Skipper Steve Leach is confident Shropshire have the squad in place to enjoy a positive season as they strive to make a winning start to their campaign against Herefordshire in the first round of the Unicorns Trophy on Sunday.
Shropshire have home advantage for the 50-over white-ball clash at Whitchurch’s Heath Road ground, with the Trophy now a knockout competition, unlike recent years when teams have had four group games to try and qualify for the quarter finals.
Leach knows Shropshire will need to quickly be at their best to progress against a Herefordshire side he rates highly.
He said: “The pre-season preparations have been a bit disjointed with the start of the Birmingham League season being put back a week and both of our warm up matches called off, but every county’s in the same position. We’re quietly confident and we’re happy with the team that we’re going to have.
“I think there’s been a progression over the last two or three years, but we’re going to need 11 players at the races against what’s going to be a very strong Herefordshire team. On paper and on previous form, I would back them to be one of the strongest teams in this competition, but it’s a match we’re all really looking forward to.”
Leach stressed there’s a determination within the Shropshire ranks to improve their one-day form: “That’s something we’re absolutely looking to do,” insisted the Shifnal opening batsman. “As it stands, we’re five matches away from winning this competition, and that’s certainly where our aims are.”
Leach added Shropshire are pleased to be starting the new season at Whitchurch, a ground where the players always enjoy playing, and he hopes the team receive lots of support from local cricket fans.
He said: “Whitchurch is a fantastic ground, one of several very good Shropshire grounds which is always very hospitable.
“The pitch will offer a little bit for everyone. Early season with the weather that we’ve had, you would expect it to do a little bit more for the seamers, but it’s a really good place to play, a quick outfield.”
Shropshire are set to give a debut to Alexei Kervezee, their most recent addition, with Leach excited to have the former Worcestershire man on board.
“Alexei brings a lot of experience,” said the skipper. “He’s a very strong player, very skilful. I know he’s really excited to be involved with us and I think he’s going to bring a lot to our team.
“We’re going to look for a weight of runs from him and he’s also going to give us options with the ball as well as being extremely athletic and very good in the field.”
Leach added: “This year we’re looking at having what’s going to be a much stronger seam attack. We’ve got a lot more depth to our squad and players that are relatively experienced at Minor Counties cricket now with good Birmingham League and club performances behind them.
“We’ve got a lot of players who have that experience and knowledge of how to get over the line and win games, and that’s certainly something we’ll be looking to do, starting on Sunday.”
Admission is free for spectators to watch Shropshire’s opening game of the season this weekend, with the first ball to be bowled at Whitchurch at 11am on Sunday.
Pictured: Whitchurch’s Heath Road ground where Shropshire will begin their season on Sunday.