Shropshire’s hopes of a first appearance in the Unicorns Trophy final for five years ended in disappointment with a 123 run defeat against Cheshire.
Exciting victories over Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Norfolk had earned Shropshire a home semi-final tie in the knockout competition for Minor Counties clubs.
But Cheshire managed to turn the tables for the Championship defeat suffered at the hands of Shropshire earlier this week by coming out on top in front of a big Bridgnorth crowd.
Gurjit Sandhu and Alexei Kervezee both claimed three wickets as Cheshire, having elected to bat first, posted 254-9 from their 50 overs.
But then Shropshire, soon in trouble at 46-5, were dismissed for 131 inside 28 overs.
“We’re obviously going to be really disappointed with that,” said Shropshire captain Steve Leach. “We probably played half a brilliant game of cricket and half a really poor game of cricket there, so obviously the overwhelming feeling is disappointment.
“I thought they would have been really pleased getting up to 250. The pitch was spinning and there was a bit of bounce with the new ball.
“It was a quick outfield, a small boundary on the one side, and you’ve seen our scoring rate there, we’ve been going at five an over.
“I think we should have chased 250 to be honest, but that’s not withstanding the fact that we should have restricted them by 30 runs less really.”
Cheshire suffered an early blow when Will Evans, who had hit a county one-day record 183 for the club in the last round against Lincolnshire, was caught by Leach off Sandhu for 11.
Calum Rowe, Cheshire’s other opener, quickly followed him back to the pavilion, bowled by Mike Barnard for four, to leave the visitors 20-2.
It was soon 25-3 as Sandhu struck again, with former Derbyshire and Leicestershire all-rounder Wayne White edging a catch to wicketkeeper Simon Gregory.
Wickets continued to fall regularly, with leg spinner Sam Whitney, the Bridgnorth captain, removing Jamie Crawley, who top edged a catch to Sandhu for 12.
It was then 81-5 as Edward Fluck fell to a sharp Will Parton catch off Jack Twigger for six.
Cheshire captain Rick Moore led a revival, putting on 70 for the sixth wicket with Luke Robinson, before Kervezee struck for the first time, Robinson holing out to Barnard in the deep for 31.
Then came the key wicket of Moore, having made 69 from 104 balls, when he was stumped by the alert Gregory off Kervezee to reduce Cheshire to 182-7.
Simon Normanton contributed a run-a-ball unbeaten 39 down the order, sharing in useful partnerships with Jack Williams (19) and Jack White (12) before they became the third victims of Sandhu, who grabbed 3-40 from 10 lively overs, and Kervezee (3-48 from eight) respectively.
Shropshire, in reply, quickly lost both openers with the score on 16.
Leach, who had hit a century against Cheshire in the Championship at Shifnal, chipped a catch to Williams off Jack White for 12. Then Omar Ali was bowled by spinner Normanton for two.
Paceman White trapped Parton lbw for eight and accounted for Robbie Clarke, also lbw, for a single to leave Shropshire struggling at 35-4.
Wayne White then struck in his first over, bowling Aucott without scoring, before Gregory departed for seven after offering a comfortable catch to Rowe off Williams to reduce Shropshire to 77-6.
Top scorer Kervezee had just hit Normanton for a big six when he fell next ball, with Moore stooping to take a low catch to remove the former Worcestershire man for 42.
Jack White, who took 4-29 from eight overs, then struck for a fourth time, Whitney falling to the safe hands of Moore for 10.
Sandhu delivered some telling blows in a quickfire 25 before being bowled by Williams.
And it was game over when Williams (3-40) soon bowled last man Twigger to leave Shropshire all out for 131 inside 28 overs.
Leach, reflecting on Shropshire’s impressive run in the Trophy this season, added: “The last three years haven’t been what we’ve wanted them to be in this. We’ve played some really good one-day cricket and we’ve actually played some good cricket in parts today.
“I think the progression of the side is huge. We’re sticking with the core group of players so far and we’ve been doing the business. Let’s not forget that. We have done very well.
“It’s just shame that we couldn’t really get over the line today. We’re all disappointed with that, but this is sport, it’s a high level kind of environment and these things happen.”
Pictured: The scene at Bridgnorth as Shropshire faced Cheshire in the semi-finals of the Unicorns Trophy.