Shropshire captain Steve Leach reckons his side has plenty to look forward to as he sets his sights on further progress for the county next year.
Shropshire enjoyed an encouraging season, claiming some notable scalps en route to reaching the semi-finals of the Unicorns Trophy, before taking their title challenge in the Unicorns Championship Western Division to the final game of the season.
A rain-affected draw against Devon at Bridgnorth, with the last day washed out, prevented them from pushing to make it a winning finale. That allowed Oxfordshire, victorious in their final game, to take advantage and finish four points above them as runners-up to champions Berkshire.
But Leach stressed his third season as county skipper had been an enjoyable and successful campaign for Shropshire.
“It’s been an outstanding season really,” said Leach. “We played six matches in the Championship and won four, the Devon match was a weather-affected draw and there was the disappointing loss to Berkshire, which ultimately has cost us the title.
“We’ve used a core group of players which is what I certainly wanted to do at the start of the season.
“Good teams have that continuity about them and I think for the first time in a long time we’ve got real competition for places.
“We’ve seen our Shropshire lads stand up, not only for Shropshire, but also in the Birmingham League and the signs are promising. The development of this group of players has been outstanding and we’re adding good players in key areas.”
Leach, an opening batsman, firmly believes the foundations are in place for Shropshire to push on: “I certainly think so,” he said. “From what I hear about the youth cricket and the Shropshire County Cricket Club age group teams, I’m hearing positive development stories.
“It’s really nice that some of the players who play in our side are coaches of the age group teams as well. It helps with continuity and I think there are real links now.
“Young cricketers coming through know that if they do well, if they score runs and take wickets, then they will get their opportunity in our team, but you earn your place in our side and ultimately when you come in you’re here to contribute to winning matches.”
Shropshire gave debuts to several players across the three different formats during the season, with Jack Twigger and Adam Quiney introduced to the Championship side.
“Adam came in for the Devon match because Gurjit Sandhu was unavailable through work, which is completely understandable,” he said. “Adam’s been very impressive and his Birmingham League performances have been really good.”
Reflecting on the season and Shropshire’s team spirit, Leach added: “I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m fortunate to have a very good set of lads in the team. We enjoy each other’s company and we have a real camaraderie. I think that’s very clear for everyone to see actually when they just come and watch us.”
Pictured: Skipper Steve Leach is encouraged about Shropshire’s future.