Shropshire’s new NCCA season opens with two Twenty20 defeats against Cheshire

Vice-captain Sam Whitney believes Shropshire will improve the more Twenty20 matches they play after opening the new National Counties Cricket Association season with two defeats against Cheshire.

Beaten by eight wickets in Sunday’s first match at Oxton CC, Shropshire then lost by 74 runs to a strong Cheshire side in the day’s second game.

Shropshire will quickly be back in T20 action as they face Staffordshire in a double header at Whitchurch’s Heath Road ground this Sunday.

“We’ll go again next week and see how we go,” said Whitney, vice-captain to Graham Wagg.

“We don’t play a lot of T20 cricket and it’s just a bit of a learning curve for everyone. I think we’ll get better as the games go on.”

It’s the first time the NCCA has held its T20 competition since 2019, so for many Shropshire players the games against Cheshire were their first experience of representing the county in this format.

Andre Bradford and skipper Wagg both hit half centuries in Sunday’s opening game as Shropshire, invited to bat, totalled 124-4 from their 20 overs.

Opener Bradford, making his Shropshire debut, shared in a partnership of 100 for the second wicket with Wagg before they fell to consecutive deliveries.

New signing Bradford made 53 from 52 balls, which included a six and four boundaries, while Wagg maintained his fine form from last season by hitting 52 from 40 balls, with four sixes and three fours.

Michael Finan claimed 3-8 from four overs for the hosts.

Cheshire openers Rob Sehmi and Sam Perry put on 114 before Wagg made the breakthrough, trapping Perry lbw for 51, after he had faced 44 balls, hitting a six and five fours.

Sehmi soon followed, stumped by Ben Lees off Matty Simmonds, for 61, which came off 40 balls and featured a six and eight boundaries.

Cheshire completed victory by progressing to 125-2 from 15.5 overs.

Cheshire elected to bat in game two and kept the scoreboard ticking over to accumulate 212-5.

Sehmi once again impressed with 70 from 39 balls, which included two sixes and eight fours.

Captain Nick Anderson added 42 while there were other contributions from Will Evans (32), former Leicestershire batter Harry Dearden (27) and Alex Money (21no).

Madeley seamer Martin Boyle took 2-27, including a wicket with his first ball when he removed Perry.

Shropshire, in reply, closed on 138-8, with Wagg top scoring with 45 from 27 balls, with two sixes and four boundaries.

Sam Ellis was next highest scorer with 26 from 18 deliveries, as Finan completed a good day with the ball by taking 2-18.

Whitney said: “Cheshire are always very strong. We didn’t play with too much intent to start with, so we were always playing catch up.

“It was a good wicket and there was quite a slope, so the ball ran away quite quickly on the one side. I think they just played the dimensions of the ground really well.

“They used the slope, they played a lot of sweeps and ramp shots to the one side, and then hit it with the wind the other side, so they used the conditions better.

“Even though Cheshire got over 200 in the second game, we actually bowled a lot better. They played with no fear and as soon as you’re chasing a score like that, it’s very difficult.

“Guys are trying to play shots from ball one and it’s not easy to do.”

Whitney said Boyle, whose only previous Shropshire appearance came in a T20 friendly against the RAF representative side last August, “came in and did a really good job.”

He also highlighted the century partnership between Wagg and Bradford in the opening game.

“Andre’s role is to be steady and work the ball around at the top of the order,” added Whitney. “I think that’s his game, he’s very correct, and you look to let the guys around him try and go after it a bit more. It worked really well with him and Graham.”

Pictured: Oxton CC hosted Shropshire’s opening T20 matches of the new National Counties Cricket Association season against Cheshire.