said: “If you had given me 223 at the start of the opening day, I would have taken it, but having had Wiltshire 160-9 we probably missed an opportunity.
“Sam Ellis and Ben Roberts started superbly on Sunday morning. They really set the tempo and we took wickets regularly and pegged them back.
“If we could have then converted some of the 30s, 40s, 50s we had in the first innings to 70s and 80s and got up to over 300 with maybe a 100 run lead it would have made a massive difference.”
Whitney added: “There were a few moments that could have gone our way and a few dropped catches which cost us really, but that’s cricket and people do drop catches.
“It was disappointing to come away losing by 173 runs because I don’t think it was that big of a margin between the two teams.”
In terms of positives, Whitney highlighted maiden Championship half-centuries for David Laird and Bradford.
“I was happy for David Laird getting his first 50,” he said. “He’s been in great touch for Bridgnorth and it’s great to see him in that sort of form.
“I’m also happy for Andre. We’ve seen what he can do in white-ball cricket earlier this season, so we all thought he was going to do something special in the three-day game because he has a very solid technique and has got all the shots.
“He hits the ball all the way round the ground and he batted beautifully.
“It was just a shame no-one could stick with him and either have a little push for the win or stick it out for the draw, but there were really good signs seeing him bat that way.”
Wiltshire had elected to bat on the opening day and a last-wicket partnership of 63 between Jake Goodwin and Keron Bennett-Thomas lifted the home side’s score up to 223.
Goodwin was closing in on a century until on 97 he edged a catch to wicketkeeper Ben Lees off Whitney.
It was a fifth wicket of the innings for the Shropshire captain as he impressively claimed 5-38 from 20.1 overs with his leg spin, his best bowling figures in the Championship.
Laird (2-24) and Ellis (2-32) were also among the wickets, with Oliver Meadows (33) and Young (28) the other main contributors for Wiltshire.
Shropshire established a lead at the halfway stage, helped by a seventh-wicket stand of 76 between Laird and Lees, as they totalled 253.
Laird top scored with 55 from 102 balls, which included seen fours, with Lees adding 42.
Ellis (39), David Exall (31), Andy Harrison (25) and Matty Simmonds (24) also weighed in, with the wickets shared between Chris Aubrey (3-43), Young (3-54) and Joe King (3-87).
Wiltshire were 89-4 at one stage in their second innings before recovering with Goodwin (58), Meadows (36), Jack Stearman (28) and Morton seeing the home side end day two on 269-7.
Wicketkeeper Morton put on 116 for the eighth wicket with Cameron Harding (48) and had moved on to a fine 150 not out, which included three sixes and 20 boundaries, by the time of Wiltshire’s declaration.
It was hard going for Shropshire’s bowlers – both Harrison and Laird were unable to bowl in the second innings because of injuries – with Graham Wagg claiming 3-122 and Whitney 2-88.
Set such a big target, Shropshire’s openers Exall and Luke Miles, both making their county debuts, put on 51, before Ludlow’s Miles was out for 23.
Former Herefordshire all-rounder Exall was next to go for 39 as Shropshire slipped from 80-1 to 110-5, with Bennett-Thomas inflicting much of the early damage by removing four of the top six as he claimed 4-37.
Bradford dug in to make a defiant, unbeaten 75 from 115 balls with 13 fours, but spinners Young (4-25) and King (2-25) wrapped up Wiltshire’s win.
Pictured: The scene at Corsham Cricket Club where Shropshire lost to Wiltshire in the NCCA Championship.